What is it like to be a management consultant at a media agency?

Alice Fabre: head of consultancy at MediaCom
Alice Fabre: head of consultancy at MediaCom

Agencies might have reservations about an outsider joining, but consultants thrive on immersing themselves in new organisations. By MediaCom's head of consultancy.

Joining MediaCom to set up a business consultancy for clients, a worldwide first for a media agency, might be described as a management consultant’s dream.

With no prior experience in media, I am sure the MediaCom team would have had reservations about cultural fit and the practicalities of an outsider joining the business but consultants thrive on immersing themselves in new organisations. A changing business environment, with widespread disruption and competition increasing in intensity, only adds to the excitement of the role.

Bringing a fresh perspective to a varied and successful business whose primary momentum does not come from consultancy certainly has its challenges. Sometimes, although the words we are using are the same, it can feel as if we are speaking different languages. 

Working together to develop mutual understanding and forge expert teams that can collaborate in new ways takes time at first but is well worth the investment. As well as delivering for clients, the internal benefits of this approach are far reaching – improving processes and expanding horizons for people across the business.

A shared overarching objective helps to bind the two parts of the business. MediaCom has always had a sharp focus on growing its clients’ businesses and a consultant’s driving force is delivering profitable, sustainable growth.

The competitive nature of the consulting industry certainly plays its part in maintaining standards but can also hamper teamwork.

Another factor that will ease the way as the consultancy business develops is the culture at MediaCom, where collaboration and diversity are prized. In fact, this was also a key factor in my recruitment – bringing more diversity and difference into the company.

Sue Unerman, chief transformation officer at MediaCom, sponsors the establishment of the consultancy. We have discussed the differences between the consulting world and MediaCom at length.

For me, the most immediately obvious difference is the informality of the industry. I’ve had more meetings with men in jeans over the past few months than ever before... not to mention the shorts.

The culture of openness and sharing at MediaCom has been a pleasant surprise. The business is set up for people to work together. The competitive nature of the consulting industry certainly plays its part in maintaining standards but can also hamper teamwork, which is ironic given that this is often a key element of successful delivery on the client side. 

Another difference that’s hard for me to ignore is the approach to growth within the organisation. MediaCom has grown in an organic way and there is a spirit of inventiveness that stretches across the company.

This is in stark contrast to the highly structured approach to development favoured by the other businesses I’ve worked in. In the current rapidly moving business environment, a nimbler approach presents an opportunity... but there’s always scope for improving processes too.

I’m excited about helping MediaCom and its clients get the best from this new venture. The only disappointment so far is that the long media lunches I had heard so much about have failed to materialise.

Alice Fabre is head of consultancy at MediaCom.

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