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The trademark that applies to every rockstar consultant I've ever worked with; they don't need to be told how to succeed. Controversial but true.

by JERRY SILVER // Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Digital PR specialist and CEO at Spin Factory

There’s this thing that I’ve been wondering for years, ever since I started out in the PR industry back in 2005:

How do you recognise a rockstar consultant? It might sound elitist, but having worked on the agency side for years, it has become very clear to me that a rockstar easily outweighs three or four regular consultants. But finally, in a discussion the other day, I arrived at an answer.

And the answer surprised me greatly.

But first we need to ask ourselves; is there such a thing as a “rockstar consultant”?

Here goes:

Rockstars Comes In Many Flavours

In my career, I’ve worked with many individuals that, without a shadow of a doubt, are rockstars. Some have been young, straight out of school. Some have been at the end of their careers. And some somewhere in between. Being a rockstar has absolutely nothing to do with age.

Some have been amazing account managers. Others strategic masterminds. Others creative geniuses. Others have been leaders, some inspiring, some actionable. And many have simply been experts in the overall craftsmanship of communication. Some have charisma and can light up a room, some you won’t even notice until you see their craft exploding right before your eyes.

Some are extroverts; some are introverts. Some are team players; some are individualists.

But there’s just something about them all:

  • You badly want them on your team.
  • They always find a way to blow your mind.
  • They make things look easy out-of-the-box.
  • Others push themselves around them.
  • They can’t help creating controversy and drama.
  • Mysteriously, they tend always to come out on top.
  • You can see it in that their eyes, that they “get it”.

There’s just something about them. But what is it?

Turning Disadvantages To Advantages

An experienced former colleague of mine, Paul Roswall1, Senior Advisor at Springtime PR and a PR rockstar in his own right, once explained that all rockstar consultants have this one thing in common:

They tend to have a deep black void in their chest that that pushes them to overcome any challenge. They have something to prove to someone or to themselves. They might be compensating for something. Or looking to get back at someone, even.

I can’t say for certain if he was right. However, I do recognize a fire burning in their eyes.

Such an analysis is pretty grim, to say the least. It would mean that we need to learn how to spot people with great potential combined with serious psychological issues. It could work, but it could also be a hit-or-miss-miserably-strategy.

My good friend Richard Yams2, Head of Content at Burson-Marsteller, tells a similar story in the comments of this post:

“A previous place I did work for had a founder who said he preferred to hire consultants that had good self-confidence and bad self-esteem.”

And so the other day, when discussing this with a colleague, we arrived at totally different line of thought:

The Trademark Of A Rockstar Consultant

The realisation as such surprised me. It felt even controversial. But here’s the trademark that in my experience applies to every rockstar consultant I’ve ever worked with:

Rockstars don’t need authority to tell them how to succeed.

  • If you want them to take over a small client, they turn that client into a big one.
  • If they’re asked to do something, they look for innovative ways to get record results.
  • In feedback talks, they give you feedback on how you can help them succeed.

In short: They don’t ask their bosses to pave their way. Instead, they let their work take them where they want to go. Ask yourself: Are you waiting for someone to tell you what to do or how to succeed? Don’t wait and do stuff instead.

What are your thoughts on what talented consultants have in common? Please share in the comments.


  1. Learn more about Paul Roswall from his LinkedIn profile.
  2. You can learn more about Richard Yams and what he’s up to from his LinkedIn profile.

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Behind the keyboard:

Jerry Silver is the author of Doctor Spin, a PR blog that's been around for 15+ years. His fascination for corporate communication and human psychology runs deep. Via his own agency Spin Factory, every day's spent on coaching people and organizations on how to adapt to a 'digital first' world. In 2016, Cision Scandinavia named him "PR Influencer of the Year". Jerry lives in Stockholm, Sweden with his wife Lisah, journalist and television host, and their two-year-old son, Jack.

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Add your comment:

Guy Farmer

Great article. I might add that perhaps one of the characteristics of a transcendent consultant is that they help people find the answers inside them. I like the idea of creating some discomfort as well.

Jerry Silfwer

@Guy Farmer Thanks Guy, I appreciate you stopping by. Have a great Sunday!


Inspiring for a young mind, thanks!

Jerry Silfwer

PontusSilfwer Thanks, bro!


I like what your former colleague said, though I think I still only have the void and not the rest. Makes it look better anyway :)

Jerry Silfwer

uponacloud I’m sure that’s not true! :) Thanks for dropping a comment, appreciate it!


A previous place I did work for had a founder who said he preferred
to hire consultants that had good self-confidence and bad self-esteem.

His thinking was that bad self-esteem would make the
consultant always strive for delivering more to the client, in order to feel
loved and valuable. Good self-confidence on the other hand would help the
consultant to sell in his/her work properly to clients.
It was cynical thinking but I think he had a point. It also
makes me wonder why they hired me :)
/ Richard

Jerry Silfwer

RichardYams Quite cynical, but I can see that truth in that. When starting out in the business, I remember how much I felt I needed to prove myself. And still to this day I feel the same. It’s not quite rational, but it does seem to generate results.
So excellent advice Richard and thanks for sharing!

Per Frykman

Nice article – thanks – like the word Rockstar. I’ve had the great privilege of working with the reputation of some of them and what I see is that it all boils down to the expectations that they – and their reputation creates.