How to choose PR agencies? How to find one? How to start?

9 February 2024
Reading time 5 minuty

These are questions that can keep many people working on the client side awake at night. From the CEO, to the Marketer, to those working in the Purchasing (procurement) department or one that has been instructed to conduct a tender and select an agency. The Client loses money if the bidding process is poorly managed, while Agencies incur costs related to people’s salaries, equipment, sofware, materials, etc.

Choosing a PR agency- the steps

Choosing the right business partner, in this case a public relations agency with which we are to have daily contact, will take care of our image and shape our reputation, is a major decision. The applicable standard steps in the selection process are:

  1. Request for information – RFI (Request for Information)
  2. Request for Solution – RFP (Request for Proposal).
  3. Request for quotation- RFQ (Request for Quote)

It is not necessary to go through all these stages. Which form you decide on depends on your organization’s needs and goals at the time.

Why a public relations agency and where to find one?

Before organizing a tender, it is worth considering why we want to organize it. Preparation of a tender by an agency requires the involvement of a multi-person team, time and, consequently, money. Also on the client’s side, it is a time-consuming endeavor, and often ends in failure, because the client receives offers that do not fully meet his needs. Whatever the reason, it’s important that the Client has a clear objective for the tender. Once the Client has answered the above questions, he should proceed to identify a list of agencies he would like to invite to tender. Where to look. In the case of this industry, potential sources for building knowledge about public relations itself, as well as companies offering such services, are industry organizations: Association of Public Relations Agencies, Association of Public Relations Firms, Polish Public Relations Association, Polish and international industry competitions, and industry media.

RFI – first selection

Companies that have experience in working with PR agencies and conduct market analysis of PR service providers on a constant basis can skip this step. However, if a company is undertaking the selection of an agency for the first time, it is recommended to use a Request for Information or RFI (Request for Information), which will help determine the list of the best agencies for the planned tender. The main purpose of the RFI is to obtain basic business (financial and commercial) data such as business profile, shareholders, financial standing, certificates and awards held, staff of experts, most interesting projects and achievements in the area of interest, membership in

industry organizations, etc.
You can also ask the agency at this stage to send you a portfolio, or so-called Credentials – in other words, reference implementations and projects in a given sector/industry or scope of work. It should be remembered that clients as well as agencies during the tender process provide sensitive data for their companies, which should be protected, therefore it is recommended to use bilateral confidentiality obligations.

RFP or RFQ? It depends…

Thanks to the first stage, we already have a ready list of agencies we want to invite to participate in the tender. Now it’s time to decide what form our brief will take – RFP or RFQ? Is there a universal and only right way? It depends. If the client doesn’t know exactly what it needs and can’t yet determine the detailed scope of work for the agency, it should opt for an RFP or Request for Proposal, which outlines the business objective, problem, challenge and expected outcome. The client can expect a preliminary solution and proposal, a concept of action, but without the execution of strategic ideas. It is recommended that the RFP be sent to a maximum of 5 agencies.

The RFP is the basis for selecting the solution and the Agency for the next stage, which is the RFQ or Request for Quotation. One reaches for this model when the Client has a strategy for communication activities, knows what tool tactics it wants to use and is looking for an agency to carry out these activities. Here, the key activity is to prepare a precise scope of work for the agency, i.e. the so-called SoW – Scope of Work, and also a detailed Brief. He recommends sending the RFQ to a maximum of 3 agencies. The time you should give the agencies to prepare a proposal is 7 working days.

Good Brief = 50% success

Experts say, both those who participate in tenders and those who organize them, that the level and effect of a tender is a reflection of the quality of the brief. Such a Brief will also save time in the bidding process (clarifying information that was missing from the document) and thus the cost of the process both on the part of the Agency and the Client. A good Brief is one that includes: Information about the brand/company, Market context, Information about the target group (basic information, such as demographics, psychographics, but also (consumer) behavior, attitude to the brand/company, consumer (target) insight., Information about the product/service/problem and the Client’s communication to date, What effects does the Client want to achieve, Detailed tasks set for the Agency: what do we expect from the implementation of the selected tender offer, What is the budget for the campaign (this is a recommended approach because thanks to it the Agency will adjust the tools and their range to the reality).

Jak wybrać agencje PR? Gdzie szukać? Od czego zacząć?


Tender schedule

Regardless of which tender model the client decides on, the Brief should present an accurate and, above all, realistic timetable for the entire process, ensuring that agencies are comfortable with their work and have adequate time to prepare bids. This is very important for Agencies, as they are able to plan the work of their teams internally. With a large number of tenders, this is important for the Agency’s business operations and the percentage determination of the chance of winning.

De-brief or worth talking about

The availability of the Client and open communication with the prospective business partner, directional conversations show that the Client is well prepared for the tender. The Client should designate the same people on the Bid Evaluation Team for all participants, to whom Agencies can direct questions about the substantive and formal parts of the brief.

How to evaluate agencies?

For the purpose of the tender, the client should appoint a Team of people who will organize the tender, deal with the selection of the agency, formal issues, and, in the end, the fair evaluation of the prepared bids. The duty of such a Team is to create a system for scoring and evaluating bids. We can distinguish 5 basic ones: Experience in the Client’s industry, Experience in the subject of the tender, Stability, Professionalism, Compliance with the requirements of the Client’s business policy. The following weights can also be assigned:

  1. Strategic approach 25%
  2. Proposed solutions and tactics 25%
  3. Experience of the team 30%
  4. Price 20%

Rejection fee means participation and feedback fee

Tenders for public relations services or communication activities bring Clients, in addition to specific offers, some knowledge – they are a source of consumer insights, take into account the analysis of the Client’s previous communication or competition, carried out by several professional market players. Therefore, it is recommended that Clients use Rejection fee, that is, a fee for participation in the tender for those Agencies that do not win it. When organizing a tender for a PR agency, it is recommended to use a participation fee from PLN 2500 to 5000 net, depending on the scale of the tender and the scope of tender tasks.

After the bidding process is completed, the client should inform all participants of the outcome. It is recommended that each of the losing Agencies receive feedback on what was good in their bid, what was missing and what was worse than the winning one.

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