OPINION: The Big Question - Is the kudos of seconding a PRO worth the impact on your business? -British Airways’ communications director Simon Walker is about to embark on a two-year secondment to Buckingham Palace, replacing Simon Lewis who retur

Charles Naylor

Charles Naylor


’We didn’t second Simon Lewis two years ago for the reputation impact;

it was thought it would be a transitional bridge role to a broader line

manager position. It adds value to the business to have that sort of

career development and the company will see the benefit when he


When corporate affairs people go away and learn new ways of doing things

it enables them to enter more senior roles which is a good thing for the

entire profession. If people are seconded from companies or agencies to

government or charities or public institutions it enables the company to

give something back to the community.’

Jonathan Clare

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

’I don’t think the kudos you get does outweigh the trouble it causes.

It’s great for the individual, and it’s also good for the Palace in this

case, as they are getting someone with wide experience of serious


But it’s only good for the seconding company if they have a good public

image in the first place. At BA they had a period of turbulence, with

low staff morale, so it’s more of a downside to lose their top PR man at

this stage. The issue of finding work after two years needn’t be a

problem in a large organisation but trying to get someone in for two

years is problematic. It’s an unattractive proposition from the view of

the person coming in to the post, and this may limit their ability to

attract the best people.’

John Shepherd


’To say it’s not disruptive is untrue, but that should not be

exaggerated. Being seconded from an agency to a client we worked for has

benefited me personally, the agency - in that I learn new skills I then

bring to other clients - and the client, who gets a more dedicated

service. Even full-time secondees can still help out the place they are

on secondment from; they just need to find extra hours in each day. It’s

not about kudos for the original employer, though it does them no harm

for it to be known that they have people in their company of the calibre

to work for Buckingham Palace. Some complain that finding a role for a

returning secondee is tricky but I say if you have that problem, you

haven’t grown the business and should not be in the game.’

Robin Swinbank

The Counsel House

’Kudos is really not the issue. Secondment provides experienced,

competent and objective people who have no axe to grind. Secondees will

focus solely on the job rather than the need to protect a salary or play

office politics.

The demand for this will grow as consultancies heamorrhage talent to the

freelance market, creating a shortage of senior PR practitioners. With

freelancers able to earn more through secondments, why be an


In this case, the benefit to BA will not be the kudos but the corporate

value it will gain from the secondee’s new perspective and a broader

vision of the role at the highest level when they return. It isn’t good

to lose someone senior for a period of time but the judgment must be

made that the reward is greater than the downside.’

On a day-to-day basis it will be difficult to manage affairs, and it is

a bold step providing a secondee from among your most senior staff.’

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