London is finished as the PR capital of Europe – and good riddance

For years, London has dominated Europe’s PR ecosystem and executives sitting in high-rise offices within the Square Mile have directed teams across the continent, spearheading strategies and making all the decisions.

It's time for the industry to move away from the idea of siloed hub, argues Brendon Craigie
It's time for the industry to move away from the idea of siloed hub, argues Brendon Craigie

This London-centric hub model was outdated even before Brexit and the pandemic; so today, frankly, it looks archaic.

Clients and agencies need to re-evaluate their relationship with the City. Here are four reasons why London is no longer the jewel in the European PR crown.

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit

Now that the UK and the EU have signed a trade deal and officially broken ties, London’s PR prestige is up for grabs. Advantages it once paraded, such as freedom of movement, have evaporated. What’s more, the whole Brexit process – ever since the fateful 2016 referendum – has exposed deep political divisions both within the UK and between it and the rest of Europe. Brexit didn’t create these divides; it threw a spotlight on them. Never has it been clearer that London isn’t the UK, and the UK isn’t Europe – so why have so many pan-European PR decisions been made from London?

Siloed thinking

The main problem with the London-led silo model is it offered clients a narrow perspective. From my experience, decisions made at the top of the pyramid had to be localised by European teams, who rarely had the chance to even speak to clients about what was happening in their market. Everything was filtered through London. This led to a lack of diversity in thinking at the top and gave clients a blinkered perspective on the world.

Business has changed

In the old world, it made sense for clients such as US tech firms to use London as a beachhead and first launch in the UK, then expand country by country. But today, technology has evolved to such a degree that companies don’t launch market by market – they launch in multiple markets simultaneously. Software solutions are sold in a global way; firms don’t need to launch in London before launching internationally.

New ways of working

The past year has been tough, but it’s also been an opportunity to experiment. Many businesses have adopted an entirely new way of operating. Remote work allows staff to work from wherever they choose and enables agencies to hire from a much wider talent pool, rather than just those within commuting distance of London. This distributed model allows agencies to draw on a range of diverse opinions in order to offer clients a wider variety of views and a more valuable perspective.

Once the pandemic is over, do we really want to return to a concentrated model? Anchoring our focus to a single geographical location, placing all our eggs in one metropolitan basket, is no longer viable.

Looking ahead, it’s possible that another European city, such as Paris or Berlin, could replace London as the main hub for company communications.

But doing so would just lead to a different, yet still blinkered, perspective. We need to move away from this constrained view in PR.

Communications professionals need to maximise their diversity of perspectives and offer a broader outlook on the wider world.

We can achieve that by having fewer silos and reducing the barriers preventing companies from listening to and communicating with their audiences – without so many filters.

Brendon Craigie is co-founder and managing partner at Tyto

Thumbnail image ©GettyImages

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