Editorial: New moves in the board game

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.

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

financial director.



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.



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