Amazon HQ2 Losers: We Feel You

To all of the cities around North America that failed to land Amazon’s “HQ2,” we feel you.

After virtually every metropolitan area tried to woo Amazon’s “second headquarters,” buried under the Midterm Election news is word the company is just going to expand its major bases of operations in New York City and suburban Washington, D.C. It all rings so familiar.

This is like the big company that puts out a big RFP, making every PR firm in a market or sector think they have a real shot at a piece of business that will rocket their agency to new heights. But, in reality, the corporation’s decision-makers are just going to keep their existing firm. Or maybe they won’t actually hire a firm at all, they’ll just learn a lot about the marketplace, its capabilities and steal a few ideas along the way.

It happens all the time. It wasn’t too long ago, we had to sign a lengthy non-disclosure agreement just to see a RFP (sound familiar, Amazon bidders?). The RFP required full PR plans based only on a few sentences of description. Who could possibly base a plan on such limited information? That’s right. The firm currently working with that company. Later, the RFP spelled out narrow criteria (sound familiar, Amazon bidders?) for a “successful participant.” Who could possibly meet those specifications? That’s right. The firm currently working with that company. So, we passed.

Now, it’s easy for a entrepreneurial firm like ours to eschew such shams. For a government entity and private partners hungry for growth, there’s much more temptation to take a company like Amazon at face value. Should there be another process like this, the company will get exactly what it wants from participants, even if all it really becomes is a thinly veiled competition for tax incentives.

From a PR perspective, we have learned a couple of things here. One, “Second Headquarters” could join “Merger of Equals” under “corporate things that don’t exist in real life.” Also, in the chase for local corporate investment, RFP could represent for cities and states what it does for PR firms – “Really Flawed Process.”