Propaganda Director, Kirsty Birks, talks to the MCA about the value of consultancy in her latest featured article on the MCA Industry Insight Microsite.


Propaganda Director, Kirsty Birks, talks to the MCA about the value of consultancy in her latest featured article on the MCA’s Industry Insight  Microsite.


For most of Propaganda’s clients a project has delivered value if it leads to immediate, measurable and sustainable improvements in the bottom line. Most of our new business is generated by our reputation and most of our clients are self-selecting to the extent that they share our entrepreneurial mindset and the desire to get the job done. What clients are buying is the proven expertise of the Propaganda team and a track record of success. Many of the businesses for which we work have access to cash and can make decisions quickly because they are owner managed.  Their default setting is “let’s just do it”. This is a big advantage for us because we can build immediate strong relationships with our key stakeholders, avoiding the delays associated with large corporate bureaucracies.  The challenge is to work directly with members of the board and enlist their support and enthusiasm.  Brand managers and marketing directors are important too, of course, but their support will not be enough alone to deliver significant and tangible results.

Clients are increasingly willing to acknowledge the extent of the change that will flow from our work. They understand that it won’t always be comfortable and they need to be confident to accept the consequences.  The entrepreneurial mindset is important here as a practical demonstration of that confidence.  Clients also know that Propaganda will work closely with them on the execution of a project and our aim is to develop a programme of work that accurately brings a brand to life. We are ambitious for our clients and we expect our clients to be ambitious too.

Enabling these entrepreneurial businesses to build on their success is essential if the UK economy is to escape from recession and sluggish growth.  It is these firms that will invest and these firms that will generate a resurgence of economic activity. You might even say that Propaganda’s work contributes to the achievement of national economic objectives.  The same might be said of management consulting as an industry.

Unlike a large firm we cannot offer clients large number of people or huge economies of scale, but we can deliver a profound and sophisticated understanding of the sectors in which our clients operate – most notably food and drink, logistics and the health and beauty sector.  In health and beauty, for example, clients recognise that Propaganda can offer powerful insights into changing consumer tastes and what this means for their business strategy.  It would be a mistake to believe, however, that all our work is focused on consumers. If anything business to business relationships play an equally important role in Propaganda’s portfolio of activities and brand is just as important in supporting a successful b2b business model.

In the last year clients have become increasingly interested in the role of social media.  The world of Facebook and Twitter means that a brand is no longer under a client’s control.  Serious reputational damage can be caused in a very short time – as the recent problems with the processed meat supply chain have proved.  We are working with businesses to both manage these risks and realise the opportunities presented by social media.

In retail the development of digital channels is increasingly important. Consumers are now buying all manner of products and services online including those that were once seen as being the sole domain of bricks and mortar retail outlets. Furthermore, consumer expectations of service and delivery continue to evolve and provide new challenges for retail businesses. The practical consequences of the digital channel are already having a profound impact on the retail sector and clients have only just begun to scratch the surface of the possibilities. Propaganda is now working closely with our retail clients to identify the right brand strategies for their organisations that effectively aligns their business model and brand strategy to changing consumer behaviours and demands.

Most of our clients will make use of Propaganda’s services for more than one project and in some cases we have developed arrangements that are either joint ventures or involve Propaganda in the practical delivery of an initiative.  While there is no explicit sharing of risk here and clients pay a fee for consultancy services, this is a rather unusual relationship, which may be Propaganda’s version of the changing balance between risk and reward found elsewhere in the industry.

Owner managers are tough negotiators but are willing to pay for high quality consultancy support – so far we haven’t detected any significant downward pressure on prices.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  If we don’t deliver value to clients then we won’t win repeat business or recommendation.  The longevity of our client relationships demonstrates that our work is valued and confirms that Propaganda continues to display a capacity for significant growth in the future.