Public affairs agencies face a fresh threat this week as PricewaterhouseCoopers, the world's largest professional services firm, pledged to enter their market.
PwC's recently-appointed head of public affairs, Chris Lowe, is putting the finishing touches to a lobbying strategy which he expects to present to the management board next month.
It is set to include details of a first public affairs account for the company, which last month announced 2000 revenues of more than pounds 13bn.
Lowe said plans to hire an agency were at an early stage but pointed to issues such as auditor independence, changes in tax legislation and finance bills as being of interest to PwC.
More ominously for public affairs firms, PwC is planning to train its consultants in policy awareness, in the hope they can add value to client programmes by providing 'another knowledge dimension'.
Lowe stressed this was not seen as an additional revenue stream and the company is not likely to attempt to sell public affairs in isolation from other consultancy products. But he said: 'We will give early warning of emerging issues to consultants so when they go into a company on a project, they add a political dimension to their advice.'
This is not the first time PwC has sought to penetrate an area within the PR industry. In a challenge to the financial sector, the firm's strategic communications unit launched last year to deal with 'long-term share price issues'. (PRWeek, 2 June 2000).
Lowe joined PwC in January from Scottish & Newcastle, the recently-reinstated FTSE 100 brewing company. He spent five years building up S&N's government relations function. His career began with 11 years at IBM.
Although seven of these were as head of government relations, he worked for the first four years in marketing.
He succeeds Mark Hatcher at PwC. Hatcher has moved to a global regulatory role within the company.