CAMPAIGN REPORT ON CHOOSING AN AGENCY: The publishing agency checklist - The Association of Publishing Agencies has just published a pack to help clients choose an agency. Here Michele Martin, with the APA’s help, answers the questions clients fre

1 Where do I start looking for an agency?

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

database issues?

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

electronic media?

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.


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