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Management Consulting Firms
and PR Agencies Working Together:

Five Steps to Success


by Marc Hausman 

Increasingly, public relations agencies and management consulting firms may find themselves collaborating to represent a mutual client. When a company makes a change to its communications representation, it is often precipitated by a new management or business direction. During these times of change, companies often bring in outside management consultants to provide a broader perspective and help develop a strategy and plan to accomplish a fixed set of goals.

Obviously, there are challenges when working in a team of two providers of professional counsel such as management consultants and PR professionals. Ultimately, success for each, and for the client, requires more than the ability to "get along." There are things that public relations agencies and management consulting firms can do before and during a cooperative assignment to encourage success for all parties involved.

Strategic Communications Group recently found itself in that position when it worked closely with the management consulting firm, R.M. Dudley Corporation (RMD). The lessons we learned working with R.M. Dudley on a new product launch for a software company were invaluable.

Roy Dudley, founder and president of RMD recalls working with our joint client to develop a "completely integrated closed-loop marketing strategy."  Dudley adds that "we understood, from our previous work" that our client "needed a 'rolling thunder' approach to developing awareness in the market. Public relations was an integral part of the packaging, positioning, promotion, lead generation and sales delivery strategy. And it began with a request for a high volume of press briefings with leading industry and technology journalists."  Those results were achieved as we launched the client's new strategy at an important industry analyst summit in January, but more importantly, they were achieved by collaborating on a comprehensive communications strategy.

Here are five tips that made the collaboration between RMD and Strategic so successful.


The Proper Foundation

It is important that both parties bring something of value to the table to start off. Often the party that has been on the job longer will do this foundation work. It involves developing the strategy, gaining support from the client's management team, and taking the lead on messaging, among other things.

In this particular engagement, RMD was brought on to enhance business development efforts surrounding the new product launch. RMD's closed-loop marketing and business development process was designed to get the new strategy and accompanying technologies in front of prospects most likely to buy, as quickly as possible. This plan called for public relations activities in very specific areas to support ultimate business goals.

"The RMD closed-loop strategy drives an internal [to the client] discipline for developing an ideal customer profile, prior to partnering with a PR agency," Dudley said. "This creates public relations-specific components within overall marketing activities designed to attract ideal customers."

The development of a business and IT media communications strategy to support the client's business goals resulted from the foundation laid by the management consultant.


Egos Aside

Avoid a consultant clash of the titans. PR agencies and management consulting firms are used to being hired guns and having a certain sense of autonomy in their work. An effective collaboration requires a conscious effort to partner with another consultant - sharing ideas, credit, power, etc. This may feel unnatural, and it requires a certain level of trust. However, if everyone agrees to work toward the ultimate goal, rather than personal glory, they will succeed on both fronts.

Don't compromise on areas you think will hurt the overall effectiveness of the engagement, but respect the value each side brings to the problem and listen to one another's advice.


Recognize Expertise

This tip goes hand in hand with checking your ego. Recognize that, as consultants, each of you has certain skills. Ask yourself, "How can I best use their skills to help me make this project as successful as it can possibly be?" If both parties do this, they open themselves up to best leveraging knowledge and raising the total performance of the team.

In this particular case, RMD was closely aligned with the client's board of directors and had developed corporate messaging and programs with the board's support. We brought relationships with analysts, media and other influencers and an understanding of how those influencers perceive other companies in our client's market space.


Communicate

Most client engagements fail because of a lack of communication. In serving a client in cooperation with another consultant, it often takes twice as much communication to make the relationship successful.

Set regular conference calls, face-to-face meetings, etc. without client involvement to hash out ideas, determine responsibilities and talk through gray areas. This is also a good time to provide detailed updates on accomplishments and review the strategy. Then when you connect again with the client, they get a complete picture of the team's accomplishments and ideas, and gain confidence in the program as a whole. This makes each consultant's job easier.

 
Share the Success

All consulting firms (PR, management, legal, accounting, etc.) are ultimately judged by the specific value they provide to clients. The way to retain and grow a client engagement is to demonstrate value to the highest levels and make it clear no other consultant could provide similar value. This is difficult to do when you have collaborated on a project with another consultant, because no one can claim total responsibility for success. Don't worry, there is plenty of success to go around. Make sure the client understands the value you provided and the critical role you played in the project's success, but acknowledge the work of others as well.

It always takes more logistical work to function within a team. However, like most teams, PR agencies and management consulting firms can often accomplish more, faster and with greater success working together than they could working independently. Each brings certain expertise and knowledge to a particular problem and drives results that benefit each other and the client.


Marc Hausman is president and CEO of Strategic Communications Group, a public relations and marketing agency serving technology, IT services, software, Internet, and telecommunications companies. Contact Marc at 301-408-4500 or  [email protected].

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