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From Management Consulting to Strategic Communication: Studying the Roles and Functions of Communication Consulting

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International Journal of Strategic
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From Management Consulting to
Strategic Communication: Studying the
Roles and Functions of Communication
Finn Frandsen a , Winni Johansen a & Augustine Pang b
a Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
b Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Version of record first published: 21 Mar 2013.
To cite this article: Finn Frandsen , Winni Johansen & Augustine Pang (2013): From Management
Consulting to Strategic Communication: Studying the Roles and Functions of Communication
Consulting, International Journal of Strategic Communication, 7:2, 81-83
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International Journal of Strategic Communication, 7: 81–83, 2013
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1553-118X print / 1553-1198 online
DOI: 10.1080/1553118X.2013.765439
From Management Consulting to Strategic
Communication: Studying the Roles and Functions
of Communication Consulting
Finn Frandsen and Winni Johansen
Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Augustine Pang
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
The body of knowledge about the management consulting industry has been growing at an
impressive speed in recent decades. Today, we have a detailed and empirically founded knowl-
edge about the history, economics, and sociology of management consulting; about consultants
as transmitters or “carriers” of new management knowledge; about the client-consultant relation-
ship and the interaction taking place inside consulting projects; and, about the complex and often
problematic relationship between management consulting, management fads and fashions, and
However, we still know very little about the external and/or internal consulting work offered
and performed by communication professionals in the field of strategic communication (including
public relations and corporate communication) in Europe, North America, Asia, and other parts
of the world. Although communication consulting agencies play an important role when private
and public organizations are in need of using communication to reach their organizational goals,
they have not very often been subjected to scientific study.
The aim of this IJSC special issue on Strategic Communication and Consulting: Research on
Internal and External Advising in Communication Management is to address this gap. The issue
comprises five articles covering or representing different areas, approaches, and perspectives:
from management to communication consulting; from external to internal communication con-
sulting; from public relations consulting to crisis consulting; and, across national borders (from
the United States to Singapore and Denmark).
Correspondence should be sent to Finn Frandsen, Centre for Corporate Communication, Aarhus University, Jens Chr.
Skous Vej 4, Aarhus C, 8000, Denmark. E-mail:
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In the first article, “Management Consulting: Dynamics, Debates, and Directions,” Lars
Engwall and Matthias Kipping, two prominent scholars within management consultancy
research, provide us with an overview of the emergence and dynamics of the management con-
sulting industry, from the 1900s until today. They also guide us through the extant academic
literature on management consulting introducing an analytical framework consisting of three
levels: (1) industry (firms, market, competition), (2) firm (employees, hierarchy, cooperation/
competition), and (3) project (project relationships, networks, transfer/coproduction). Finally,
and of great interest to researchers in strategic communication, Engwall and Kipping also iden-
tify relevant issues for research in communication consulting. Thus, this article may serve as the
entrance door to the special issue.
In the second article, “External Consulting in Strategic Communication: Functions and Roles
Within Systems Theory,” Ulrike Röttger and Joachim Preusse claim that we still lack a basic
theoretical approach to public relations consulting. They suggest that we use Niklas Luhmann’s
systems theory and the theory of systemic consulting as our theoretical basis. The main contribu-
tion of the article is the identification of the six building blocks of a sociologically based theory
of external public relations consulting: (1) organizations as nontrivial systems, (2) the consult-
ing system, (3) consultants as second-order observers, (4) supporting and expanding the client’s
capacity for reflection, (5) specifics of the structure of public relations consulting, and (6) role
dimensions of public relations consulting.
The third article, “Enabling, Advising, Supporting, Executing: A Theoretical Framework for
Internal Communication Consulting Within Organizations,” written by Ansgar Zerfass and Neele
Franke, is also a conceptual article. But the focus has now shifted: from external consulting
to internal consulting in organizations. Zerfass and Franke claim that the consulting function
will be emphasized when we introduce the concept of the communicative organization (cf. the
Stockholm Accords); a perspective, which will lead to a fundamental change within the role
set and job profiles of communication managers in organizations. The authors contribute with
a new theoretical framework for internal communication consulting based on the combination
of consulting objectives (communication-related vs. task-related issues) and consulting forms
(process consulting vs. expert consulting).
In the fourth article, “Structure and Development of the Public Relations Agency Industry in
the United States: Operational Structure, Clients, Fees, and Talent,” Donald K. Wright provides
us with an informative overview of the public relations agency industry in the United States. There
is a focus on the organizational structure of public relations firms, agency clients, the fees charged
by these firms, the role played by global holding companies, and talent and staffing challenges.
