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Make a Consulting Partnership Work

In the nearly 18 months I’ve worked with the TVP Comms team, I’ve learned a lot about how institutions work with consultants and which approaches are most effective. Yesterday, during a conversation with a president, he boiled the best partnerships into one sentence: “When we work with good consultants, we on campus should be working harder than the consultants.”
Yes! That! If I knew how to sew, I’d embroider that on a sofa pillow…
We at TVP Comms love partnering with institutions—in good times or challenging ones—and we put our hearts and souls into the work we do with institutions. We love identifying the good stories to tell or developing strategies to address a crisis situation. But we firmly believe that the core of a good consulting partnership should be a dynamic that pushes the campus team to be better, to grow, and to build capacity.
Here are a couple other thoughts on how to use—and not use—consultants.
Hire us to backstop the advice you’re delivering to your president and senior team—not to tell them hard truths you’ve not told them. We all know of colleagues like the ones Teresa wrote about the other day who fall in line with the president instead of providing perspective or challenging assumptions. While consultants can often take a tougher stand on a particular issue, we cannot be the perpetual bad cop—there’s simply no substitute for the advice of someone who is living the day-to-day realities of a campus, knows all the players, and has a good grasp on the institutional culture and history.
Hire us to help message and manage bad news—not to make it go away. Every institution will confront a crisis situation and as it unfolds over days or weeks, members of the leadership team and the board of trustees will reach the point of concern and frustration (and sometimes exhaustion) that leads to the question, “Why can’t you make it stop?” There are a hundred reasons why we can’t, and spinning bad news will backfire in the end, so our energy is best focused on helping your team devise strategies, draft language, monitor social media, and respond to new wrinkles in the situation.
Hire us so we can (eventually) go away. We love our client partners. Many of them become cherished colleagues and sometimes even dear friends. But we firmly believe that all good consulting partnerships should eventually come to an end. We hope that our work together helps strengthen the campus team, positions our colleagues to advocate for the resources they need, builds the relationships needed to identify and lift up good stories, and puts in place the protocols and processes that will ground crisis response.
We are excited to roll up our sleeves and get in the trenches with our clients in a way that is productive and rewarding for all of us. If that sounds like the kind of relationship you’re looking for, please be in touch—we always welcome the opportunity to talk with colleagues about their challenges and triumphs.