Almost exactly two years after it last had a PR man at its top
table, Inchcape has appointed its corporate affairs director Paul Barber
to the group management board.
In 1995, this function was effectively removed from this level when the
then corporate affairs director John Duncan took early retirement as a
part of a group-wide cost-cutting drive, which also saw the departure of
two other members of his team. Those were dark days for the company,
which had just issued its third profit warning within a year. But at the
time we argued that to remove the corporate affairs function from board
level, particularly at such a sensitive time for the group, was
short-sighted. PR is not an optional extra and to distance
communications from the policy-making core of a business - especially at
a time of great change - makes no more sense than removing the job of
Duncan put up a spirited defence of the decision, arguing that tough
times called for tough measures, and that the corporate affairs function
should not be exempt from them. He also insisted that the quality of PR
advice the company would continue to receive would not suffer. And it is
true to say that with operators of Barber’s calibre at head office, the
company was not undertalented on the communications front.
Nevertheless we argued that the PR function can only play its full part
(and deliver its full value) in influencing business decisions when it
has a hand in the management decision-making process. Now, happily, the
company’s extensive restructuring appears to have paid off and profits
are rising again. And with Barber’s appointment to the management board,
the company appears to have recognised the force of the argument for
having PR input at board level.
In welcoming his appointment, Inchcape group chief executive Philip
Cushing - still only 15 months into his own role - stresses ’the value
Inchcape places on its corporate communications activities, but also the
wider contribution I expect the corporate affairs function to make in
the day-to-day running of an international company’. For his part,
Barber believes that it will help ensure that corporate communications
implications are considered in ’every business decision we make, however
small or large’.
We should welcome Barber’s appointment because he is a talented
individual who will thrive on the added responsibility. And we should
applaud wholeheartedly the company’s commitment to communications as a
key management function which his promotion represents.