Finally, in the fifth and last article of the special issue, “A Comparative Study of Crisis
Consultancies Between Singapore and Denmark: Distant Cousins of the Same Destiny?,”
Augustine Pang, Finn Frandsen, Winni Johansen, and Su Lin Yeo conduct a comparative study
of crisis consultancies in Singapore and Denmark. Adapting and integrating indicators to assess
professionalism, the study examines the level of expertise, experience, and expedience of pub-
lic relations agencies and consultants in offering crisis management and crisis communication
consultancy to private and public organizations in Singapore and Denmark.
Based on two empirical studies originally conducted separately, the authors are able to dis-
cover important similarities and differences concerning the consultants’ educational background,
their understanding of crises, crisis management and crisis communication, their crisis knowledge
and experience, the crisis services offered by the agencies, etc.
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It is our hope that this special issue of International Journal of Strategic Communication will
contribute to a new stream of research within the field of strategic communication: the study
of the roles and functions of communication consulting. We also hope that this new stream of
research will be as rich and comprehensive as the research that has been conducted within the
field of management consulting.
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... Some of the more substantive studies regarding PR firms and agencies include research on various aspects of the relationship between agencies and clients (Croft, 1997;Morley, 2009;Hou, 2016;Verčič et al., 2018). Finally, the literature on crisis (communication) consulting, unlike the broader field of crisis communication, which has been the topic of numerous publications (among them Pearson and Mitroff, 1993;Fink, 2002;Fearn-Banks, 2011;Coombs, 2012;Seeger and Sellnow, 2013;Crandall et al., 2014), is almost nonexistent. However, there is a limited number of studies, such as ), von Platen (2015 and Johansen (2017), which analyze the specific role and business models of PR firms in crisis communication projects. ...
... The analysis of the interviewees' understanding of crises (RQ1), issues and risks clearly showed them being in line with contemporary crisis theory (Cornelisse, 2008;Nordlund, 1994;Fink, 2002;Zaremba, 2010). When defining issues, risks and crises, they clearly make a proper distinction in terms of gravity and intensity. ...
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between organizations and their PR firms during crisis situations. It contributes to the field by identifying the role of communication consultants in contemporary organizational crises, tasks they are entrusted by their clients, as well as providing their perspective on current crisis communication practice and its future development. Design/methodology/approach The research is based on 13 semi-structured in-depth interviews with two groups of senior staff in 11 Croatian PR agencies: CEOs, directors, managing partners and senior consultants, all in charge of their clients’ crisis communication projects. Findings The research results suggest that PR firms define crisis differently than their clients, who tend to consider every risk a crisis, which causes a significantly broadened scope of work for their PR firms. The findings also suggest crises to be periods when new PR firm–client relations are often established and caution PR firms to balance between openly expressing their opinion when unfavorable for their clients and providing the best advice possible to achieve a sustainable business model with the clients that they consult. Originality/value This research provides rare insight into crisis communication consulting practice, especially consultant–client relations during crises. Methodologically, it includes a representative group of senior communication practitioners acting as consultants and can provide the management of PR firms and scholars valuable insight into the current and future trends of the crisis communication field in Croatia.
... These challenges are manifold and can require external support from consultants. While communication consulting is growing fast, it is rarely thor-oughly studied (Frandsen et al, 2013;Hoffjann et al., 2021;Johansen, 2020;Verčič et al., 2018;von Platen, 2015). This year's study explored current developments in the growing area of external communication consulting. ...
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The insights presented in the report shed light on current and future trends in the communication field in the Nordic region. The study explores important themes such as diversity, equality and inclusions; empathic leadership in communication teams and dimensions such as organizational commitment, work engagement and mental health; CommTech and the digital transformation of communications; external consulting in communications including complexity, quality and the need for quality standards. It also covers a look to the future by exploring strategic issues and work practices in the profession in the years to come. All results are compared across the Nordic countries and they are benchmarked against the rest of Europe.
... Ewing, Men, & O'Neil (2019) menjelaskan Komunikasi Internal adalah interchange of ideas among the administrators and its particular structure (organization) and interchange of ideas of ideas horizontally and vertically within the firm which get work done (operation and management). Pertukaran gagasan diantara para administrator dan pegawai dalam suatu perusahaan atau jawatan yang menyebabkan terwujudnya perusahaan atau jawatan tersebut lengkap dengan strukturnya yang khas (organisasi) dan pertukaran gagasan secara horizontal dan vertikal di dalam perusahaan atau jawatan yang menyebabkan pekerjaan berlangsung (operasi dan manajemen) (Frandsen, Johansen, & Pang, 2013) Oganisasi membutuhkan komunikasi internal untuk menjaga hubungan antar entitas internal organisasi dan mendorong terbangunnya keterbukaan dalam konteks pekerjaan (Panjaitan & Prasetya, 2017). Dalam komunikasi internal yang baik dibutuhkan partisipasi dari bawahan kepada atasan untuk menyampaikan ide, kendala, dan pendapat (Harivarman, 2017). ...
