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July 13, 2009

Comments

Great post, Lauren. I've had both good and bad experiences with consultants in my career. Integration to the corporate culture is important but I have to wonder if that can also taint the results. If you are working on a brand audit, then the key is to understand both the internal and external perspective of your organization. In my opinion, the more important focus should be externally. I have found that consultants who are intimately integrated with your team will water down the results instead of giving you the honest feedback your organization needs.

Lauren- Sounds like you had a very disappointing experience - quite a shame. Now that I have this background, I have some additional thoughts and examples from my personal experience.

First, I think the word "integration" may mean different things to different people. I worked for years in a truly integrated fashion with one Fortune 100 company -- behind their firewall, listed in their company directory, considered a full team member, etc. That level of integration isn't necessary in many cases. However, a consultant certainly must always communicate with the internal team for more than 20 minutes!

An example of a tactic-only project (referred to in my tweets) would be a case study program. For several clients, I have handled all aspects of producing a series of case studies, without serving directly in my typical role as a big picture campaign strategist. Even though the program was given to me standalone, my work was based on their marketing and PR plans, existing messaging, etc. It was part of my job to educate myself on these materials, ask clarifying questions, and report my status on a regular basis.

I think the key takeaway is that a consultant cannot be successful working in a vacuum. Both parties should take steps to prevent this, or the final product is likely to show the disconnect (as was your unfortunate experience).

Sometimes they are simply just needed - and people need to understand that.

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