Northern Ireland’s economy has shown slight growth. Are businesses optimistic for the coming year or is there more of a wait-and-see attitude?
Recent surveys conducted by representative business groups such as the Federation of Small Businesses and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry show a slight dip in business confidence. In particular, some businesses are cautious about their investment intentions.
In the NI Chamber survey, investment in training seems to be one area that may suffer, which would be a pity.
Because BT is in the business of providing services [communications and networked IT] that help companies grow, there are opportunities for us in the coming year.
Belfast’s fastest-growing industries?
The knowledge economy is an area of potential for Northern Ireland and it’s becoming a good base for organizations in technology, software development, sciences, and creative industries.
Invest NI says that Northern Ireland is the most cost-effective region within the UK for software development. BT has located one of its R&D centers in Belfast, employing highly skilled technologists.
And PR and communications in Belfast?
Small high-growth businesses are very much the lifeblood of the economy, with small firms in the region responsible for 56% of the nation’s Gross Value Added, according to recent Octopus research.
Many of these small organizations don’t have their own in-house PR and comms teams, which creates opportunities for external consultancies. Boutique agencies and a few global agencies have offices here. Northern Ireland has some of the most creative agencies in the UK.
How has it changed in recent years?
Northern Ireland agencies increasingly offer full-service portfolios, providing organizations with expertise on a range of communications disciplines from corporate responsibility to employee engagement, public affairs, and digital.
For in-house comms teams, there are now some gray areas where they overlap with marketing colleagues, particularly with regard to social media and sponsorship. Where it best fits will prove interesting.
What challenges might PR and communications professionals find there?
From a career perspective, as small businesses and public sector organizations largely make up the sector, there may be limited opportunities for professionals who want experience in multinationals.
A former boss was accurate when he said that one year in a small agency is equivalent to seven years in an in-house job. I’ve found that having a background in journalism, agency, and in-house has worked very well for me personally.
Is finding PR talent difficult?
It depends on your definition of PR. There are talented media relations and public affairs professionals in Northern Ireland. And there are gains to be made in the sponsorship industry.
In my role I have been approached by many who have not clearly thought out why our commercial strategy and plans could benefit from investment in their sponsorship. As more and more organizations embrace the criticality of good corporate citizenship, we’ll build on the great initiatives happening in the business community in Northern Ireland right now.
What do you love most about Belfast?
As a professional from Waterford who lives in Dublin and works in Belfast, I can say Belfast stands out for its restaurant and bar scene. There’s also a great range of events venues – one of BT’s most notable being an intimate service dinner for employees within the Ulster Museum surrounded by trains.
Chamber of Commerce
4-5 Donegall Square South, Belfast BT1 5JA, Northern Ireland
PRCA Northern Ireland regional group
Federation of Small Businesses
Cathedral Chambers, 143 Royal Avenue, Belfast BT1 1FH, Northern Ireland