Ex-Lincolnshire PR chief warns about agency use

Local authorities' use of PR consultancies can leave in-house PROs feeling undervalued, unsettled and threatened, former Lincolnshire PR manager Steve Jackson told the CIPR Local Government conference in Belfast last week.

Councils use consultancies ‘too readily' without considering the skills of people within their organ­isations, he told delegates.

‘Councils need to be more mindful of the impact that consultancies can have on employees. I am not knocking their expertise or experience but they tend to come in and shake things up without having to pick up the debris left behind,' he said.

Consultants can also be expensive, he warned. A recent report published in The Guardian revealed Whitehall spent £2.2bn on consultants last year.

But local government PR guru and consultant Lorraine Langham disagreed with Jackson: ‘Good PROs have nothing to fear and much to gain from working with consultancies.

‘We add value, bring an external perspective and offer additional capacity in times of change.'

The use of consultancies has led to strike action in ­several London boroughs in recent years. Haringey PROs famously walked out after Marina Pirotta Communications was called in to review comms in 2004 (PRWeek, 20 Feb 2004).

Jackson was made redundant from Lincolnshire last month after 17 years (PRWeek, 11 Aug). It is looking for a head of communications and community to ­replace him.

Somewhat ironically given his speech, Jackson is ­now hoping to undertake part-time ­consultancy work.He said he would be mindful of going into local authorities to review services.

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