Angry PR consultancies are being forced to commit days of work developing applications for the Central Office of Information's new framework roster - yet much of the work may not even be looked at.
Launched in May, the COI's four-yearly search for new agencies is the biggest single PR pitch process in the UK.
A leaked COI email, dated 4 August, requested that all agencies who have submitted entries for the first stage of the huge tender should also submit entries for the second stage.
But applicants thinking they might win and committing time and money to the second stage could find they never stood a chance of getting to first base.
Agency heads have estimated that the second-stage entry will take more than a week to complete.
The COI divides the pitch process into seven ‘lots'. The controversial email app¬lies to all applicants for the lots covering ‘UK', ‘Nations & Regions', ‘Healthcare', ‘Government B2B' and ‘Environment', but not for the ‘Int¬ernational' and ‘Sport' lots.
In an emailed statement to PRWeek, COI director of PR Pauline Hughes responded by saying: ‘In order to meet our deadline of October, we have invited all agencies that applied at stage one to go forward to stage two.'
No-one was available for clarification on what was meant by ‘go forward'.
More than 250 agencies have applied and there are 753 applications in total because agencies were all¬owed to apply for more than one lot.
The PRCA has asked the COI for clarification and urged it to make the applications process as fair and painless as possible.
The COI spent £29.3m on PR and sponsorship during 2007-08. About £11.2m of this was purely for PR campaigns.
- ‘It's a lot of extra work and pressure
- ‘We are questioning if we are going to apply again
- This will take at least a week's work and we don't know whether it's to any end
- ‘If we had been shortlisted we would think it was worth it but now we don't even know. We have to decide whether to apply'