Regional agencies stand to gain in new COI search

The Central Office of Information (COI) has indicated that regional agencies stand to win a greater chunk of government business in coming years.

Martinson: 'more complex' progress
Martinson: 'more complex' progress

The COI launched its four-yearly search for new agencies this week, with a wide-ranging review of its PR roster. As well as a greater regional focus, the COI will also be seeking more healthcare, environment and sport specialists.

The new roster will be announced in the autumn and will include 30 general PR agencies, plus three to four in each region, and up to eight international agencies.

It will reflect a new EU Directive, which means that all agencies that are capable of performing the brief must be invited to pitch. The COI predicted this could lead to up to 30 agencies competing for a single piece of business.

COI director of news and PR Neil Martinson said: 'It's certainly more complex. We would expect them to be sensible, and not put themselves forward for what they're not best placed to do.'

To manage this requirement efficiently, the framework has been divided into 'lots' to provide easy access to shortlists for competition. The lots will be divided into areas such as UK-wide, nations, regions, business and international.

The current framework, which caters for £15m in PR spend each year, allows agencies to compete for government and public sector work without going through a lengthy procurement process for every contract. Agencies should go to and complete the PQQ by 1 July.


'Times have changed since the 2004 framework was decided. PR turnover at the COI has increased and many agencies are now seen as valued partners. People's media consumption patterns are changing at an extraordinary speed, agencies are moving into digital, specialisations have grown and the mantra of

integration is everywhere. Successful agencies should demonstrate the ability to understand audiences and offer insight into what lies below the surface. They should be able to think outside the box and translate complex issues into messages that achieve real cut-through. They should be able to present creative messages that influence opinion and behaviour.'

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