REGIONAL LEAGUE TABLES 2002: Top cities around the UK - PRWeek showcases regional hubs and lists their top agencies

For the first time this year, PRWeek has undertaken an analysis of the size of the regional PR markets.

As part of the research for the Top 150 League Table, we asked companies to also supply fee income and staff figures for their regional offices.

Only those companies with HQs outside London are included. This, combined with figures supplied by regionally-based independents, has enabled us to build a picture of the most active regional hubs.

This feature focuses on those five cities whose constituent companies reported the highest level of total fee income. The tables are ranked in descending order of highest fee income taken from all entries to the Top 150.

In addition to these cities, there are of course an enormous number of companies based in rural of semi-rural locations. They are featured in the main league table on the previous page.

Both Cardiff and Glasgow are also main regional hubs for PR but the level of reported fee income this year fell below the level of those cities featured. The PR market in Cardiff, for example, is relatively small, with only two main agencies - Golley Slater and Quadrant - providing figures. However, the growing influence of the Welsh Assembly may well change this situation, as an increasing number of companies realise the importance of building bridges with regional government.

Glasgow, on the other hand, is currently seeing a transforamtion of the PR scene, with the old order spawning a new generation of agencies.

The Big Partnership has broken away from Beattie Media, Real PR has emerged from Barkers Scotland while 3X1 has sprung from within The Communication Group.

However, the major regional markets according to PRWeek's 2002 rankings are:

Manchester

Traditionally, the Manchester PR scene has been dominated by independent agencies, most notably Communique PR, Staniforth Communications, Leedex GTPR and Mason Williams. However, with Burson-Marsteller's acquisition of Communique and the rise in fortunes of Weber Shandwick, this has all changed.

There have also been a number of new arrivals, including Spin Media, headed by former Manchester Evening News showbiz editor Andy Spinoza.

However, as the eyes of the world turn to the city for the Commonwealth Games in July, the UK's largest media centre outside London is benefiting from a massive boom in urban renewal.

Naturally, this includes the newly constructed City of Manchester Stadium, where the games will be held, and the second runway at Manchester airport.

But in the wake of the regeneration of the city centre following the IRA bombing in 1996, this also embraces the leisure and retail sector, with bars, restaurants and night-spots springing up around town.

Consultancies report that consumer, public sector, corporate and brand areas are doing well, as is healthcare and tech. But as Manchester agencies increasingly look to meet the global needs of clients, further opportunities could be on the cards.

Leeds

As the commercial centre of Yorkshire, Leeds is also the north of England's PR capital, accounting for around 45 per cent of the IPR's regional group membership.

Once renowned for its traditional manufacturing base, over the past five years Leeds has welcomed a number of tech industries. This has been matched by a programme of urban renewal that has transformed Leeds into a vibrant place to live and work.

Leeds' PR credentials have been strengthened by its involvement with the PR faculty at Leeds Metropolitan University, improving training for the area and helping to inject graduates into local agencies. However, with Leeds playing regional HQ to many of the big banks, and national HQ to firms ranging from Asda and Nestle to npower and Green Flag, the PR mix is varied.

Local agencies report that economic uncertainty has placed a greater focus on project work for clients. However, according to Debby Burman, IPR Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Group chair, quite a number of consultancies are seeing their regional accounts for clients expanded into national remits.

Birmingham

Business in Birmingham is currently polarising, with a plethora of PR start-ups springing up as the larger PR players consolidate. Most recently, hatch-group opened an office in the city, while in February, Barkers PR merged into the Solihull arm of McCann-Erickson.

With organisations such as Birmingham Forward and Advantage West Midlands lobbying for professional and manufacturing growth in the region, Birmingham is currently experiencing a healthy boost from inward investment. The property, financial and professional services arenas are thriving, which in turn is driving growth in leisure and retail. Alongside the obligatory rash of new bars and restaurants, large retailers such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols are moving into the city.

With the transformation of the Bull Ring and the raft of Lottery-funded projects that Birmingham now boasts, most notably Millennium Point, the B2B and consumer PR sectors are also faring well.

Despite the economic downturn, Birmingham remains the UK's largest manufacturing centre and home to multi-national businesses such as Cadbury and Land Rover. However, as more firms relocate to the area, the IPR Midlands Group has concerns about a possible deficit of local PR professionals over the next ten years.

Edinburgh

Traditionally Scotland's financial and legal capital, Edinburgh has received a huge boost with the arrival of the Scottish Parliament. Property prices have boomed, while a host of opportunities have opened up for PR firms in government relations and the area of corporate social responsibility.

Although the agency sector is beginning to become saturated with small firms, for the larger players, such as Weber Shandwick, Beattie Media and Pagoda PR, certain sectors have potential for growth.

Following the fall-out of 11 September and the foot-and-mouth crisis, tourism looks set for a recovery, while the tech PR opportunities in Scotland's Silicon Glen include major corporate challenges facing firms such as Motorola.

The downturn in the IT sector is a concern, however, with multi-nationals including Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Compaq in the area. This problem is being negated by an increase in other tech and electronics firms, eager to take advantage of Scotland's legal system, which allows products to be brought quickly to market.

As witnessed by Dolly the sheep, Scotland is a centre of excellence for bio-technology firms and Edinburgh maintains its heritage in brewing and distilling, with Scottish & Newcastle and Scottish Courage local mainstays.

Bristol

The gateway to the south-west, Bristol has always benefited from a diverse PR market. Naturally, the city's proximity to Cornwall and Devon means tourism is a strong sector, but with national firms including Lloyds TSB, Clerical Medical, Axa Sunlife, plus Bristol and West Building Society headquartered in the region, there is also a thriving financial and professional services community too.

Like many other UK cities, the heart of Bristol has been transformed by a strong urban renewal programme. To the north, the M4 and M5 interchange plays host to a range of businesses, from BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce to the RAC and Orange. Indeed, according to JBP PR managing director, Linda Taylor, despite the global downturn in tech business, Bristol still has a healthy comms and tech sector.

Some of the smaller specialised PR firms have suffered throughout 2001, but Harrison Cowley associate director Don Whiting highlights that most of the larger Bristol players remain stable. 'Clients are bound to look at budgets and their requirements have changed. But businesses realise that its still a competitive market, so they are having to maintain investment in communications,' he says.

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