The continuing – some might say never-ending – debate over the HS2 rail link has revealed growing concerns around the need to "rebalance Britain".
The fêted project, it is proposed, will help to bring growth rates in the North of England more in line with those of Greater London, as the best talent won’t automatically be drawn to the capital. But I would like to paint an alternative picture of the so-called brain drain that some believe London enjoys at the expense of the rest of the country.
The past few years have been difficult for agencies across the UK, but it is interesting to note how those outside London have been responding to remain afloat during the darkest days of the recession.
The PRCA’s Consultancy Benchmarking 2013 survey revealed that agencies outside London have been very creative in their exploitation of existing relationships, eg. cross-selling (78 per cent, while their London counterparts stand at 70 per cent). There has also been a touch more diversification and development of new services in the regions (69 per cent), compared with London (56 per cent).
As a result, regional PR agency leaders are feeling slightly more positive than their London counterparts about the future economic conditions of the industry – 12 per cent expect growth compared with ten per cent in London. The regions also report less over-servicing; a greater focus on retained accounts over project work; and, intriguingly, far higher rates of payment-by-results (28 per cent, compared with London’s ten per cent).
We are currently collating the findings of the Consultancy Benchmarking 2014 survey (thanks to all those that participated) which will show us how those trends have continued. But it is clear that across the UK there is much evidence of innovation, diversification and downright entrepreneurial balls.
I see it all the time, thanks to the great work of the PRCA’s seven regional and national groups to highlight members’ creative case studies, always combined with a focus on real business objectives.
Talent is the number one commodity in PR and talent can be based anywhere. It is our aim to champion the great work being done across the UK – that’s why we are committed to our DARE Awards, which will be launching across the UK from May. That’s when we will see the proof that, despite concerns about the spread of growth in the UK, the spread of talent on PR is perfectly balanced.
Francis Ingham is PRCA director-general and ICCO executive director