Global spotlight: The marketing mindset of Manchester

Alison Last, corporate comms manager at Kellogg's, says in-house and agency opportunities abound for PR pros in the city's vibrant economy

What brought you to Manchester?
I’m from the Lake District in Northwest England, but I started my career in London and moved to Manchester for my current role overseeing corporate comms for the UK and Ireland for Kellogg’s.

How easy is it to find comms talent in the city?
There are some great agencies and there are in-house roles available, but not as many as in a location such as London. As a result, it can be a challenge to find top talent.

How do you get around this challenge?
It is important to have a mixture of people from different backgrounds. That is why we have ex-media professionals and people with PR agency and in-house experience.

We are also working with local universities to find top communications talent. Our first comms intern started in September. She is studying media and PR at Liverpool John Moores University and is scheduled to be with us for a year, but we are already recruiting for our next intern for next year. We are reaching out to universities in Manchester, Leeds, and Liverpool.

Is it difficult to retain talent and keep them from moving to a larger city, such as London?
No. Once people are here – or if they have moved from London – they realize it is a very vibrant city that has everything London has to offer.

What makes Manchester so vibrant?
Manchester has some of the UK’s biggest and best music venues. There are also so many fantastic restaurants and bars popping up. People are investing in the city.

There is more commercial property per square mile here than anywhere else. And the housing is much cheaper than in London, which is one of the main reasons why my husband and I relocated here.

What are the hot business sectors in the city?
Manchester has a rich industrial heritage. That is why Kellogg’s is based here. We opened our factory here 78 years ago because of the city’s transport system, with its canal network. It is a growing economy and is recognized as an important financial and business hot spot. Manchester is also recognized for academic and scientific research, with a number of universities located in the area.

The city is home to two high-profile soccer teams, Manchester United and Manchester City. There has been growth in the tech sector here, as well. Companies based in Manchester include Google, the BBC, Siemens, and Adidas.  

Do corporations in the city tend to bring on local comms firms?
When I first moved here, I automatically defaulted to trying to contact a London firm to work with our in-house team because I assumed that was where the expertise was. But there is a great agency scene in the city. There is a great opportunity for Manchester-based firms to position themselves and to compete with the London agencies and have the same expertise as those located in the capital.

It is great for Kellogg’s as a Manchester-based company to be able to use an agency locally that we can have more face-to-face contact with. But that agency needs to have the right contacts and network in London, where much of the national media is based.

What local firm does Kellogg’s work with?
We handle most of our PR in-house. We have a strong comms team made up of seven people with a mixture of skills and backgrounds.

We use communications agencies for certain projects from time to time, such as Manchester-based Brazen PR.

Due to its vast network, do you find you still have to travel to London a lot for media events?
Yes. One of the challenges of being based outside the capital is that you still need to have feet on the ground in London quite regularly because that is where a lot of our top media contacts are located. As a result, I take the train to London once or twice a month.

Check in

Chartered Institute of Public Relations – North West
abi.whitfield@mccann.com
(+44) 845 331-2287
www.cipr.co.uk

PR Consultants Association
tayana.grundy@prca.org.uk
(+44) 207 233-6026
prca.org.uk/North_West_Group

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce
Elliot House, 151 Deansgate
Manchester M3 3WD
(+44) 161 393-4321
www.gmchamber.co.uk

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