From the beginning, Chelgate has existed to offer something different.
First, we decided that we were going to put clients first. Yes, really. Of course everyone claims they do this, but very few actually do. When push comes to shove, and what’s good for them isn’t so good for the client, then the client comes second. Regretful noises all round. That’s the simple, unvarnished truth of agency life.
We’re no more high minded than the next firm; no nobler or purer in spirit. It’s just that we thought about it, and realised that putting clients first was good business strategy. Actually, rather good PR too. Because, if we consistently put our clients’ interests ahead of our own, gradually, people will start to notice. They’ll realise that this is a different kind of firm; one they can really trust to protect their interests, come what may. Of course, short term, and from time to time, this can be difficult. Expensive even. But the word gets round. Clients come, and they stay. We have clients who have been with us 20 years and more. Because they know they come first. And that’s rather good business.
So anyone joining Chelgate understands from day one, this simple rule: clients come first.
Another difference is our view of PR. We don’t think it’s about communications. Yes, for some of its processes it uses communications. But that’s not what public relations is about. We are in the business of managing relationships between our clients and their publics. And two things shape relationships – how you communicate, and how you behave. Of these, behaviour is by far the more important. So in our work we look at the impact of client actions, and we’ll suggest actions to be considered. And once those patterns of behaviour are really supporting our client’s relationship objectives, then we’ll help our clients communicate – really communicate. That is, listening as well as talking.
We’re also achingly honest. We realise that we may be sounding a little sanctimonious. But once again, this is simply good business. We’re not operating on some higher moral plane. For us, and for our clients, honesty, trust and credibility are at the heart of everything we do. So we never knowingly lie or mislead, and we will not support any action or enterprise which is engaged in deliberate wrong-doing. Quite simply, this would be bad business. If ever the truth came out, all trust and credibility would be lost. Without that, we have nothing.
But one of the joys of Chelgate is that it remains a private company, not answerable to external shareholders. This means that we can do something else – that is, choose not to work for a client, quite simply because we don’t like them. Even if what they are, and what they are doing, is on the right side of the law, if we don’t like their approach to business, their values, their way of operating, or the business they are in, then we don’t work for them. This makes it all the easier to make a real commitment to our clients, because we tend to like working with them. And that makes it much easier to get up in the morning.
We are also bad delegators.
Well, that might not be exactly true. We can delegate quite well, but we don’t do much of it. Chelgate is a strategic public relations consultancy, packing serious weight in terms of experience and professional skill. There are hundreds of PR firms out there, all perfectly capable of popping out a decent press release. We do rather good press releases, as it happens. But that’s not why clients come to us. They come for that expertise, that experience, that seasoned judgement and expert knowledge.
Sometimes clients go to the largest firms in the sector, looking for just that expertise. If they are so large, and so expensive, they assume, then surely they can offer the top people. But so often, the top people simply aren’t available. They are new business winners (who almost vanish once the contract is signed), managers and administrators. They have businesses to run, board meetings to attend. So they delegate.
It’s one of the great bugbears of our profession: delegation to the level of sustainable incompetence. The organ grinder has other commitments. But the monkey is available. And that’s why there is so little delegation at Chelgate. When our clients want seasoned, expert advice and support from experienced professionals, then that’s what we’ll deliver.