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
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.