Editorial: Add value, not window dressing

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 contacts book.

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

contacts book.



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

crucial.



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

none.



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.



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