Consultants Need to be Managed

With apologies to my friends and colleagues, public affairs consultants need to be managed. Some may see this as a “man bites dog” post, and perhaps it is. But more importantly, it is true.

Good consultants managed well can help bring success to a public affairs campaign. But when consultants go unmanaged, the results tend to be less positive and the costs can be substantial.

Most public affairs consultants mean well and want to help. But success comes from good ideas, organization, and execution; not merely talent and connections. It requires an “outside game” to complement the “inside game.” And it matters that everyone understands the goals, works together on the same game plan, and remains accountable to each other.

It amazes me how often I see industries load up on high-profile consultants when a big battle looms. It’s almost as if they think that hiring more prominent consultants than the other side determines who wins.

But without a strong manager pulling all of the consultants together as a cohesive unit, the only certainty is that it will cost lots of money. In sports, a general manager can put together a great roster of superstars, but the manager who picks the lineup each day and demands accountability from each player plays a key role in the ultimate success or failure of the team.

In the consulting world, there are all different types of individuals and firms. There are workhorses and show horses. Divas and chorus singers. All-stars and utility players. Big Thinkers and worker bees. All can play a part in a successful campaign if used appropriately.

An organization with a public affairs challenge must first identify the goals and decide what resources may be needed to achieve them. From the very beginning there needs to be a strong manager to coordinate activities and demand accountability. The manager may be an internal resource or it could be one of the consultants themselves. The important thing is for it to be a strong individual with experience herding cats — or consultants.

Well-managed public affairs consultants deliver value. It’s not about the actual dollars paid. Plenty of money gets wasted on low-priced consultants and well-spent on more costly ones. Expensive consultants may be expensive because they’re the best. A good manager will make sure to get the most out of every consultant on a project to help achieve victory for the client.

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