This research report is presented by RFP Associates LLC, CommunicationsMatch™ and Researchscape International with original research findings from a survey of communications executives on PR agency hiring practices at large organizations. 

The preliminary findings of this research were presented at the 2019 IPR Bridge Conference.

Download the Full Report: The Impact of the Agency Selection Process on PR Programs and Outcomes
Download the Press Release: New Report Highlights Agency Search & Hiring Best Practices in $15 Billion Industry

Download the Infographic: The Impact of the Agency Selection Process-Infographic

Organizations worldwide last year spent $15 billion on outside public relations counsel and services, estimates The Holmes Report, retaining from among tens of thousands of agencies — ranging in size from large multi-nationals to single-counselor operations — vying to represent the brands and reputations of corporations, non-profits and government institutions.

While public relations trade media and organizations do a good job tracking and recognizing agency new business wins, agency/client programs and innovations, and other sector-wide developments, one issue has received scant attention until now: how organizations go about identifying, evaluating and ultimately hiring public relations agencies.

RFP Associates and CommunicationsMatch™ with the support of Researchscape, decided to explore these and related questions by conducting the first national study on the public relations search and hiring practices of Fortune 1000 companies and large associations.



While chief communications officers and senior public relations executives allocate significant budgets for outside public relations services – often bringing in multiple agencies — they typically employ an approach to agency search and hiring that bears little resemblance to the manner in which their organizations would go about hiring mid- and senior-level executives. For example, only 40% of respondents said they check agency references for verifying work, experience, and performance.

Learn more about the key findings here


Quantitative Research
A 30-question online survey was developed by the authors of the study, with support from Tina McCorkindale at the Institute for Public Relations and Jennifer Swint at Porter Novelli. The online survey was distributed through web links to a targeted list of chief communications officers or their equivalents at 800 publicly traded corporations, large private companies, and non-profit trade associations. The survey was also promoted through online public relations media including The Holmes Report and

The survey was conducted using Researchscape’s survey and results reporting technology. The survey was launched on February 25, 2019 and was live for six weeks. No financial incentives were provided to respondents, but those who participated were promised an advance copy of the findings. There were 89 respondents, which Researchscape indicated constituted a response rate that is typical and reliable for a similar survey of C-level executives at large, well-known brands.

Preliminary findings were shared at the Institute for Public Relations 2019 Bridge Conference on April 11, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

Qualitative Interviews
Additional follow up interviews/discussions were conducted after the close of the survey with five communications executives who had responded to the survey and invited the authors to contact them for additional discussion. The five represented industries including automotive, energy, transportation, medicine, and management and information consulting.

We asked additional questions about their search process, how candidate agencies were identified, how agency proposals were reviewed, the amount of time invested in agency selection, and more.

The perspective provided by these respondents was consistent with and a valuable supplement to the survey responses.

Report Authors:

Steve Drake and Robert Udowitz are principals of RFP Associates, a communications agency search firm. They founded RFP in 2011 after observing the agency selection process from “both sides of the aisle” and recognizing the need to streamline and improve the way searches are made and agencies are selected from an honest, unbiased approach. For more information, visit the  RFP website or follow on Twitter at @RFPAssoc. 

Simon Erskine Locke is the Founder and CEO of CommunicationsMatch, an industry-leading communications agency search services platform.  For more information, visit the Communications Match website on follow on Twitter at @CommMatch

For more information about ResearchScape, please visit or follow on Twitter @Researchscape.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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