Standing out from the crowd in PR sector
Francis Ingham, chief executive of the Public Relations Consultants Association, talks about the benefits of the Consultancy Management Standard.
The most frequent question I’m asked as PRCA chief executive is a simple one: “How’s business?”.
As you’d expect, the answer I give has changed over the past couple of years. But one element has remained constant – that there is no common experience. That each individual agency has a unique experience – is faring better or worse than its peers.
Now part of the reason for those differing experiences relates to sector and location – some PR specialisms have suffered badly, while others have actually prospered despite the difficult environment. And differences between regions have been marked. Broadly speaking, London went into and came out of recession earliest. But there’s something else that helped some agencies prosper – the ability to stand out and the ability to prove difference (in a good way) from competitors.
Agencies that are able to compete on quality and professionalism have generally fared better than ones that have had to resort to the nuclear option of competing on price alone. And agencies that have taken a focused and deliberate attitude to servicing existing clients and to pitching for new ones have proved more successful than agencies that have adopted the frantic strategy (if strategy’s the right word) of going for every last piece of business, no matter how little preparation has been done; no matter how ill-suited the agency is for the piece of work.
We think that Consultancy Management Standard helps embed both those attitudes. Created by the PRCA, and now established in 11 countries around the world, CMS is the global mark of PR professionalism.
It differentiates well-managed, professional agencies, from the rest of the pack. It enshrines proper business management techniques and attitudes. So I’m delighted that Freshfield has just passed its CMS. And done so at what I think is record speed. They join excellent agencies up and down the country, of every size and specialism, from Weber Shandwick and Hill and Knowlton on down.
We know that clients are increasingly looking for reassurance and professionalism, and value CMS as guaranteeing those qualities. We know that, because at the request of our in-house members, we are now working to create an in-house version of CMS. That development will only add to the value the accreditation brings.
So, congratulations on passing CMS Freshfield. You’re in excellent company!