Life is good beyond the M25

The eastern region is holding its own, with business still pouring into its international ports

There will always be a little snobbery from certain quarters tow­ards an out-of-London agency. But if you look at the hard business facts, the sceptics should really think again.

My office  is just 50 minutes from central London, rates are a fraction of what they are in Covent Garden and there’s a pool of experienced professionals all fed up with commuting to the city. Add to this equation journalists too busy to meet PROs and the rise of technology – and the need to be within a hair’s breadth of IPC Towers or Wapping seems silly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love London. I learnt my trade in London and used to live there. The city can be a real inspiration, but it doesn’t have to be the place to run a successful PR business.

At Big Wave PR, we offer fresh and creative services; we benchmark our performance and deliver results alongside any top 100 agency. Thanks to our efforts, we have experienced exponential growth year on year.

Our business success may be due to the credit crunch; our overheads are lower than in the city, so our daily rate is lower too. These are some of the factors that have helped us take business from top London-based consumer shops.

We also work hard to turn around the ridiculous assumption that just ­because we’re out of London, we’re not as creative or professional as City agencies. Creativity or professionalism are not found only within the M25.

Working in a region brings many benefits. It’s a lot quicker to establish ­associations with the major players, and there are many symbiotic partnerships to be had.

Many of our campaigns have benefited from working with the ‘stars’ in the region, such as celebrity chef Jean- Christophe Novelli and the Cambridge University boat race crew.

The eastern region is suffering the ­effects of the economic downturn just like any other, but we are blessed with business pouring into the international ports of Felixstowe and Harwich, and via Stansted airport. We’ve also got a talented pool of minds graduating from the region’s universities.

The area must be doing something right. In comparison with the rest of the UK, house prices are holding their own, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown ­recently visited business leaders in ­Ipswich, which is one of only a few areas so far proving to be recession-proof.

Over the past 12 months we have ­noticed an increase in all sorts of businesses, both large and small, turning to public relations to help them through this financial crisis. There has been a definite shift away from reactionary advertising campaigns and towards a desire to invest in PR to show customers the value of their brand/service.

We have been working with lager ­giant Carslberg in Northamptonto create ­innovative schemes to help pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants through the recession; and a chain of independent opticians, Patrick and Menzies, to showcase the quality and niche areas of their care.

To bring in new business we offer a flexible ‘pay per day’ fee. It puts us on trial and gives clients the chance to see their money is being wisely invested.

Based in Essex near the Suffolk border, we believe we have the best of both worlds. We have a great environment in which to work and live, and we can be in London in less than an hour, or get to an int­ernational airport in just 30 minutes.

We believe it is our role, and that of other regional agencies, to dispel the myth that we’re not as professional or creative by delivering hard-hitting, award-winning campaigns. This is a challenge any one of our clients would give us, so it’s for us to step up to the mark and prove our worth.

Views in brief

Which media outlet in your region do you most respect?

East Anglian Daily Times

What’s the difference between agencies in your region and in London?

We tend to work across a spectrum of industries, so we don’t take a blinkered approach.

What’s the best communications campaign you’ve seen recently?

Comic Relief. Yet again the team has done an amazing job in getting the nation to part with its cash and in raising awareness of the effects of poverty in Africa and at home.

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