PR TECHNIQUE SEARCH CONSULTANTS: Getting on the radar screen for corporate RFPs

Relying on word of mouth doesn’t have to be the only way to secure new business for a small- to mid-sized agency. Tripp Whetsell finds out how to get the attention of organizations set up to match clients with agencies

Relying on word of mouth doesn’t have to be the only way to secure new business for a small- to mid-sized agency. Tripp Whetsell finds out how to get the attention of organizations set up to match clients with agencies

Relying on word of mouth doesn’t have to be the only way to secure

new business for a small- to mid-sized agency. Tripp Whetsell finds out

how to get the attention of organizations set up to match clients with


When a small firm comes from nowhere to test the big shot PR agencies

for a blue-chip account, most rivals, green with envy, put it down to

’contacts’ and ’the old boys’ network.’ But it could also be the down to

the work of a search consultancy.

Agency consultants help companies determine what a particular firm’s

strengths and weaknesses are, which in turn helps them make a better

decision when it comes to hiring.

’We’ve found that it’s an interesting way for people to search and ask

all the hard questions ahead of time,’ says Paul Batz, VP and GM of

business at Minneapolis-based agency Padilla Speer Beardsley. ’Then when

(the companies) do call us directly, they are better informed about who

we are and can ask the types of questions we’re more equipped to answer

without wasting anybody’s time.’

The search consultant’s fees range from dollars 10,000 to dollars 25,000

depending on the search. Some charge only the companies while others

bill both the client and the PR firm.

Although the consultants say they work with PR firms across the country,

the companies looking for representation admit that they more often are

looking for firms in the Northeast, especially New York City.

If you are a small to mid-sized agency and want to get on the radar

screen of leading search consultants - to ensure that your firm gets in

on the reviews for key accounts in your region or area of expertise -

here are some ways to increase your chances.

First, finding out who the best PR agency search consultants are and

getting them to know you should be a top priority, especially if you are

a new firm.

Look at the classified sections in leading PR trade publications and

network at influential industry associations to find out which

consultants deal with the types of clients that your firm services. But

know that most agency consultants are jacks of all trades when it comes

to the mix of clients they handle.

’In terms of agency consultants, there is a definite cream of the crop,’

says Steve Cody, CEO of PepperCom, a NY-based PR firm. ’I would make it

my business to get to know them personally so they know who you are,

what your culture is and what you bring to the table in terms of client


Cody’s take on the agency search consulting world might sound

rudimentary, but Dennis Spring, president of Spring Associates, a

NY-based PR executive search firm, says that any agency is fair game

when it comes to getting his attention, regardless of its size.

Most consultants do their homework when checking out a firm. ’We’re not

just concerned with the size of an agency, where they’re located and

what they say their specialties are,’ Spring says. ’The first step is

going out and meeting with these potential agencies and doing a very

thorough interview. We make it clear from the beginning that everybody

has an equal shot at winning an account and that we’re not going in with

any predetermined ideas.’

To work with an outside agency consultant successfully, you need to be

able to articulate the types of clients your firm has worked with before

and what are your firm’s areas of expertise.

Be honest. If you’ve never worked in a certain area don’t say that you

have. Don’t pretend to be a mid-sized firm when you employ only two


Never say your staff consists of a seasoned publicity team when all

you’ve got are marketing people.

’There’s no real way to allocate the quality of someone’s experience,’

cautions Chuck Meyst, chairman and CEO of Richmond, VA-based

’As a result, honesty becomes that much more of an important factor when

a PR firm is dealing with an agency search consultant as opposed to just

dealing with the client directly.’

If you have good relationships with a number of journalists, that can

also help you get noticed by consultants. ’To me, the agencies that

really stand out are the ones that have great relationships with the

press,’ says Barry Kluger, president of Montville, NJ-based consulting

firm Kluger Media Group. ’A lot of times when I’m trying to find an

agency, I will call reporters up directly and seek out their

recommendations. I also sometimes go to clients themselves and ask which

firms do the PR they admire most and which ones are getting good press

for their competitors.’

A warning: not everyone is in agreement about the value of search


’We’ve had unfortunate experiences with most of the agency search

consultants,’ offers Phillip Dunn, partner and co-founder of Minkus &

Dunn, a Chicago-based marketing and PR firm. ’Our experience has been

that most of these guys are from the ad world and they don’t know much

about PR, nor do they respect what we do.’

Remember that things might not always work out when you’re dealing with

a consultant for the first time. It may take a few tries before you win

an account via this route. Don’t give up. If you can, refer new business

to these consultants because it’s a two-way street and these

relationships can be very valuable. Just as you wouldn’t cross an editor

off your list because he turned down one story, don’t rule out a

consultant either.


Advertising Agency Register

Principally for clients looking for ad support, it also deals with a

wide range of marketing and PR firms.

Contact Leslie Winthrop (212) 644-0790

Fax (212) 644-0919


Richmond, VA-based service for client and agency matchmaking.

Contact Charles Meyst, chairman/CEO (804) 346-1812

Fax (804) 346-1940


The Cantor Concern and Spring Associates

Two New York-based executive recruiting agencies that also match

agencies with clients.

Contact Marie Raperto, president, The Cantor Concern, (212) 333-3000 or

Dennis Spring, president, Spring Associates, (212) 473-0013

Kluger Media Group Corporate communications consultant for the new

media, entertainment and venture capital industries.

Contact Barry Kluger, president, (973) 316-0042.

Fax (973) 316-1686.

E-mail barrykluger@earthlink. net PR Central

Online search system reachable at

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