Procurement and the Buying of PR Services

It always feels like a tussle between Procurement and the PR agency.

tussle procurement and PR business storytelling public relations

The Council of PR Firms offers a paper called, “Procurement Professionals Q&A: Advancing the Working Relationship with Public Relations Firms” which proposes the money side be handled as thus:

With regard to the financial negotiation, there should be a short term and longer term goal. Immediately, the client organization should communicate the reason for retaining the public relations firm and how the firm’s success will be evaluated. Longer term, the focus should be on relationship management based on the scope of work, benchmarks against goals, and appropriate compensation. Each party should make the other aware of what it is seeking to achieve in the relationship. The most successful and productive long term relationships are based on mutual respect and open dialogue.

It all sounds so good – cue the birds chirping in the background – in theory.

Unfortunately, the reality rarely plays out this way, at least in our experiences of interacting with Procurement. Instead, Procurement’s overriding objective if not singular mission is to secure the PR agency’s services at the lowest price point possible. While the Council’s paper stresses that PR services are not a commodity, Procurement hasn’t got the memo typically treating the PR agency negotiation like an express mail contract.

I do understand the quest by every company in the galaxy to gain value from their outside purchases.

Everyone wants a good deal.

I get it.

But I also think Procurement misses the big picture in the sense that no matter how tightly you scope the assignment and squeeze the PR agency, the intangible called “care” is a huge wildcard. If an agency cares about the client, it actually goes above and beyond the statement of work (what a concept.).

Assuming Procurement professionals read the Council’s paper, I’m not convinced anything would change. The core issue is not Procurement’s lack of understanding the world of PR. The core issue is a rewards system that motivates Procurement to pummel vendors into submission to save another nickel an hour.

I’d love to hear your views on this one.

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