Note: IABC DC Metro board member Sue O’Hora originally wrote the following article for her LinkedIn newsletter, “Video for Communicators.”  Sue is a writer, producer and director at Rising Night Productions, a video production company in Washington, DC.


By Sue O’Hora

I was recently writing a proposal and realized I needed to speak with someone about a subject with which I wasn’t familiar. I found an expert by searching online and called her. We connected right away and I explained that I was working on a response to a Request for Proposal (RFP). What she said wasn’t particularly surprising: “Ugh…RFPs. They are the worst.”

Responding to RFPs can be challenging, but for an organization, they can be a great way to find and evaluate vendors. For production companies, RFPs can be an amazing way to win new projects. Sometimes however, information is missing from an RFP that can make understanding the project difficult for respondents and evaluating proposals harder for the issuer.

Even if you aren’t entirely sure what kind of video you want to make, it’s important to include enough detail in your RFP to give a production company the ability to prepare a great response. The goal is to balance the information you include in your RFP with the level of specificity you’d like to see in the proposals you receive.

“Must-Include” Information

The goal of most RFPs is to find a vendor that’s a good fit for the project at hand. Clients generally want a team with the experience to execute their creative vision that can work within their timeline and budget constraints. I’m sure most are also looking for a vendor with whom they “vibe.”

Producers are looking to get enough information from the RFP (and any Q & A that may accompany it) to confidently estimate the people, gear, time and post-production services that will be required to complete the job. So what information is absolutely imperative to include?

  • A description of the audience for the video(s)
  • Your goal for the video(s)
  • Where you plan to use the video(s)
  • Any fixed deadlines (for instance, if the video needs to be done in time for an event)
  • A way to ask questions about the solicitation

The information above will let a producer or production company provide you with creative ways to grab the attention of your audience, meet your goals and complete the work by your deadline. If you cannot provide more information than what is listed above, the proposals you receive are likely to vary quite a bit, both in approach and budget, but the creativity of the responses might be just what you’re after if you’re open to different approaches.

Less formal RFPs usually have a point of contact who is available to answer questions about the solicitation via email, phone or a quick video call. Formal RFPs (like those issued by government entities) often include a specific “question-and-answer” period after which both the questions and answers are distributed to everyone who has shown interest in the project. The ability to ask questions is crucial for the respondents and can also give the issuing organization a chance to clarify the details of the project if needed.

“Good-to-Include” Information

If you know that you need one three-minute-long video or five one-minute-long videos etc., include that information in your RFP. It will help to focus the responses you receive so that you can more easily compare “apples to apples.” Similarly, if you have certain creative elements that you know will be a part of your project, mention that too. If you want your video to contain interviews, animation or actors, those kinds of details are important. The more information you include, the easier it will be to compare the responses you receive. Companies will also be able to include more salient samples of work in their responses.

If you know approximately how long your team will need to review scripts and cuts, include that in the proposal as well. If your team needs two weeks for each review, that will impact how fast the project can move in general.

The Budget

If at all possible, include your budget or your budget range in the RFP. If you get five proposals and they all come in around the same budget, that should make comparing the value of the individual proposals a little easier. You may also learn that there are multiple ways to produce the project you envision within the budget you have to spend.

There is a downside to not including a budget (or a range, even if it is a wide range) in your RFP. You might receive proposals that include brilliant ideas that will simply not be achievable with your available budget, and then you’ll have to go back to the drawing board regarding your scope of work. That takes time, and if you’re working towards a hard deadline, it might be time you cannot afford.

Getting Responses

Most clients request the following information in response to RFPs:

  • Information about the responding party
  • Creative /technical approach
  • Preliminary schedule
  • Budget
  • Samples of work
  • References

You can make the job of comparing proposals from different vendors even easier by providing respondents with a checklist of the information their proposals should include.

RFPs for video can be challenging to write, particularly if there are details about your project that are still unknown. Spend time thinking about the level of detail and specificity you want in the proposals you’ll receive. If your organization is looking for a creative partner who can help shape your project from the very beginning, you may choose to write a more open-ended RFP than you would to fulfill a very specific scope of work with a fixed budget and a hard deadline.


Photo: Markus Winkler at Unsplash