EDITORIAL: Brief PA training insults industry

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.



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