Senior lobbyists call for pause to APPC-PRCA merger vote

Four senior lobbyists have urged the APPC to put the merger vote on ice until a wider consultation process can be carried out, to help overcome "significant division within the industry".

FTI Consulting's Alex Deane is one of four senior lobbyists calling for the vote to be put on ice.
FTI Consulting's Alex Deane is one of four senior lobbyists calling for the vote to be put on ice.

In a letter addressed to the APPC’s leadership, the quartet says that if the vote continues, either outcome would leave the public affairs industry deeply divided.

The letter was signed by Lexington Communications partner Ian Kennedy, FTI Consulting senior managing director Alex Deane, FTI Consulting, Luther Pendragon managing director Simon Whale and Political Intelligence founder and chair Nick Lansman.

It cites a common criticism of the merger debate – that members have not been adequately consulted in what some opponents have described as a flawed process.

"We are all convinced that that it is not in the best interests of the industry to pursue a vote at this time," the letter stated.

"It is clear that if the vote goes ahead, whatever the outcome, there is likely to be significant division within the industry. A pause followed by a proper consultation is the only common sense solution."

The quartet are calling for the consultation process to be extended by several months.

"We sincerely believe that pausing the vote now will enable all members – whether pro-merger, pro-independence or undecided – to have a much better understanding of the implications of the proposals and of alternative ideas for a better APPC," the letter added.

"It would give us a greater chance to build a broad consensus about the best way forward for the APPC. The vote could then be revisited, if it is clear that this is what members want, after this consultation has been undertaken."

APPC chairman Paul Bristow said the self-regulator’s management committee had already discussed and rejected a request from a member agency to pause the process.

"I have also responded to the signatories of the letter to offer each of them meetings with me to address their individual concerns," Bristow added.

Concerns over consultation were aired at a recent APPC-PRCA merger event where the process was described as "a mess" and "undemocratic".

'Plenty of time'

Several senior lobbyists told PRWeek the consultation period provided to APPC members was more than sufficient.

"There’s five weeks between now and the vote. That is more time than the British public have to get their head around political parties’ manifestos and decide which way to vote," said Zetter political services MD Lionel Zetter, who is also the PRCA’s Public Affairs Committee chair.

"Public affairs officials are a way more more sophisticated electorate than the great British public, who I think are pretty good at it."

Cicero executive chair Iain Anderson agreed, explaining that the merger idea has been kicking around for years and the APPC’s management committee saw "the bones of a proposal" in February before a detailed Memorandum of Understanding was released in July.

"I think it is within the wit of most people who are running lobbying communications agencies to be able to read this stuff and make their decision [in the current timeframe]," the former APPC chair told PRWeek.

Ballot papers for the historic vote were sent out to APPC members today, while both camps outlined their final pitches.

Read more: 30 public affairs chiefs state their approval and 21 public affairs chiefs add names to anti-merger campaign.

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