How To Make Sure A Potential Client Doesn’t Steal Your Ideas In The RFP Process

Unfortunately, potential clients “stealing” an agency’s ideas during the RFP process is a common occurrence. So common, in fact, that the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) launched a PSA campaign this week that “encouraged practitioners to weigh closely the ethical implications of requiring speculative ideas from agencies during new business presentations.”

PRNewser spoke with PRSA Chair and CEO Gary McCormick today who said the campaign is in response to more RFPs out on the market and brands increasing the number of companies they are asking to bid.

“Presenting proposed or speculative ideas is often helpful to distinguish one agency’s capabilities and creativity from another, but too often, agencies who don’t win the business believe their ideas are finding their way into a company’s public relations program without fair compensation,” said McCormick.

Once the idea is “taken,” it is often hard for an agency to prove it was theirs. Companies will say “another agency pitched the same thing” he said. “That becomes difficult to define.”

In a recent PRNewser poll, only 30% of respondents said they would decline to participate in a pitch if they were asked to do “custom work” for said pitch. Another 55% said they would work up a plan, but keep it “somewhat generic” to mitigate any potential risk.

McCormick gave these tips to agencies to make sure their ideas aren’t taken from them without compensation.

1) Read the RFP very carefully. The RFP may say the brand is going to take intellectual rights from the ideas in the RFP.

2) If this kind of wording is in the RFP, an agency has the following options. One, don’t respond to the RFP. Two, negotiate up front that the language in the RFP is not appropriate and ask to have it changed. Three, don’t put new ideas in your pitch. Of course, the difficulty with option three, as McCormick stated, is that new creative ideas are “often how agencies differentiate themselves.”

3) Lastly, from the brand side, be clear with the agency that you outlined your are retaining rights to ideas in the RFP.

[image via Flickr]