PROFILE: Emyr Williams, Burson-Marsteller - Williams moves from KPMG back to PR role. B-M has tempted Emyr Williams to switch from management consultancy

The worlds of management consultancy and PR are growing ever closer. It is a resolute belief in this statement which has convinced Emyr Williams to return to Burson-Marsteller as a director, ten years after leaving to build up KPMG's marketing consultancy,

The worlds of management consultancy and PR are growing ever closer. It is a resolute belief in this statement which has convinced Emyr Williams to return to Burson-Marsteller as a director, ten years after leaving to build up KPMG's marketing consultancy,

To any out-of-touch PROs who still believe the management consultant caricature of grey suits and jargon, Williams has a wakeup call.

'This (appointment) is part of a drive by B-M to make sure PR is centre stage so that it can engage with CEOs on that issue,' he explains with the zeal of a convert.

Williams stumbled into management consultancy, having taken a scientific route through university culminating in a chemistry doctorate. Domestic products and healthcare firm Reckitt & Colman funded the PhD as Williams toiled to find ways to improve its star product, Dettol.

After university Williams started work at R&C in an administrative post, but the switch to marketing was not long in coming: 'It seemed that marketing people had the most fun in the company so I went into market planning.'

With the pressure on to get new medicines promoted in the medical press, Williams quickly learnt the value of PR.

'In marketing terms, I was brought up from an early age to appreciate the value of PR. That was a formative experience which has stayed with me ever since and is why I get evangelical and passionate about it,' he says.

One career highlight for Williams while at Golden Wonder/HP Foods was being involved in the early-1980s launch of the Pot Noodle - 'a late-20th century icon. I was involved in developing it and I used to bring all the trial recipes home to my four kids who ate the flavours that didn't make it to market.'

He becomes almost misty-eyed on those early days: 'It was a fun time, there was lots of buzz. People think more imaginatively and more positively if they are having fun at work.'

Which does not fit with the stereotyped image of a management consultant.

Asked how the KPMG culture compares to that of a PR agency, Williams appears at a loss, before saying: 'It's not as different as you would imagine, though it was ten years ago. In the past, management consultants have tended to play safe - been a bit behind the edge of thinking and had a slightly cautious culture, which would not be the case in the PR industry.'

But he believes that with the fast-moving and volatile IT sector now accounting for much of the management consultant's work, the culture has 'caught up to some extent'.

The real change in his decade building up KPMG's nascent marketing division is the relationship between advertising and PR: 'The thing that has changed is that more companies are aware of the need to get some PR. More adverts get used to stimulate PR with the controversial poster. That has brought closer integration between advertising and PR agencies. At least at that level the advertising community has recognised that achieving column inches has a value.'

There he goes, being evangelical again. He claims that during his decade as a KPMG partner he constantly emphasised the role of PR: 'Generally speaking, you would find that most clients were not spending enough or paying enough for PR. Nearly always I would be involved in getting them in with a different calibre agency.' It is, as he says, hardly a surprise he managed to keep in touch with people in the PR industry, including B-M.

Williams believes B-M is further advanced down the strategic communications consultancy track than other agencies. 'Quite a lot of what it does is to do with change management, helping change internal cultures - or doing the internal PR if you like, as well as the external PR,' he says.

Former colleague, McCann-Erickson director of knowledge and intelligence John Fowler, is sure Williams will practice what he preaches: 'He will bring a rigour he gained as a high-powered management consultant to the communications industry. He lends an air of gravitas to the whole communications development strategy and has an understanding of business as well as communications.'

Jim Beam Brands CEO Brian Megson agrees that it is Williams' all-round approach which has enticed his company to turn to him for more than marketing advice: 'We use him to bounce all sorts of ideas off. It is six or seven years since he looked at the direction of our brands and now we are using him more than we've ever done.'

It is recommendations like that which have made Williams so sought after in the PR world, and which make him one of the key industry figures to help shorten the gap between the worlds of PR and management consulting.



HIGHLIGHTS

1987: Deputy MD, Burson-Marsteller

1990: Partner, KPMG marketing consultancy

1996: Chairman - European retail and consumer group , KPMG

2001: Director, Burson-Marsteller.



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