You might have read Kyle’s recent blog post about hiring young consultants. There’s a big discussion on that post, as well as on Doug Karr’s original post. Here’s the core of the argument, cribbed from Doug’s post:

Companies that are investing in marketing consulting help need to identify consultants with experience working through diverse, cross-media marketing strategies that leverage each medium and maximize their investment and impact. That takes a consultant with much more experience [than a dime-a-dozen social media consultant].

And here’s Kyle’s response:

There should be a case made that results are paramount not experience. If a company hires someone with no experience and the person delivers… shouldn’t that be the only thing that matters?

I love Kyle and Doug both, but I gotta take this down a notch. Neither of these points of view represents a comprehensive and balanced philosophy.

For Doug: You don’t need to have a “diverse experience” to provide value. Heck, world-class marketing agencies and marketing departments bring in outside contractors to assist with execution all the time. The word “consultant” here just means that these hired guns do more than just implement—they are also expected to give opinions and come up with interesting ideas.

For Kyle: Yes, results matter. But whoever did JC Penney’s SEO earlier this year WAS wildly successful…until they got caught. The Titanic was the greatest ocean liner ever built…until it sank. Jayson Blair was a promising, up-and-coming reporter for the New York Times with several dozen national stories to his credit….until his blatant plagiarism came to light.. Results are important, but process is important too. In fact, process is more important than results.

So why are we having a fight? I think it’s really this word “consultant”, which is kind of a stupid word. I think “consultant” has this connotation of a genuine, top-notch expert who has vast knowledge in his or her field. Kyle’s own six-point list ends with “I do not implement and I am not a developer”, which further reinforces this definition. And Doug clearly thinks what makes for a consultant is the range of knowledge, which pretty much has to come from loads of practical work. I’m betting Doug will love this quote:

Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.

I gave away my advice to solve this problem in the title: Hire Young Expert Assistants, Hire Old Experienced Advisers. If you’re looking to bring in a consultant, ask yourself this question: Do I want someone to assist me with what I’ve already started and already somewhat understand, or do I need someone to advise me in an area where I have no real knowledge?

If you need just need assistance, hiring young is probably fine. If you need advice, hiring a grizzled veteran might be your best bet. Does that mean you shouldn’t hire Kyle Lacy for social media consulting? I would say he’s probably not quite as inexperienced as he might seem. After all, Kyle reported in his last post:

I worked my butt off, failed a ton (and I mean… a ton), and delivered some value to clients.

The chances are good that most of his tremendous client failures are out of the way. Kyle’s made lots of bad judgment calls, which means he’s got better judgment now! And as for Doug: well, you should absolutely hire his new media agency if you are looking for comprehensive strategic marketing advice. If you just need someone to schedule Tweets you’ve already planned: then a young assistant is just fine.

Battle over!

This is a guest post from Robby Slaughter, who runs a productivity consulting firm in Indianapolis.