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Kate Bush or Kraftwerk?

‘They’re not a consultancy – they’re just a media mill!’

‘I like the directors but their delivery is all over the place’

 This is a blog about diversity – but not in the way we normally use the word.

What do clients want from a PR agency? Good advice – obviously. Great ideas – usually. Efficient delivery – always.

We face an obvious problem. Can any firm be – at one and the same time – a creative furnace, and a sage and sound source of wisdom, and an efficient, smooth-running machine?

Clients are as varied as butterflies. Any one, on any given day, will privilege one element of this trifecta above the other two.

 There is no textbook answer. Look around: there are 2,000 PR companies in the UK. For every oracle there are three creative hot-shops and ten factories. They all seem to make money.

 If you own an agency you chose your business model. The chances are that you made your name as a creative wonder, built that out into a larger-scale machine and at length became a trusted advisor. You, and your firm, are probably a combination of all three today.

 We often hear that good agencies are a balance between hunters and farmers. Hunters are the people who drive things along and win new clients. According to Jon Ronson they are often borderline psychopaths. Farmers keep things running. Today they are perhaps better-described as engineers.

Most agency-owners I know spend a lot of time worrying about staff. The right people, the right balance. As the saying goes, if you have good people the clients will beat a path to your door.

I would like to suggest two further categories of colleague which, if on board, will make any PR agency the answer to any client’s prayer – whatever their mental picture of the perfect PR firm.

 Nuclear physicists. We are more and more a data-driven business. As a rule, we are not very good at maths. Someone needs to be. Hire a nuclear physicist or two to talk analysis and planning in clients’ own language.

Clowns. We can all be creative on a good day. But most of us, most of the time, are focussed intently on our clients’ problems: inadvertently we can become, to some extent, insiders. Hire one or two clowns to fracture this pattern and restore objectivity. The more counter-intuitive the better. If you work with advertising agencies you will know exactly what I mean.

As Frank Muir said: ‘No dinner is complete without nuts. Always invite a few’.