Holming in on the Southeast Asia Consultancy of the Year award


Back in March Unspun did the maverick thing and Looked the Gift Horse in the Mouth by questioning how the august Holmes Report comes up with its shortlist of finalists for Southeast Asian Consultancies of the year. What triggered Unspun’s curiousity was the lineup of finalists that pitted Unspun’s workplace, Maverick with the likes of Apco Worldwide, Fortune PR, Impact Asia and Indo-Pacific Edelman.

Unspun was so curious about the selection criteria that he even wrote to the Holmes Report, asking to be informed on the selection criteria. The folks at Holmes Report never did answer but went ahead with making their decision anyway and they have chosen…APCO Worldwide!

The basis of this decision, from their write up here:

South-East Asia Consultancy of the Year: APCO Worldwide

APCO established its first Asian operation, in China, a little over a decade ago, and expanded into in South-East Asia almost immediately. An acquisition in China cam with the added bonus of an office in Vietnam, the firm followed with the addition of an office in Indonesia, adding a base in Singapore in 2006 and Thailand in 2007.

But the addition of APCO Malaysia, which opened in 2009 and is now home to a team of 30 leading a massive communications operation supporting the government, that really caught the eye, and last year the firm signaled that it was taking the region extremely seriously with the appointment of Garry Walsh (former MD of the firm’s Brussels office and global lead on the Microsoft account) as managing director, South-East Asia, based in Singapore.

The regional operation has capabilities in public affairs (working for Diageo on a campaign to eliminate the luxury sales tax on alcoholic beverages in Indonesia), corporate positioning, economic development, crisis communication, financial communication, and top tier media relations.

But wait, apart from all the hype hasn’t APCO’s appointment by the Government of Malaysia been terminated?  If so, what are they being recognized for? Venturing into a campaign that they could not win? What did they achieve, PR-wise when they were still in retainer?

The problem with the Malaysian Government job is a classic problem for all consultants. When the executive or management of an organization is so deep in the muck of a crisis they have this tendency to call in all sorts of consultants to solve the problem, when the real problem lies with their own management and handling of the situation. In such a situation perhaps APCO should either never have taken up the job or resigned from it when it became evident that they could not make a difference and this could impact their reputation.

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