Generasi milenial di Indonesia akan memasuki berbagai organisasi dan perlahan akan menggeser generasi sebelumnya. Belum semua organisasi menyadari masuknya generasi milenial yang membawa karakteristik khusus. Ciri utama generasi milenial ditandai oleh penggunaan teknologi komunikasi, media, dan teknologi digital. Tujuan penelitian ini adalah mengetahui komunikasi organisasi internal dengan pegawai generasi milenial dalam membentuk komitmen. Metodologi penelitian yang digunakan kualitatif deskriptif dengan wawancara yang dilakukan kepada: 1) Supervisor Human Resources; 2) Human Resources Operational Support Staff; 3) Learning and Development Staff; dan 4) Operational support staff. Hasil penelitian menunjukkan PT. Darya-Varia Laboratoria Tbk belum merancang strategi khusus dalam melakukan komunikasi internal dengan pegawai milenial, namun perusahaan telah mengupayakan beberapa pendekatan yang sesuai dengan karakteristik khusus dari pegawai milenial. Berbagai ruang diskusi, kolaborasi, kreasi serta kesempatan pengembangan diri pegawai telah diberikan oleh perusahaan termasuk para pegawai milenial, namun belum mampu membangun komitmen. Kontribusi penelitian ini adalah memberikan penjelasan bahwa ada faktor-faktor di luar komunikasi internal yang dapat membangun komitmen generasi millenial. Faktor-faktor tersebut adalah besarnya gaji, tunjangan, sarana, fasilitas kerja, dan pengembangan karir.
... This was supported by Yemane et al. (2016) who stated that the guidance received by farmers could improve their ability in managing production factors. The role of private extension agents as a communicator, consultant, disseminator, and organizer had a positive effect on their capacity (Frandsen et al., 2013;Platen, 2015). The role as an educator had a negative effect on the farmers' capacity. ...
The present study was conducted to analyze the broiler farmers’ capacity level in the partnership pattern and to analyze the factors which affect it. The current study was conducted in Bogor and Sukabumi, West Java Province using a survey approach on 247 farmers who ran farm businesses with the partnership pattern. Data were collected through questionnaire filling by farmers and in-depth interviews with key informants. The data were collected from July to October 2018. The data were analyzed descriptively and with inferential analysis (regression). The results of the study revealed that the farmers’ business capacity was weak. This was evident in the managerial and partnership capability which was categorized as low, the entrepreneurship and problem-solving capability which was categorized as medium, and only the technical capability which was categorized as high. The regression results demonstrated that business capacity was influenced positively by the formal education level, social environment characteristics (organizational support, access to experts), and the role of private extension agents (their role as educators, communicators, consultants, dynamizators, and organizers).
... Ao contrário do que acontece na consultoria de gestão, onde temos um conhecimento detalhado e empiricamente fundamentado sobre a história, economia e sociologia; na consultoria de comunicação os estudos ainda são muito incipientes. Pouco é conhecido sobre o trabalho de consultoria realizado por profissionais de comunicação no campo da comunicação estratégica, apesar da importância destes serviços nas decisões organizacionais (Frandsen, Johansen & Pang, 2013). ...
... Ao contrário do que acontece na consultoria de gestão, onde temos um conhecimento detalhado e empiricamente fundamentado sobre a história, economia e sociologia; na consultoria de comunicação os estudos ainda são muito incipientes. Pouco é conhecido sobre o trabalho de consultoria realizado por profissionais de comunicação no campo da comunicação estratégica, apesar da importância destes serviços nas decisões organizacionais (Frandsen, Johansen & Pang, 2013). ...
... Ao contrário do que acontece na consultoria de gestão, onde temos um conhecimento detalhado e empiricamente fundamentado sobre a história, economia e sociologia; na consultoria de comunicação os estudos ainda são muito incipientes. Pouco é conhecido sobre o trabalho de consultoria realizado por profissionais de comunicação no campo da comunicação estratégica, apesar da importância destes serviços nas decisões organizacionais (Frandsen, Johansen & Pang, 2013). ...
