Just over six months ago, Robert Phillips walked out of his job as arguably one of the highest-powered public relations executives in Europe with nothing but a plan to “think about the communications industry.”
Monday morning, Edelman's former Europe, Middle East, and Africa chief executive launched the result: Jericho Chambers, which puts itself somewhere between a change management consultancy, a management consultancy, and a PR firm.
The company is run like a barristers' chambers, bringing together a group of “experts” including Luther Pendragon co-founder George Pitcher, former Penn Shoen Berland exec Christine Armstrong, and sustainability expert Jules Peck working as self-employed entities.
“Rather than saying, ‘if you hire us, you have to hire seven directors, four assistants, and an admin person,' we've built a network of partners who are experts,” explains Phillips.
It's a dramatic change from a traditional PR businesses, but Phillips points out that as a model, Jericho Chambers isn't new at all.
“People used to come to us and say, ‘we've got this great new business model that no one's ever seen before' – well, that was usually because it didn't work,” he said. “But the chambers model has been around for three or four hundred years. It's very traditional.”
The idea is to create “progressive communications,” scrapping press releases – “no one reads them,” says Phillips – and helping companies answer the “big questions.”
“Take CSR, for example. People come to a communications agency and say, ‘we're a multinational firm, we're one of the brands supplied by a factory in Bangladesh – how can we turn our story into how we're helping Bangladeshi people?' Well, the real way to solve it is to make sure they're being paid a living wage or their working conditions are safe,” he said. “It's the same with horsemeat: fix your supply chain. Solve the issue, then communicate. Don't just rush to communicate."
The model has been “soft-tested” over the past week, says Phillips, and the firm already has clients, although he won't say who because “this isn't about boasting.”
Armstrong adds that the new model shows how things are changing in the communications industry.
“Organizations have to change the way they communicate to reflect how the world has changed,” she says.
This story originally appeared on the website of Management Today, the sister publication of PRWeek at Haymarket Media.