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
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
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
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,
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
1987: Deputy MD, Burson-Marsteller
1990: Partner, KPMG marketing consultancy
1996: Chairman - European retail and consumer group , KPMG
2001: Director, Burson-Marsteller.