Lobbying is changing. Post-Nolan and post-Greer, there is a new
climate of openness about the business. There is an anticipated change
of Government on the horizon, and a new breed of experienced lobbyists
working in-house who expect more from their consultancies than a bulging
Not only that, but public affairs specialists and their counterparts in
corporate and financial PR are cosying up to each other in a new spirit
of co-operation. Again, this trend is being driven by clients, who are
becoming increasingly aware of the need to manage corporate reputation
across a broad range of audiences.
Consultancies, for their part, are facing a highly competitive market
and need to add value to their offering in order to gain an edge over
their rivals. We can expect to see new alliances formed, and new
divisions bought wholesale, or launched. Their aim will be to offer
multi-disciplinary teams which are custom-built for the client.
The concept is not new. Shandwick Consultants was talking of offering a
rounded ’boardroom service’ - melding corporate and financial PR with
public affairs advice - half a decade ago. But the idea has only
recently begun to gather significant momentum.
This does not mean that specialisms - or practices to use the new buzz
word - will dissolve in favour of a generalist approach. In fact, the
reverse is true. The success of the multi-disciplinary client team
concept stands or falls on the abilities of the weakest member, and the
strength of the individual practices that support it is therefore
Simon Martin-Redman, who has moved from Deloitte and Touche to lobby
firm Ranelagh, speaks this week of providing a ’one stop shop’. The
sentiment may accurately describe many consultancies’ ambition, but the
phrase conjures up unfortunate spectres of past agency failures to be
all things to all clients - the jacks of all trades who were masters of
The reason why they failed was that too often the addition of new skills
and disciplines was no more than a token gesture - perhaps only a single
member of staff with expertise in the new area. Unsurprisingly clients
saw right through such paper-thin offerings.
What clients want, and increasingly demand, is a bespoke team
representing the best advice they can get across a range of disciplines.
And if they can’t get it from one consultancy, they will go to several
specialist firms to get it.
Consultants be warned. Clients do want multi-disciplinary teams. But
they don’t want - and won’t pay for - tokenism.