The four agencies will share a PR budget of £750,000 to deliver a range of government social marketing campaigns on issues such as binge drinking, domestic and drug abuse, health concerns and the environment.
Scottish Executive head of marketing and new media Roger Williams said it was the first time the devolved Scottish government had directly hired PR agencies.
In the past, PR agencies have been sub-contracted through advertising firms, but Williams said the move will make the agencies directly accountable to the Executive.
He added that although PR is currently used to support advertising campaigns, the new contracts would potentially allow for standalone PR activity.
Projects will be divided between the agencies to balance workload and retain consistency with Barkers, Big and Consolidated currently working on campaigns sourced through advertising contracts.
Citigate last year worked on an Executive-funded campaign tackling the stigma of mental illness for Scottish mental health organisations.
Williams said the agencies were equal in terms of their respective strengths and would be evaluated on an ongoing basis.
‘Media relations is the bread and butter of the PR industry, but increasingly we will be looking at other ways in which to engage with the public,’ said Williams.
‘That’s the challenge for these agencies, whether it is through sponsorship, working with third parties or events. We would look at the whole bag of tricks.’