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Junk RFPs: Navigating the ‘Request for Proposal’ Process

Junk RFPs: Navigating the ‘Request for Proposal’ Process

Having been in the creative industry for a long time, we both have a lot to say about the good, bad, and mostly ugly aspects of responding to a Request for Proposal, or RFP. Sure, RFPs bring in new work, and have been used for decades. But more often than not, this process can be an impersonal and ineffective way to solicit creative work. It often divorces everyone involved from the nuances that clarify what the client is looking for and what the creatives can supply. In this episode, we pull apart the clinical and sometimes performative nature of RFPs, discuss why they’re used, and share some of our favorite horror stories involving junk RFPs.

RFPs, or Requests for Proposals, are a common way of soliciting work in the creative industry — and they can be an equally challenging (and often painful) process for everyone involved. In a written description alone, it can be difficult for a buyer to clearly articulate what service or product they’re looking for in an RFP. This can leave folks in the creative industry pouring hours into a proposal that isn’t actually what the client needs, which is a lose-lose situation for everyone.

Personally, we think RFPs work best when treated like a job interview. Injecting a human-centric, communicative approach to the RFP process helps buyers find vendors who will be a good fit for their organization, and takes the hoop-jumping guesswork out of the process for the creatives in the vendor position. This week, we share strategies for making RFPs effective for both clients and vendors, what we think makes certain RFPs “junk,” and our best and worst experiences with responding to RFPs.