No time for shrinking violets

Evolution and diversification are absolutely essential in the battle for survival of the fittest

In times of great turmoil and flux, the need to evolve with the world as it changes around us is greater than ever.
The world of PR is not an island and there are plenty of consultancies on the endangered list. But for those who adapt and make it through, it could be said the recession is not all bad for business.

Trading in this atmosphere of uncertainty brings focus and renews determination. Talent is cherished and enc­ouraged, and the confident among us leap into new markets and new media with great enthusiasm.

In the Midlands, the property, retail and automotive sectors have toppled with startling speed, with consequent fallout for agencies specialising in those shallow waters. But for others, appetites are ­being satisfied in different areas, such as public sector, b2b and destination marketing. Seal is one of the agencies swimming in these deeper waters and casting its net in an ever-widening circle of diversification.

In the current climate, we see over-specialism and reliance on any one marketplace or service discipline as a dangerous position in which to be. We apply an intelligent strategic approach to a client brief, being able to draw on the full communications spectrum.

While stories continue to emerge of government penury, public sector spending in some areas is at an all-time high.

Whether it’s against the backdrop of public health advice, the world stage of the Olympics, London’s Cross Rail project or multimillion-pound regeneration schemes for entire city centres such as Walsall, recession can present a less competitive milieu for agencies.

We are seeing significant investment by some of our key b2b clients as this ­abnormal trading environment deepens, providing entry-level options for certain projects that previous conditions precluded. Several of Seal’s destination accounts are recognising that when the going gets tough, they need to redouble their efforts just to keep their heads above water – and some of the counties, cities and towns of the Midlands are doing just that.

We are all fond of telling clients that when recession hits, they should be ­increasing, not decreasing, their communications spend.

At Seal we have followed our own ­advice and put our money where our mouth is; hence significant investment. We have moved to new offices next to Birmingham’s iconic Mailbox development and held a high-profile ­office launch party, playing host to the Midlands ‘corporati’ with the BBC’s ­A-list broadcaster Fiona Bruce as our special guest. Now is not the time to be a shrinking violet.

The media scene in our area is changing rapidly. Several regional lifestyle magazines and weekly titles have closed, major newspaper houses such as Trinity Mirror have slashed staff numbers against falling circulations and ITV’s Central region has culled some of its news teams.

But the survivors are evolving fast too. News websites are now as important as print, with online content being further boosted by vodcasts. Newspapers have their own TV studios and have embraced blogs, Twitter, Facebook – there is a whole ‘smorgasbord’ of digital channels upon which to feast. Smaller local digital media such as ChamberTV have also rushed in to fill the void.

Seal has not been slow in evolving its interactive offer. We have significantly boosted our own digital weaponry by acquiring the leading minds from a specialist agency who now spearhead this burgeoning arm of our business.

The flexibility and confidence that comes from being a genuinely independent agency, with our finger on the pulse, ensures we can make such essential moves. We’re in pretty good shape for the battle for survival of the fittest.

Views in brief

Which media outlet in your region do you most respect?
The Birmingham Post. The newspaper’s management has taken big and brave decisions in order to embrace new media, and it has been really upfront about it. The paper changed its format from broadsheet to tabloid and scrapped its Saturday edition, so it now publishes only Monday to Friday.

The newspaper also led the way in becoming a digital rolling news service, incorporating LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs and its own TV studio. And journalists have been supplied with high-quality mobile phones so that they can take webcast quality video.

Katie Morris is CEO of Seal Communications

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