Friday, August 25, 2006

Client conflict

I hear on rumor mill that the Council of PR is about to come out with a new statement on the thorny issue of handling client conflict. Like me, it seems some at the Council feel PR agencies are judged by inconsistent standards at best. Now it seems some agencies do a better job on conflict than others. Take Edelman who works with both Adobe and Microsoft. Indeed Edelman seems able to manage this level of conflict for a number of big brands. I take my hat off to them for their nerve and their ability to convince clients that these conflicts are OK. Indeed I write this not to be critical of Edelman's approach. Instead I just wish there were some clear standards on what was deemed an acceptable way of managing conflicting clients. Perhaps this is what the Council needs to work on? I think a strong statement on conflict is an excellent start but I'd also encourage them to develop (if they have not already) some clear guidelines on the ways conflict should be handled. This should extend to the construction of teams; the way information is received and stored and so on.

Of course if you look at the professional advisors used by most large firms such as law firms, accountancy practices, management consultancies etc they nearly all have conflicts. These firms don't have the same issues it seems. Is this because they are hired by different people in the business? Is it because they have a history of doing it? Is it because they are considered a profession? Whatever the answer it's clear that these advisors are held to a different standard. While that may be a touch frustrating for PR people, it's a fact and one we need to accept. However, it is also something we can do something about. As I say I'm pleased the Council of PR has taken up this issue. I only hope that the topic gets significant attention in the PR media and in other circles so that clients can be better educated on how conflict can be managed successfully.

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