Choosing a Consultant

 

from Flickr, by aresauburn™

This article & excerpt could save you, literally millions, via my first-hand experience of some great consulting work as well as some less than ethical consultants out there.

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…Beware the consultant who promises too much. It’s the flip side of the client making unrealistic demands.

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Consultant contract sprawl, jargon & managing your relationship with your consultant are some key take aways from the excerpt below.

In addition, the Reveln TOOLS page includes more decision tool resources including:

 This excerpted example is useful for more than just higher education:

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The scope of the work needs to be realistic. The best consultant cannot change an institution’s culture, yet often that is the tacit expectation.

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Excerpted from a post by Russell S. Powell:

Consultants can add energy and expertise to a public-relations and marketing office, or they can become a drain and a distraction. The key is hiring good consultants and then investing time in managing their work.

I can think of many sound reasons to hire consultants. In some cases, they add expertise missing from a small office. …A good consultant can help fill in the gaps while the permanent staff catches up.

Consultants can validate our own opinions and offer fresh perspectives. We may be frustrated when heads nod in agreement as the consultant repeats the same things we have been saying to deaf ears for months, but it happens.

Sometimes it takes the sheen of a consultant for the ideas to sink in. In the end, it shouldn’t matter to us, as long as the key people at our college get the message. Think of it as positive reinforcement.  …Consultants can also serve as adjunct staff members, working from remote locations….

Here are some of the things I have learned about what works—and what doesn’t—when hiring a consultant:

Conduct an internal assessment. First, evaluate what you need from a consultant, as well as why you need one, and for how long. Sorting out those details ahead of time can spare you from “consultant sprawl,” or agreeing to work that plays more to the consultant’s strengths than to your institution’s needs.   …You can always modify the final contract, but don’t begin the process of hiring a consultant unclear or unspecific about what you need.

The scope of the work needs to be realistic. The best consultant cannot change an institution’s culture, yet often that is the tacit expectation. If that’s your goal, you’re doing both your institution and the consultant a disservice …Asking a consultant to deliver more than what is realistic sets up everyone for failure.

…Beware the consultant who promises too much. It’s the flip side of the client making unrealistic demands.

The post also includes:

  • Dealing with jargon and references to “research”
  • What a consultant can be expected to do, describe, present
  • Managing the consultant
  • Remembering the consultant’s lifestyle
  • Building a win-win situation
  • Dealing with self-interest

Russell Powell is a public-relations officer at Elms College in Chicopee, Mass. He previously worked as director of public relations at Hampshire College and at Greenfield Community College, and as a consultant. He writes for On Message, our column on career issues in academic public relations.

Updated in December 2013.  Thanks for visiting.  Comments enrich the conversation.

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