1 Where do I start looking for an agency?
The UK’s international reputation as a centre of excellence for
publishing agencies means that any client - regardless of its size -
should be able to find something suitable. However, for clients with a
more substantial budget, the Association of Publishing Agencies is an
obvious place to start.
The industry’s trade body has just brought out a client pack on how to
choose an agency, along with details of its 21 members. Ideally, you
will want to see credentials from around eight companies and shortlist
three of them to give detailed presentations.
2 Should I look for a company with experience in my sector or can I take
a bit of a risk?
Choosing an agency that does not actually have any experience in your
sector is not necessarily risky. In fact, it may ensure some fresh
APA agencies should be able to tackle magazines on most subjects,
although some clients undoubtedly want the ’comfort factor’ of knowing
that their agency has handled a similar project before. This is
especially the case with international assignments, where not all
agencies have relevant experience. It is worth noting that publishing
companies are less paranoid about client conflict than advertising
agencies and may take on competitive accounts.
3 How should I brief my shortlisted agencies and how long should I allow
for the pitch?
The old adage, knowledge is power, proves true when it comes to pitching
and the more information you provide your agencies, the better. Give
them a full idea of your business objectives for the magazine, your
long-term general marketing strategy, examples of current advertising
and any communication style guides.
It is acceptable to offer a more open-ended brief, but you can expect
back a wider range of more superficial proposals as a result. Allow four
to six weeks from briefing to a final decision.
4 What subjects can I expect my shortlisted agencies to cover in their
presentations to me?
They should cover every aspect of publishing and monitoring your
Expect to see specific creative and editorial proposals as well as ways
of judging the marketing effectiveness of the title. Distribution must
be covered, as will database strategy and, if it’s an international
brief, how translation and cultural issues will be handled. Costs,
personnel and contracts should be discussed.
5 I expect an agency to know how my magazine will look, but should I
really expect it to monitor its effectiveness as well?
Yes. A good agency should produce a magazine as a marketing tool, not
just a good read. Expect a shortlisted agency to illustrate its track
record with client case histories, as well as presenting ideas for your
business. Effectiveness can be measured in many ways, from client
surveys to focus groups and monitoring customer reaction against control
groups of those who do not receive the magazine.
6 Equally, can I trust a publishing company with distribution and
Yes. Since only 5 per cent of clients do their own distribution, any
decent agency should be able to manage this process without
The same goes for database strategy - although the degree of service
here varies widely. Most companies should offer advice on developing
readership lists from data, but not all will be able to give technical
support to achieve that.
It is important to know what you need and to shortlist agencies
7 Should I expect my agencies to be able to translate my magazine into
The ability to publish on the internet is an increasing concern for
clients and agencies are rising to the challenge. Most will have some
capacity but electronic publishing requires different skills to
conventional publishing and may not be as developed. Looking at an
agency’s work for its other clients is the best way of judging
8 Can I find out how much publishing a magazine will cost me and what
revenue I can expect from advertising?
You can expect an accurate costing, although not all agencies are
’transparent’ about how they achieve their quotes. Many companies will
also sell your ad space but revenue potential depends on the title and
is unlikely to cover your costs. It is a bad idea to think of your title
as an ad medium.
It can obscure your primary marketing objectives.
9 Once I’ve chosen my agency, what sort of contract and notice period
should I put them on?
Agencies invest a good deal of time and money in bedding down an account
which cannot be recouped if a client leaves within the first year. So
ideally, you should expect to stay with your chosen agency for a minimum
of two years, with a 12-month notice period. In reality, however, most
agencies will be flexible in negotiating an end to a relationship if it
is not working.
10 Is there anything else I can do to ensure that I have followed best
practice during my selection procedure?
First, tell your losing clients why you did not select them. They won’t
hate you - especially if they think you might come back next time.
Second, helping agencies with the cost of pitching is relatively rare,
but there is a strong argument for it. After all, most spend around
pounds 15,000 on preparing their advice.
For further information from the Association of Publishing Agencies,
contact Helen Weaver on 0171-400 7516.