A conversation with Dietrich Schulze van Loon, Senior Partner at ORCA van Loon Communications.

In a new series of articles, we will be looking at the topic of quality management and securing quality. The context is the ongoing preparations for our CMS III certification.In doing so, we will first put our expertise to the test: communications consultancy.

We direct our questions to someone who knows: Dietrich Schulze van LoonDietrich Schulze van Loon, Senior Partner at ORCA van Loon and a true expert with over 40 years of professional experience.

Hi Dieter! Today we would like to discuss the quality criteria of communications consulting. On a very basic level: what characterizes good consulting in your opinion?

Dietrich Schulze van Loon: In my view, consulting has the task of helping clients to achieve their goals in the best possible way. Of course, the consulting should always be good or, better, goal-oriented.

As part of ORCA, we see ourselves as a strategic communications "lawyer" for our clients but we do not lose our "neutral" view. We provide sparring support and advice in equal measure. Leaving the beaten track and giving new insights a chance to be realized - for this, an external perspective is particularly helpful.

Consulting is also the navigator that navigates around cliffs. And checks the extent to which entrepreneurial decisions can be implemented, both at internal and external levels.

Our young professionals in particular are often confronted with a crucial question at the beginning of their careers: How can you recognize consulting? And what is just intuition or one's own opinion?

Dietrich Schulze van Loon: No one has ever been born a perfect consultant. 

Consulting requires a profound knowledge of communication strategy, combined with strong analytical skills, a broad general knowledge of business and socio-political issues. 

"Intuition and an opinion of one's own are wonderful and helpful. But also not everything!" - Senior Partner Dietrich Schulze van Loon

Added to this is a feel for managing difficult opinion-forming processes. Passion for the cause, creativity and a firm character that is not knocked down by the slightest gust of wind do not hurt either. Of course, experience is also needed - although learning never stops in life. No matter what age you are.

Consulting is good if what has been achieved would have been less successful without the consulting. 

Today's young professionals generally have top university and international education. Many have also broadened their horizons through relevant internships. Intuition and an opinion of one's own are wonderful and helpful when entering the professional field of "communications consulting" in order to continue successfully on the chosen path. But it also isn't everything - the above-mentioned qualities emerge in the personal maturation process over time.

At the end of 2020 a study commissioned by the GPRA on the evaluation of communications consultants caused the industry to shake. According to the study, 26 percent of the managing directors and communications managers surveyed distrusted external communications agencies. High consulting competence was identified as an important quality criterion. What do you think makes a good consultant?

Dietrich Schulze van Loon: The results of the GPRA study are interesting. 

But here, the derivation of the results primarily talks about the 26 percent of participants in the survey who distrust the advice of external communications agencies. According to my interpretation, and I also studied statistics as part of my business administration studies, 74 percent do not distrust external communications consultancies. 

The fact that "a high level of consulting competence" has been identified as an important quality criterion really doesn't surprise me. The "consulting personality" is naturally of particular importance. In addition to the criteria I mentioned in previous answers.

The consultant should have a reasonable degree of persuasiveness and be able to withstand controversial discussions. Even if they have to put their "finger in the wound" due to their consulting experience. So taking a stance at all levels is required. Just as clients should be taken seriously, it is important to ensure that the consultant is accepted on an eye-to-eye level.

Do you think some people are predestined for consulting jobs and others are not? If yes/no, why?

Dietrich Schulze van Loon: Every person is different and if you can do everything, you can't do anything properly! 

In the course of my professional life, I have been fortunate to have met many excellent colleagues. Among them were all kinds of personalities who did great work in their own way. Not all of them were successful at the consulting level, but in other positions.

Coaching processes can be useful. Here, one's own talents are highlighted and guided towards appropriate career paths. This is definitely helpful. In any case, it is important that the profession is enjoyable and meaningful. Regardless of whether it is in the consulting field or in another important position.

Last but not least, a personal question: How did you shape your consulting personality? What were your most formative moments?

Dietrich Schulze van Loon: I joined my father's agency as a consultant in 1979. Before that, I had studied business administration, completed several internships and worked as a management assistant after graduation.

My father, Dr. Reiner Schulze van Loon, was one of the outstanding pioneers of professional public relations in Germany in his time and co-founder of the Gesellschaft PR Agenturen (GPRA). I learned a great deal from his experience and was inspired by it. The subsequent exchange with experienced consultants from the industry, both nationally and internationally, as well as from the field of management consulting, also left its mark on me. 

I quickly realized that you should only make mistakes once and not repeat them.

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