Management consultancy and strategic public relations have developed an increasingly competitive relationship over the last couple of years - fuelled to a large extent by the Company Law Review. But PricewaterhouseCoopers' decision to train its staff in advising on regulatory and public affairs issues suggests that they may have underestimated the challenge.
PwC is certainly not the first to encroach onto the territory of PA. Lawyers have increasingly worked in this area, and some such as Dibb Lupton Alsop have even established their own spin off divisions staffed by public affairs professionals. PwC, however, is not talking about establishing a separate department or revenue stream, but bolting on PA as an added-extra for existing clients.
The belief that a brief training programme will equip management consultants with the necessary skills to provide PA consultancy is frankly insulting to those in the industry who have spent years working in agencies, if not in government or the civil service, acquiring the skills necessary to consult.
There are also cultural issues that need to be considered. Would management consultancies, for example, be willing to overcome the endemic confidentiality over client lists - an anachronisn when dealing in post-Nolan PA? And how would they reconcile their considerable government contracts with the job of influencing government through PA advice.
There is no room for complacency over the very real threat posed by management consultants, but PwC will have to make a more considered commitment before the public affairs fraternity needs to run for cover.