Outside the London PR bubble, regional agencies are taking a different approach to COVID-19

Within a matter of weeks, the coronavirus has ripped its way through the UK economy and forced thousands of businesses to halt their operations.

Will clients seek more value for money in the regions once the crisis is over, asks Hannah Haffield
Will clients seek more value for money in the regions once the crisis is over, asks Hannah Haffield

The PR industry is far from immune, leaving agencies across the UK to fight for survival, while working hard to remind businesses looking to ‘pause’ and retreat that they are more likely to be forgotten when the lights are switched back on.

With financial fear taking over, how do PRs effectively communicate the importance of comms to both existing and potential clients?

And how does this bid for survival differ between agencies in and outside of London?

Showcase Value

Effective communication is vital for every single business across the UK right now, whether that’s internal comms for employees or external activity to maintain trust and engagement among both existing and potential customers.

The agencies able to demonstrate this and show real value are those more likely to survive. Whether that’s achieved by revising existing PR strategies to ensure businesses have a leading and proactive voice throughout the pandemic or reducing monthly spend to retain long-term client relationships.

It could be argued that those headquartered in the UK’s capital have a greater chance of survival simply due to the volume of businesses situated in London.

However, with smaller overheads and marginally lower salaries, regional agencies can afford greater flexibility in reducing client fees.

Furthermore, as economic experts predict a likely recession, many organisations will be looking to cut spend for the long term.

Those looking to disrupt and dominate comms within their sector are still likely to look for cost-effective alternatives, providing an opportunity for regional agencies to showcase their worth and win new work that would have previously been allocated to the capital.

The Agile will Rise

In January, the PR industry was forecast to grow an additional 9.9 per cent by 2022.

While COVID-19 will have an impact on this growth, there is still an opportunity for PR agencies to rise, so long as they maintain an agile approach.

If agencies are to steer businesses through the hard times ahead they must continually review their clients’ priorities, adjust strategies to meet them and consistently demonstrate value, while retaining workload.

What’s more, regional agencies need to remind existing and potential clients that they don’t have to be based in London to be connected to the national media.

They also have a trump card to play: they are far better-equipped to understand the intricacies of “provincial” media, which are indispensable for connecting with communities and local businesses.

Whether based in or outside of London, the whole of the PR industry needs to showcase the vital role it can play in helping businesses effectively communicate the right messages to their internal and external stakeholders.

Although now is a time for survival, it isn’t a time for profiteering.

The agencies able to adapt and support businesses through this ‘unprecedented’ period are those more likely to be remembered and rewarded in the long term.

Hannah Haffield is founder and managing director of Make More Noise

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