After a one-year stint as executive director at Ogilvy, former National Party president and PR recruiter Michelle Boag has kicked off her newest venture, a strategic communications company with Cedric Allan, a former national president of the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand, and Andrew Pirie, who worked as the strategic communications advisor for Auckland Airport and spent more than a decade overseas as the Asia Pacific head for global PR firm Weber Shandwick.
Allan has built a number of New Zealand’s largest PR consultancies, including Star PR, and has extensive experience in property, infrastructure and local government, as well as issues and reputation management (recently, he was the spokesman for Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin during the Crafar Farms saga). And Pirie has a strong background in financial communications and issues management. Boag says his Asian experience will also be beneficial as New Zealand’s business links with Asia continue to strengthen.
Boag says client demand for communications and lobbying skills is increasingly focused on "achieving specific outcomes aligned to strategic business initiatives" and she believes there is clear market demand for this type of operating model, where clients benefit from close interaction with the senior principals, as well as from the agency's collaboration with other consultants and specialists in the legal, financial, environmental, iwi and community engagement sectors.
“In a small country like New Zealand, it is essential to have a keen knowledge of the influences that impact on business and organisations—whether they be central or local government, media or public and interest groups," she says. "The extensive networks of the three principals of Boag Allan Pirie and their combined expertise of over a century in the public affairs and communications industry means we are well placed to assist companies and organisations with their critical business issues."
And so far, Boag says she's been very pleased with the response.
"People think it's a good business model," she says. "... Increasingly, people are looking for senior level advice, but the current business structures can't always provide that advice because usually those senior people are the business generators. And that business depends on them."
She says they certainly don't intend to build an agency ‘factory’, where more junior people need to be continually supplied with work. But she admits the consultancy model is a fine balancing act and there are plenty of examples of companies that start small, trumpet the access to senior staff, become successful and gradually turn into the things they were railing against.
"That [access to senior staff] is what we don't want to lose," she says.
Boag says the three principals have taken some clients with them into the new venture and they have picked up a few new ones after it became known they were setting up shop, but she says it isn't appropriate to name them.