Arnold Consulting Group,Inc.

"Conduct Public Relations as if the whole company depends on it."

Arthur W. Page


We are a firm of senior management consultants with a special niche: strategic relationships. We help corporations, nonprofits and government agencies enhance their strategic planning and policy making  processes to include public relations strategies and operations, thereby  influencing core constituencies whose support is mission critical to achieving our clients'  goals.

Public relations is the responsibility of everyone in the organization, but the leadership and executive management belong with the staff for public relations. They are accountable for maintaining strategic relationships and managing over time the necessary trade-offs among the competing stakeholders to ensure management's credibility and the organization's influence. The objective is to sustain relationships with each constituency built on an understanding of mutual interests and a corresponding willingness to support the organization's mission and management's policies and tactics in the marketplace, public policy forums and the financial community.

One of the most valuable, intangible assets not on the balance sheet of any organization is its reputation. In the post-Enron era, that "blank" on the balance sheet can also be a liability. Perception is reality, and the net positives and negatives that go into the structure of a reputation translate into real perceptions that determine  trust, credibility, market share, share of mind, access to capital/debt markets, ability to recruit and retain skill employees, shareholder value, public policy, and ultimately, management effectiveness.

We are management consultants with extensive experience identifying and assessing risks to reputation; more importantly, we have extensive experience mitigating risks to reputation. Through a collaborative process of discovery, we develop effective public relations strategies, design organizational structures, recommend operational systems, and employ measurement tools to defend and enhance reputation, sensitively align the support of important constituencies behind an aspirational reputation, create understanding about management's goals, objectives and priorities, resolve conflicts and prevent crisis.

 The accountability metric for public relations effectiveness is reputation, a very real, quantifiable insight into the comparative strengths and weaknesses of all relationships at a point in time. It works like a barometer, rising when a relationship grows stronger and understanding is increasing, and falling when a relationship is weakening and understanding is eroding. Several very good research firms have well developed protocols for measuring and tracking reputation in a competitive set.

We have our own approach to identifying the key attributes to be measured and tracked. And we do not confuse image with reputation. Image is more superficial than reputation; it is what management wants to project about itself, like the shadows on the wall in Plato's cave. Reputation is earned because it is based on the characteristics attributed to us by others. In our experience reputation is a very strong indicator of trust and a good predictor of support that can trigger behavior, supportive or not, depending on the reputation.

Whereas public relations is a strategic approach to managing essential relationships, communication is a primary tactic employed to create awareness, provide information, influence perceptions, build favorable opinion, and offer a call for action. This communication should be two-way in order to facilitate the objective of the communication process: the exchange of information to shape the decision-making of key audience segments and move them to supportive action. One metric to measure communication is the social diffusion scale called "familiarity leads to favorability," or "the more people know, the more favorably they will be inclined toward the familiar." Or not. Sometimes, the more people know, the more unfavorably they are inclined. Then reputation is not working as a strategic asset but  has become a liability.

Excellent public relations leaders will not be surprised to learn about problems in the tangled web of constituent relationships. They will be vigilant in monitoring the state of the relationship with each stakeholder group on a regular basis. Their obligation is to bring "the outside in" and put problems and opportunities in front of management with recommended action steps, not just "get the word out" which is often management's priority. Public relations counselors will span the boundary between the narrow private interest of an organization and the broader interest of legitimate stakeholders who can be allies or opponents in a constantly shifting crucible of mutual interests.

Arthur Page might say: "I stand on the deck with the captain, and whenever the captain gives an order, I advise him what I think the consequence will be to the stakeholders we are counting on for our success. And I try to anticipate unintended consequences. If realistic, I counsel alternative courses of action that might be less risky to our relationships. In time, I hope the captain will consult with me in advance of making policies or strategic decisions that can affect our reputation."

Communication is not, however, the only tool in the public relations shop.  Sometimes, in fact, communication--especially one-sided--is very ineffective when the message or messenger is not credible to the intended audience. In that circumstance it's difficult to "get a listening." To get a listening the public relations leader will counsel negotiation, compromise or even a change in position, policy, product , personnel or behavior to keep a relationship strong or mitigate against the possible loss of support. The end result--the supportive relationship--is more important than the communication process.

As management consultants we do not represent clients in public forums, as a public relations or advertising agency would do. Rather,  we work confidentially with senior management to address the "upstream" issues preceding execution:

  • situation analysis and positioning platform, leading to
  • public relations strategies including a communications plan to defend, establish or enhance reputation;
  • telling a persuasive story by discovering the bits and pieces of the mission lying around a complex organization and pulling them together in an emotional, memorable narrative;
  • organizational design of a staff structure to support the strategies;
  • operational programs (including organizational effectiveness) to execute strategies;
  • resources necessary to achieve objectives;
  • management systems to facilitate the most efficient use of resources;
  • tools to measure performance against plan and evaluate effectiveness of strategies.

We also help clients examine their public relations process on a selected basis, such as storytelling, or budgeting and resources, or staffing and structure, or measurement and evaluation.

Underlying all our services and recommendations is an emphasis on planning, measurement and evaluation. We are often asked to recommend such outside resources as public relations counsel, advertising agencies, research houses, interactive agencies, etc., which we are happy to do. In such engagements, we are compensated only by our clients and not by third parties recommended.