Editorial: Defining the task for consultancies

Barely a week seems to go by these days without some consultancy or other staking its claim to the PR high ground.

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

competitive edge.

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.

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