PR Agency Search Recommendations For Agencies

Recommendations For Agencies

At a high level there’s good news from this study for agencies: overall client satisfaction with agencies is high.

But a closer examination of the results points to a number of issues agencies need to think about. Agency proactivity, account coordination, quality, staff turnover, meeting objectives, meeting budget and deadlines were all issues of concern for communications executives.

Client organizations often reported being unimpressed with agency responses to RFPs. Boilerplate responses, upselling, and off-base proposals were all raised as issues, and reasons why agencies fail to move beyond the RFP hurdle of the search process.

With a third of respondents indicating some level of concern around their search process and the agencies they had selected, and data showing clients working with agencies to align expectations after they have been hired, it’s clear that client-agency relationships may not always start on the right foot.

There are clear consequences of this. We found that 70% of client-primary agency relationships were three years or less in duration. So, agency turnover is clearly an issue – and given the kind of budgets reported, agency turnover is not good for corporate communications executives or agency leaders.

How can agencies avoid missteps in the hiring process, increase the odds of being selected, and give themselves the best chance of building long-term relationships with client organizations? Here are some recommendations:


  • Build brand, visibility and relationships – With large organizations saying they choose just a handful of agencies at the beginning of a search, agencies are not going to be invited to the party unless and until they are noticed. Join trade associations representing sectors and companies with which you would like to do business. Engage with heads of communications and their peers and ensure the agency is represented in agency rankings, and on agency databases and online platforms.


  • Be selective about RFPs – It’s important to evaluate and participate in agency search processes that are fair, well-managed, and for which you are qualified. If an RFP contains inadequate information, ask questions or request information required to respond. If these asks are met with a shrug of the shoulders, walk away from the “opportunity” – as this may be an early indicator of relationship and communications challenges with the client ahead.


  • Be all in – The agency shouldn’t waste its time or the potential client’s time with a half-hearted or boilerplate proposal. If the agency lacks the experience, people, or confidence to credibly serve a potential client, it should bow out as soon as it receives the RFP.


  • Bring ideas – If a client is looking for ideas, the agency should share them. Holding back on ideas because the agency fears that the potential client might steal them is misplaced. In general, an agency’s ideas are less important to a potential client than that client’s confidence in the agency’s ability to execute those ideas.


  • Don’t upsell when pitching business – An agency that offers “optional” ideas or services, beyond its core recommended program and for additional fees, is typically the agency that is not going to raise eyebrows but produce a frown – whether the extras are offered in the proposal or the presentation. Agencies are better served by demonstrating how they would provide more value or insight with something that was asked for in an RFP, rather than present it as an additional service and cost.

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