Barely a week seems to go by these days without some consultancy or
other staking its claim to the PR high ground.
The latest vision to be unveiled is Preference Creation - a registered
trademark no less - which expresses Manning Selvage and Lee’s admirable
mission to influence choice among target audiences in favour of its
The reason for all this jostling for position is simple. The big agency
groups recognise that the key to their future prosperity lies in
developing deep long-term relationships with major multinational clients
on a global, or at least regional basis. Furthermore, they recognise
that to achieve this they must add value for the client through
strategic advice at the highest level, as well as providing seamless
implementation and concrete results.
And so they have set out their stalls under such snazzy new banners such
as preference creation, reputation management and perception management
- all of which are designed to reflect this new relationship.
Outside the PR industry, there is a recognition of the gold that may lie
in this seam. Witness the frantic waving of chequebooks by the likes of
Omnicom, WPP, Interpublic and McCann-Erickson at PR businesses
As WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell pointed out to the recent spring
meeting of the Counsellors Academy of the PRSA, client business
strategies are increasingly focusing on brands, and on taking market
share from other brands - the creation of preference, if you like.
Recent research from Shandwick confirms the theory - showing that 97 per
cent of clients agree that reputation ’can deliver a positive
contribution to the bottom line’, while 88 per cent see reputation as a
’priority business strategy’. And PR is ideally placed to deliver this
But Sorrell also warned the PRSA that one of the main brakes on the rise
of PR to this new exalted level is the quality of the people in it. He
told the meeting that the efforts to recruit MBAs to the business was
’pitiful’, and ’clients are pushing us away from strategic thinking and
management consultants are getting into these areas’.
In launching its new vision, MS&L has deliberately chosen to confront
the two biggest challenges facing all PR consultancies - to put
themselves on a par with management consultants by offering strategic
business advice of real quality, and to prove their effectiveness
against tangible business objectives.
In doing so, the agency has set itself an ambitious target for the kind
of service it believes it can offer. It will be good for the whole PR
business if it succeeds.