PracticeConsultingLEADER – Some notes for the image conscious

LEADER - Some notes for the image conscious

January 2001 will not be remembered as a golden month for the image of management consultants. The unveiling of the Accenture brand was met with a mixture of indifference and mockery from the press. Private Eye among many others took a potshot at the name-change and although Accenture was, no doubt, taking the joshing in good stead, the entire re-branding could have gone more smoothly. The company's TV campaign did much to establish that the name change was not such a big issue. But, once again, consultancy fell short when it came to telling the public what, as an industry, it actually does. Isn't this where the real effort should be channelled?

Then Marks & Spencer released end of year figures that were a PR disaster. Once Luc Vandevelde had been mauled by the press, the consultants came under fire. The BBC’s Today programme fumed that M&S “was spending fortunes on a raft of management consultants brought in expressly to manage other management consultants”.

The merits or otherwise of consultants managing other consultants can be discussed elsewhere. But the consultancy industry does need to address the image problem that still exists. Apart from those in Management Consultancy, few positive (or, for that matter, neutral) stories appear in the wider press. What is it about the industry that breeds mistrust and wariness? Consultants may say, “our clients don’t feel that way”. Fine. But isn’t there a world beyond immediate and existing clients?

Advertising agencies cannot solve this problem. Branding experts cannot change a thing. PR departments are powerless. Consultancy needs to show itself a little more. Explain itself a little more. If the industry continues to operate in a “closed” environment, the bad press will continue.

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