Martin Long, Golley Slater: Forging close relationships

Local agencies are proving their worth as global brands seek better value for their money.

Closer. That is where clients want to be. In a world where channels are proliferating, strong brands will win, but they need to be credible. They need to engage with target audiences in a more meaningful way and to encourage genuine dialogue.

Agencies need to invest, as we have, to offer proper sector specialisms and so get closer to markets.

Over the past year, we have strengthened our team significantly, with the appointments of new heads of office in Scotland and in a number of our English regions.

Their arrival has injected some terrific experience and impetus, and it is no coincidence that a number of them are now heading our specialist sector teams, which include property, automotive, food, leisure and retail. More than ever, comms must be relevant and delivered to their target audiences by people who are close to them - who face the same challenges, who understand what the drivers are in the community and who sometimes do not just speak with the same accent but in the same language.

Having an office in almost every UK economic region lets us take national campaign priorities and translate them in the most effective way to reach their audiences.

Research shows that local and regional commentators are most trusted by audiences. People are more likely to respect the opinion of those with whom they feel they have a common experience. The digital space is increasingly framed in regional and local terms. At Golley Slater, we tap into this.

We also find that, increasingly, our clients based out in the regions are looking to access big agency capability and advice on their doorstep. This is particularly true of integrated communications. As pressure has grown on client budgets and with it the appetite for a more joined-up approach to planning, Golley Slater United, which builds media-neutral campaigns drawing together experts from across all our disciplines, has seen a major increase in interest.

- Martin Long is managing director of Golley Slater Public Relations

Read on for Golley Slater's Views from the Regions......


1. NORTH EAST, NORTH WEST, YORKSHIRE & LINCOLNSHIRE - Claire Rushton, MD, Golley Slater North

- Tell us about one good thing the recession has caused in your region

A positive side effect of this difficult time is the adeptness of northern communications agencies to modify their approach to an ever-changing market place and increasingly tighter budgets.

More alliances with complementary disciplines, and where necessary, agencies are being forged in order to shed the traditional communication silos of PR, advertising and digital etc, and instead provide the client with a more integrated approach and holistic communications solution.

Robust measurement of activities is increasingly at the forefront of negotiations. Although it can be challenging to show a direct correlation between PR activities and their impact on sales and/or the bottom line, the boost in demand for better evaluation and a significant return on investment are welcomed by agencies with a strong evaluation culture already in place.

2. EAST ANGLIA/THAMES & CHILTERN - Althea Taylor-Salmon, MD, Golley Slater Cambridge

- Which regional players have raised their profile in the past year?

The East of England Development Agency's Cut your Carbon campaign was smart, fun, creative and successful. EEDA launched it to inspire and support communities in East of England to reduce their carbon emissions, encouraging individuals to become carbon heroes and reach out to their communities to help them understand the bigger picture.

The campaign adopted a light-hearted approach to climate change.

It included competitions; a dedicated website featuring a world-first community carbon calculator to help communities measure their carbon footprint plus a wide range of practical advice and social networking tools; e-newsletters; partner marketing; regional events to talk to communities about the campaign, striking photography (people wearing carbon superhero outfits) and an extensive media relations campaign. The campaign was hugely successful - EEDA engaged 160 communities in the programme and provided funding for projects that will continue to make savings past the campaign's lifetime.

- What is the best example of campaigning journalism to have happened in your area over the past year?

The Milton Keynes Citizen helped to recover a £150 fine for a church minister who had been unjustly clamped while delivering bibles. Following a tip-off, the journalist videoed clampers in action, who it transpired did not have permission from the landowner. The paper's campaign received a huge response, helping the minister to recover his money and the clampers ceased operations in that area.

3. HOME COUNTIES SOUTH - Derek Harris, account director, Golley Slater London

- Tell us about one good thing the recession has caused in your region

The recession hit one of the South East's most successful business sectors - property - early.

Commercial and residential organisations have been dealing with the fallout in the international money markets since 2008 - a full six months before some sectors.

The Golley Slater property team has seen firms that are shrewder with their marketing spend this time around.

Although this is the first recession this century, two in the 1990s provided valuable lessons.

While comms spends were cut according to the cloth this time, organisations kept a minimum level of spend to ensure that they are first out of the blocks when the indexes rise once again.

- What is the best example of campaigning journalism to have happened in your area over the past year?

While there might be more creative examples of campaigning journalism, the Brighton Argus' campaign last year to improve standards for beleaguered rail commuters was old school in approach - and it worked - forcing Southern Railways to change its timetables.

4. SCOTLAND - Christina Kelly, head of office, Golley Slater Scotland

- Tell us about one good thing the recession has caused in your region

It has caused a flight to quality in Scotland, with organisations looking to PR practitioners to provide solutions that offer value for money, but which effectively tackle the challenges they face in uncertain times.

Organisations expect their messages to achieve cut-through in crowded market places without the pre-recessionary budgets that helped make this happen.

This has resulted in the best PR practitioners being more creative and innovative to maximise impact at lower cost, using a variety of tools, for example social media, blogging, partnerships and working with stakeholders, to engage directly with their target audiences.

- What is the best example of campaigning journalism to have happened in your area over the past year?

One of the best has been for a zero waste Scotland, with all 150 daily and weekly newspapers playing their part in encouraging the nation to recycle and cut down on food waste. Recent statistics show that Scotland now has some of the best recycling rates in Europe.

5. MIDLANDS AND WEST OF ENGLAND - Tim Gearey, managing director, Golley Slater Midlands and South West

- Tell us about one good thing the recession has caused in your region

We are seeing significantly more global brands looking outside London for their PR support, realising they can find highly talented practitioners, competitively priced, on their doorstep. We are increasingly handling national launches, brand campaigns, handling crises or offering expert advice on employee engagement or social media to businesses from London and the South East - evidence that marketing directors are seeing agencies outside London in a new light.

6. WALES - Matt Appleby, director, Golley Slater Wales

- What is the best example of campaigning journalism to have happened in your area over the past year?

Engaging the people of Wales in its devolved democratic institutions can be a challenge when many turn to UK media as their main news source. Media Wales maintains the traditions of investigative journalism still in Wales, digging into issues from politicians' expenses to the debate over increased Assembly powers. And with the BBC's launch of Democracy Live this year, there is a new platform for comprehensive reporting alongside existing influential political blogs.

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