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Poorly written “social media” RFP’s

Now that various public sector organizations are slowly starting to realize that social media engagement is not really an option but rather an imminent requirement, numerous “Request for Proposals” (RFP’s) have been coming out of government with “social media” as part of their titles. Unfortunately, in most cases the RFP dictates required elements which are predominantly tactical in nature:

  • We want to build a social network
  • We want to create a blog
  • We want 5000 friends/followers on channel X

I always double check to see if I missed something, something like a page which states “objectives”, or “purpose” or answers the question “why?” Really, any of those will do. To my dismay, no such page is missing, it’s just never thought of.

It’s an ethical challenge to even bid on these for us, since the underlying theme of everything we do at CEPSM is “strategy before tactics”. How can we write a proposal to create a blog for you if a blog might not be the right channel for your audience, your initiative, your objectives, etc…? It’d be different if a strategy was already in place, however 99% of the time, it’s not. We therefore go in only to find out through our research that an organization would be much better off on channel X doing tactic Z and yet we can’t do anything about it since the required tactic was already stated in the RFP.

I’m thinking of creating some strategic social media engagement RFP templates for government departments to start sharing. All you #w2p ‘ers out there, let me know if these already exist, in which case I will help spread the existing ones.

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  1. Mike – you are so right. After responding to RFPs for the better part of the last 17 years there are huge discrepancies in quality and as we all know, when you are looking for advice, you don’t know what you don’t know and need to seek advice about what to ask for. Please do these templates – help the government get their money’s worth and learn how to articulate their objectives. Spread your weath of knowledge!

  2. I like your approach Mike. All too often businesses (and gov’t) get caught up in a trend missing the point altogether. In this case, better communication with various stakeholders, I assume.

    Unfortunately, the social media wave is creating a bunch of “pros” who forget to check in with the bottom line objective, focusing on the tactics and gaining some traction with their approach. It will be left to those of us who believe in starting from a goal or objective first and working back from there to clean up the mess. A comprehensive program can create very powerful results, but the message has to be received that starting with a tactic or two is probably going to miss “the mark”.

  3. Mike, you are right on the money. We have had many internal conversations on this exact topic.

    My take on this is simple – organizations should follow the same procedures and guidelines for these “social media” project RFP’s as they would for any other.

    New does not mean different, and hype does not mean hurry.

    In an organization that is developing an RFP for a well-established technology, say a telephone system, the project typically begins with a needs analysis, user requirements, resource allocations, etc. The results of these evaluations will cascade into strategic planning, which will, in turn, cascade into tactical implementation.

    “We need to get on the Twitter” is not a substitute for due diligence and appropriate project management standards.

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