The Big Pitch: Is the PR profession comparable to management consulting? Why or why not?

Gary Grates, GCI Consulting, New York

Gary Grates, GCI Consulting, New York

Gary Grates, GCI Consulting, New York

It is not an issue of comparison: it’s emerging as an opportunity for

co-existence based on marketplace realities and client needs. Both bring

special expertise to bear on a client’s situation. Consulting has been

able to engender respect by marketing its thinking in the form of

processes and methodologies that achieve tangible results. PR has tended

to give away its thinking to earn the right to implement tactics, often

without an eye toward the bottom line or business goals. A new reality

is evolving.

More leaders are learning an ugly truth: the best strategy in the world

is impotent if it’s not communicated in a manner that creates

understanding and achieves buy-in. This means that PR must evolve to

fill in the gaps around context, content and conduits typically

underestimated by consultants.

Together, PR pros and consultants can provide real, sustainable


How? By developing and translating the strategy, policies and business

initiatives needed for individual and enterprise success.

Lucy Siegel, Publicis Dialog, New York

Public relations counseling is management consulting. While there is

some overlap between services provided by PR consultants and management

consultants, PR firms generally have an advantage over management


This is because of the ability and willingness to be full-service

partners to clients and to execute communications strategies as well as

develop them. To compete head-on with PR consultants, management

consulting firms would have to provide implementation services such as

media relations - an area in which they have no expertise.

Peter Stanton, Stanton Communications, Washington, DC

Our profession has got to stop trying on labels. We are


To be sure, we counsel management about communications, but true

management consulting is its own discipline with its own skill set and

values. Our firm has worked extensively with management consultants

While we provided strategic recommendations about messages, media and

programs, they provided ideas on organizational structure, business

strategy and accountability models. Working together, we developed

branding campaigns that reflect the priorities of the business. We

benchmarked communications effectiveness against comparable programs and

we forecasted market trends that would impact communications in addition

to other business functions. The disciplines of communications and

management consulting succeed as a team. Neither is a replacement for

the other.

Rick Miller, Northlich Public Relations, Cincinnati, OH

Yes, in the same way that a spacecraft is comparable to a submarine:

both deliver their clients to predetermined destinations but use

radically different solutions. Rocket men see the world from the stars,

submariners from the seas. Management consultants and public relations

practitioners each consult at the highest levels of client organizations

and use proven theory as strategic underpinnings. However, PR’s roots

are in communications, while management consulting’s roots are in

performance-based business practices. Until our profession embraces

business management expertise as a core competency, competition with

management consultants for the CEO’s ear will only get worse.

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