Sally Rhodes, Grayling - One size no longer fits all

An international agency must speak the local language - both literally and figuratively.

When Huntsworth companies Grayling, Trimedia and Mmd merged in January this year, the new consultancy, rebranded as Grayling, became the world's second largest independent communications firm. Grayling has 900 staff at 70 offices in 40 countries across Europe, the US, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

So how do we address the eternal dialectic of global versus local in PR consultancy?

We must first remain true to the Grayling heritage, a heritage grounded in expert consultancy based on local insight. In the face of globalisation, the local is still important - in many ways local particularities have become more visible and salient. There is no room for a 'one size fits all' approach; there is a need to tailor solutions to the specific needs of clients in different locations. Nowhere is this kind of thinking and approach more apparent than in the teams working in our offices across the UK nations, regions and Ireland.

The strength of this approach lies primarily in knowledge - knowledge of the markets, the commercial climate, the changing face of the media landscape. Knowledge that allows us to understand the geographies that we serve and to 'speak the language', both literally and figuratively, to create powerful and meaningful campaigns.

This knowledge is reinforced by a collaborative independence that lets individuals in each location operate in a way that suits the local climate and markets while drawing on the network across the world, when appropriate. Such independence allows PR consultants in the regions and nations to be effective and remain competitive in their localities. It also adds a credible pool of local and regional expertise to the global offer.

Clients want consultancies to help them navigate challenges, take advantage of opportunities and set them apart from their competitors, wherever they operate. Grayling offers a different kind of thinking for a different kind of world, wherever that 'world' may be.

Sally Rhodes is managing director of Grayling, UK regions, nations & Ireland

1. MIDLANDS - Kate MacNamara, director, Grayling Midlands

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

A focus on new industries and the technologies of tomorrow, whether that's low carbon advanced manufacturing or digital media. I don't believe industry or Government would have rallied so convincingly, or enthusiastically, behind the low carbon push if the economy had been more favourable.

- What is the best example of campaigning journalism in your area?

There has been a definite shift towards more campaigning journalism on behalf of local public services and companies over the past few years, no doubt driven in part by the recession and resulting public sentiment.

In Birmingham we had the Hands Off Cadbury campaign by the Birmingham Mail in support of the Unite union campaign to keep the chocolate maker independent. In a brilliant and valiantly fought battle, Jon Griffin and his team reported with compassion and integrity, galvanising the local community and politicians, and taking the fight to Westminster.

The eventual takeover saddened every Midlands resident, but the Mail undoubtedly played its role in throwing the spotlight firmly on Kraft's handling of the deal and the campaign rumbles on as Kraft chief executives are held accountable for making false promises.

2. NORTH WEST/NORTH EAST/YORKSHIRE & LINCOLNSHIRE - Christine Emmingham, director, Grayling North

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

Regional tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire has put Yorkshire on the map with its campaign to make Yorkshire the UK's top tourist destination. Barnardo's, which supports thousands of children and families, has worked tirelessly to attract corporate support with a series of networking events and tailor-made business partnerships.

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

The northern mentality is tough and pragmatic. The recession has brought out more of that steely determination but also our entrepreneurial spirit and an even stronger belief that the North is a great place to do business. Financial services and manufacturing have held strong, but the recession has made us look more closely at the environment. Yorkshire has been designated the UK's first Low Carbon Economic Area for carbon capture and storage and North Sea wind farms will create thousands of jobs.

3. IRELAND - Rachel Sherry, director, Grayling Ireland

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

Irish food and drinks brands have bandied together to develop the Love Irish Food campaign, which reminds consumers to buy Irish and inject some patriotism into their weekly spend.

Aviva, formerly Hibernian Insurance in Ireland, secured the naming rights to the Lansdowne Road Rugby Stadium, which reopens for business this year. Many rugby fans are refusing to acknowledge the new stadium name and it may not be accepted for a generation or two, but awareness of the new brand name is widespread.

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

Two years ago, business people were indulging in the best food and drink, wanton designer bags and clothes, and accepting silly prices. All this has changed. We no longer accept high prices or rack rates. We are learning to bargain and demand greater value for goods and services.

4. WEST OF ENGLAND - Robert Fenner, director, Grayling South West

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

Bristol International Airport's expansion plans have generated a debate about the need to strike a balance between economic and environmental demands.

Bristol City Council and North Somerset Council have been vocal about the need to develop the local transport infrastructure. This has resulted in a Government promise to cover most of the estimated £48m cost.

And of course, Aardman Animations continues to fly the flag for Bristol.

5. WESSEX/HOME COUNTIES SOUTH - Caroline Searle, director, Grayling South

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

Ikea opened in Southampton in February and you would have been hard pressed to miss that.

- What is the best example of campaigning regional journalism?

The Surrey Advertiser ran a campaign to save a free bus service in Guildford. The ten-week campaign was successful and a private operator was installed.

The Daily Echo in Southampton ran a series of campaigns including Boom not Gloom, championing business success stories at a time when they seemed otherwise thin on the ground.

6. SCOTLAND - Ross Laird, director, Grayling Scotland

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

The Scottish renewables industry has come into its own over the past year with new wave and tidal technologies. Companies such as Aquamarine Power have used PR channels to gain Government confidence and demonstrated thought leadership.

Scotland's traditional finance market has started to turn the corner over the past 12 months, with more positive coverage, though some banks are still beset by negative stories.

7. WALES - Tanya Joseph, managing director, UK public affairs, Grayling Wales

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

Organisations including the Stroke Association, Barnardo's Cymru and MIND Cymru have used briefings, public campaigns, PR and stakeholder engagement, attracting the attention of policymakers and influencers, as well as the public.

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

The recession has thrown into sharper focus the need for 'small and clever' solutions to environmental problems by re-thinking economic growth priorities and involving community groups, businesses and third sector organisations.

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