Platform: Integrating PR into business planning - Clients can save time and money by blurring the boundaries between PR, marketing and management consultancy, says Dominic Byrne

PR practitioners need to throw out the old distinctions between management and PR consultancy if they want to save themselves time and money.

PR practitioners need to throw out the old distinctions between

management and PR consultancy if they want to save themselves time and


It’s time to forget the old turf wars between the different disciplines

of business strategy, management consultancy, PR and marketing. The most

successful companies are realising that a fusion of business and

communications thinking not only delivers better products but also saves

time and energy.

Yet so many organisations, in business, government and not for profit

sectors, still compartmentalise their thinking. So much so that, in a

recent interview with the Financial Times, Sir George Bull, former

co-chairman of Diageo, bemoaned, the continued failure of top boards to

inject audience and consumer thinking into their strategies.

Taking PR techniques right into the heart of territory more typically

occupied by management consultants not only makes for better products

and services but can save time and money further down the line.

Enlightened clients are using communications to drive their business

strategies from the very start. One simple way of doing this is by using

journalistic techniques of investigation to develop and test product

thinking at concept stage. The advantage of this is that the time

between concept and launch shrinks because marketing considerations are

built in from day one. The other advantage is that the management team

is better equipped because they have effectively done much of the

thinking for the product launch and media relations in the design


The same approach can be used for annual and medium term corporate


Here the approach is especially useful in preparing for the internal

communications role out of the corporate plan. The task of add-on

disciplines, such as internal communications, is either greatly assisted

or minimised.

Reputation management is considered organically right from the


Unfortunately, it is only a minority of organisations who plan

organically in this way. Marketing and communications thinking does not

infuse business thinking enough. Channel 4 and the Observer’s recent

Power 300 survey highlighted the result of this for charities. The

survey lists the most influential people in the UK. Only the Green lobby

features. This is no surprise given the way in which they put

communications at the centre of their business thinking. This is less

common in other charities. In the case where communications does cross

over into business thinking, it does so primarily in fundraising terms

that serve donations targets but do little for building a ’power


At the same time, however, business management techniques do not cross

over enough into marketing. For example, business risk assessments are

not used sufficiently by either companies or charities as part of the

planning for corporate social partnerships. Business in the Community

has recently highlighted the need for partners in cause-related

marketing ventures to carry out a risk assessment independently of the

potential partner.

Such assessments are vital in weighing reputation, logistical and

financial risks. Indeed, without them, it is impossible for each party

to properly value the price that can be put on a deal. Yet they are not


Not only is risk assessment vital to negotiations but it is also a

valuable preparation to managing the communications programme for the


Again showing how the fusion of management and communications

consultancy can get better results.

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