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Why providing consultancy with integrity is more important than ever

Consultancy with Integrity
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This post is by David Angell, TrinityP3 General Manager and Head of Media. David has extensive commercial and media experience gained through a fifteen year career in media agencies, which he uses to help drive optimal results for TrinityP3 clients.

Consultants. They often get a bad rap, particularly in the marketing industry.

I work with many clients in a consultative capacity, across anything from bespoke vision or structural alignment projects, through contractual and remuneration assessment, to market pitches or agency selection work. I’ve also worked with many consultants in my agency days.

The majority of the clients we work with are pretty happy. I would like to say that the majority of agencies we’ve worked with are – well, at least not unhappy – with the way in which we handle them.

But we can’t ignore the broader negative perceptions surrounding the motives of consultants, the capability and contextual knowledge of consultants, the process and fairness of consultants.

The fact that the larger management consultancy groups such as Accenture are now setting up practices that directly compete with the same agencies they audit as part of their consultancy work does not make such perceptions any easier to combat.

There are always going to be bad experiences, things that go wrong, negative perceptions or people feeling sore about something. That’s OK. For me personally, someone can be hugely unhappy with something I’ve done as a consultant and I won’t mind – as long as, despite the unhappiness, that person can understand that at the end of the day, I’ve consulted with integrity.

For the record, here’s a framework of values I use to define Consultancy with Integrity.

Objectivity

Pretty obvious. But important. Objectivity means never working on a payment by results remuneration model or in any other way that generates significant conflict of interest. It means being willing to point things out to your own client, at individual level, that may not be welcome.

It means working to a project outcome or recommendation that offers mutual benefits to all sides, not just one side. It means trying to gain proper context from every angle of any operation. It means being honest.

Respect

I have to have a basic level of respect for my clients. As an organisation, we have turned away business in the past because the values of the potential client don’t fit with our own. But I also try as hard as I can to treat agencies and other suppliers I encounter with all the respect they deserve.

This is particularly relevant in pitches, where the work that agencies put in to the process generally deserves huge respect. Respect can mean anything from publicly thanking an agency for its participation, to maintaining and driving positivity in every session, to providing proper feedback in the event of failure. All things which, when I was on the agency side, I didn’t always get from consultants.

Empathy

Much of what we do is driven by hard data. But without empathy for specific situations and a human, experience-driven overlay, we are nothing but cookie cutters. I spend a lot of time gathering soft data – gained from stakeholder interviews or similar exercises.

Realism

We’re not saving babies. Nor can we, as consultants, fix everything with a magic wand. We’re there to guide and facilitate a path to the best possible outcome, through what hopefully is an achievable and realistic strategy or road-map. If I forget any of these things, I become too grandiose in my objectives.

Strength

I may want to use objectivity, respect, empathy and realism in the work I do. And, by and large, I think I’m mostly successful – not always, but mostly. I try really hard at it and I learn something new about how to deal with things from every project I lead.

But this doesn’t make me a patsy.

I will make recommendations based on what I believe to be correct, based on as broad an understanding as I can gain in any one project. And I will drive a process designed to get the best out of the project as a whole. All of this requires some give from other stakeholders.

Consultants do not always get treated with the respect they deserve, and those that don’t treat me with the respect I deserve will receive the appropriate commentary back.

For anyone who works with me in the future (in any capacity), feel free to read this and remind me of it if you believe I’m straying from the path. I might agree or disagree with you, but you’ll be sure to get an honest response.

How does TrinityP3 rate as Management Consultants? Read this post to find out how we stack up against 7 critical qualities

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David has been a media agency practitioner for fifteen years, holding several senior positions in the UK and Australia. During this time, he has worked with a number of blue-chip organisations. David is the General Manager and Head of Media at TrinityP3. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and children.

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