PR tends to be considered as a London-centric industry but this discounts the wealth of opportunities outside the capital. With the Northern Powerhouse movement gathering momentum and so many agencies in the North performing so well, we take a look at how businesses in Yorkshire and beyond are stealing London’s limelight.
A journalist by trade, I joined Acceleris from The Daily Telegraph in 2013, where I’d worked as a content editor across the title’s digital platforms as well as the paper. At such a pivotal time in how we consume our media and access our news, it was a great opportunity to explore what was then and still is now a relatively unknown future for the papers that have been institutions for decades.
A Yorkshire girl born and bred, I found London too faceless – ironic for a city with such diversity and so much culture –and it takes itself just a bit too seriously. I was quickly drawn back to Yorkshire, where I began looking at opportunities in PR.
With so many agencies in the region, it quickly disproved the London-centric image that PR only truly exists in the capital. The regional awards ceremonies show there’s a thriving scene in the North and there are digital centres and media hubs popping up across the region’s major cities.
As an agency with a wealth of public and third sector clients, I was drawn to Acceleris and its work in the charity, health and social housing sectors. With a headquarters in beautiful Harrogate, as well as an office on Oxford Street in London, I get the best of both worlds. I have the opportunity to travel to the capital to meet clients and journalists and take part in events, but am able to return to a region with spectacular scenery, a functioning housing market and a thriving cultural scene that gives London a run for its money.
There’s a real danger with both PR companies and businesses that they think London is the be-all and end-all when it comes to a career, in anything. With opportunities in the capital so competitive it’s short sighted not to look further afield and consider some of the non-London agencies.
There will often be better career and progression opportunities, as well as some of the best training and the opportunity to network with the top PR practitioners across the region. You also get to work with regional journalists and publications which are still essential ways of communicating with the local community. PR Week’s recent ‘Top 150 Agencies’ table includes 30 agencies from outside London – showing how regional agencies can hold their own against the London offices.
Working in a boutique agency has given me the opportunity to work closely with experts in their industry – something you just wouldn’t get in a big London agency.
Whilst some businesses might place emphasis on working with a big agency, the reality is that at any agency you will only get one account team and boutique agencies are often able to offer a more hands-on senior team. We work with clients regionally and nationally, and even internationally – where we have held our own against some of the biggest brands and agencies in the world, winning the European Excellence Award for Reputation and Issues Management not once, but twice in the last three years, the last time in 2015 beating off internal teams at BP, Unilever and BASF.
This message should especially be enforced with students – Leeds Beckett has one of the top PR courses in the country but we regularly lose our best talent to the capital. Even when I was at University in Liverpool and Sheffield, I was told the job opportunities are in London. This creates an ongoing loss of talent from regions and a densely populated job pool in the capital, with applications for vacancies becoming increasingly competitive.
That graduates in London struggle to break into such a fiercely competitive industry potentially alienates some of the most talented future PR people – my own personal experience of friends trying to break into the industry left many disillusioned and looking at other careers.
Regional agencies often have more to spend in terms of time and training – we regularly have work experience students in from our local schools and sixth forms and they all get stuck into real jobs, not just making tea and watering plants!
Acceleris also runs the Acceleris Academy, which includes paid internships and placements, as well as internal training for the wider team – with individual staff members often presenting on different client campaigns, sharing knowledge and best practice. Members of our team sit on the regional board of the CIPR, ensuring we keep up-to-date with the latest trends, learnings and opportunities in the industry.
London is often mooted as the place to be, especially for young creatives wanting to work in the media, but with the Northern Powerhouse really taking shape and towns across the country now boasting healthy agency scenes, there’s never been a better time to look at alternatives to the capital for your next career move.