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A escolha deste tema surgiu da necessidade de compreender a gestão da comunicação nas pequenas e médias empresas ao nível das dinâmicas pessoal e empresarial, do desempenho empresarial, da reputação pessoal, da proatividade e dinâmica empresarial, da organização aprendente e da motivação e sucesso empresarial.. Abordamos, desta forma, a estratégia e a mudança organizacional, a motivação e as necessidades individuais e empresariais no que diz respeito ao desenvolvimento das capacidades, do desempenho dos colaboradores e da sua motivação e melhoria contínua do sucesso empresarial. A amostra é constituída por 388 pequenas e médias empresas em Portugal continental. Assim, no pressuposto de termos uma amostra probabilística, e considerando um intervalo de confiança de duas vezes o desvio padrão, ou seja de 95,4%, temos a margem máxima de erro estatístico (P= 50%) de +/- 4,95 p.p.). Procuramos estudar também a atitude dos gestores face à orientação para o mercado, os comportamentos da organização, as atitudes e retenção do pessoal, a satisfação dos clientes, satisfação dos empregados, comprometimento, envolvimento, reputação e performance empresarial, a recomendação, os indicadores empresariais e grau de satisfação em trabalhar nas organizações. Verificamos assim que, os aspetos relevantes para a eficiência do desempenho dos colaboradores residem na atitude positiva, na autoanálise, na automotivação, na definição de objetivos, aliados à capacidade de gerar ação compreendendo os demais para ser compreendido na organização onde está inserido.
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Purpose Although the market for communication consultancies has been booming worldwide for many years now, there are still only a handful of theoretical concepts and empirical findings pertaining to communication consulting. This is the fundamental starting point for this paper, which sets out to answer the following research questions: What is the function of communication consulting? What are the differences between consultants' expectations of consulting and those of clients? How do consultants and clients deal with the contradiction between proximity and distance? What are the potential threats to the autonomy of consulting? Design/methodology/approach The paper combines a theoretical framework of communication consulting with a survey of German communication consultants and clients. Findings First, a theoretical framework is developed in which communication consulting is defined as follows: First, it opens up decision-related contingency and thus produces additional options for managing communicative relationships with internal and external target groups, before helping to close decision-related contingency. The results of the survey show that the expectations of clients and consultants for communication consulting are largely similar. In the closing dimension especially, most clients share the active role of self-conception of most consultants. On the other hand, in some opening activities, clients wish for more critical, independent and courageous consulting. Research limitations/implications The scope of the empirical material is limited to communication consultants and clients in Germany and may therefore not be valid in other cultural contexts. Originality/value The paper closes a gap in both theory building and empirical research in communication consulting. The theory presented conceives of communication consulting as a hybrid of management consulting and process consulting and, in addition to the opening dimension, also takes the closing dimension of consulting into consideration for the first time. The study reveals a certain schizophrenia in clients: on the one hand, clients demand more critical consultants and thus call for more distance; on the other hand, clients prefer to be close to their consultants, particularly if they wish to work with them for the long-term.
Purpose The purpose of this study is to determine the perception of communication and PR agency directors in Colombia regarding strategic communication and its relationship with consultancy when involved with three types of activities: bringing the context close to the organization, providing new knowledge and facilitating change. Design/methodology/approach This paper provides an exploratory study based on semi-structured interviews of a sample of 55 communication and PR agency directors. Findings Among the directors interviewed, there are different criteria concerning strategic communication and the services this entails. Although the literature mentions that consultancy should focus on counseling, accompanying, advising and orienting without making decisions for the client or performing any operative activities, many Colombian agencies offer these services, in addition to other technical ones. This is because these are the most requested ones by their clients and so are important in acquiring contracts in the country's communication sector. Research limitations/implications The limitation of this study is the absence of a regularly and systematically updated directory and database with the current size of the communications sector and its yearly revenue in Colombia. Practical implications Lack of consensus regarding strategic communication consultancy may lead to unfair competition on prices and confounding strategic and nonstrategic services in the market. Social implications New academic knowledge for the communication practices in communication agencies in Colombia and Latin America. Originality/value This article arises from initial research done in Colombia on the perceptions of the communication sector's directors regarding the meaning of strategic communication and key capacities in the provision of services under that remit.
In this study, we investigate a sample of 15 popular crisis management books (PCMBs), written by crisis consultants and published between 1986 and 2018 in the United States or in the United Kingdom. The aim of the study is to examine (1) how the authors of PCMBs position themselves in front of their readers, clients and competitors, including public relations professionals and academics; (2) how they understand and present organizational crises and the practice of crisis management and crisis communication as their field of expertise; and (3) how they promote this expertise using various types of message strategies and rhetorical packaging. The findings of the study reveal that PCMBs are more diverse than expected, and that they cover important aspects of crisis management often neglected by academic publications. The article concludes with some implications for practice, research and education.
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