25 June 2012 - 12:24pm | by Weber Shandwick

Manchester: leading the line instead of following the leader

Manchester: leading the line instead of following the leaderManchester: leading the line instead of following the leader

Weber shandwick MD Jo Leah looks at how Manchester has become a thriving cosmopolitan city by leading the line rather than following the leader.

There’s a magic about Manchester that comes from the city’s ability to fire the imagination and mix cultures and ideas without losing sight of its historic identity and desire to drive change.

And the pace of that change is incredible. Things happen in Manchester.

‘Apprenticeships’ are creating parliamentary and national buzz. Manchester City Council committed to finding places for 300 apprentices in 100 days. It happened. MediaCity was a vision to develop and retain the city’s talent. It happened. The BBC has moved and a landmark digital and media university is opening. The city’s typical ‘togetherness’ swelled after the 2011 rioting and people talked of doing something. It happened. Within hours people were taking to the streets to clean up the mess and the ‘I LOVE MCR’ movement was born. It epitomised another Manchester moment that continues to go from strength to strength, promoting pride and profitability across the city.

Manchester has always done its own thing to become a thriving cosmopolitan city, nodding to the capital, but forging its own links with Europe. This is exemplifi ed by the stature of both Manchester football teams, who drew an international TV audience of 600million for the recent Manchester derby and which captivated football fans globally as they battled for the Premier League title on the last day of the season. Not to mention that they are able to attract some of the best players and brand sponsorship deals from across the world.

Over the last five years the digital and creative sector has been growing at a faster pace in Manchester and is outperforming the national average.

The city is a byword for creativity and home to the largest community of digital and creative businesses in the UK outside London. It is home to some of the best companies in Britain and around the world and Weber Shandwick is proud to be one of them. The Manchester office has been one of the consistently best performing offices in Europe for 15 years and continues to develop campaigns which are benchmarked as best practice across the WS network. And you can see why, when the thriving, entrepreneurial, talented team attracts international brands like IHG, Aldi and PZ Cussons. The team also recently launched Creation – a full-scale end to end production facility.

It is fully supported by a CEO who is proud to hail from Salford and is a self-confessed ‘Manchesteroholic’. He’s open about his respect for a city that remains free thinking, proud to be different, unafraid to challenge and innovate, and to lead the line instead of following the leader.

This is a culture he drives with determination and shares with colleagues internationally. It infectiously creates passion, enthusiasm and pride. It takes innovation to challenge and break boundaries and set standards.

Everyone accepts there has been a paradigm shift in communications environment. We have moved into a more participative era of marketing which focuses on engaging audiences. The lines between channel disciplines and stories are increasingly blurred. There is no off button and everyone is a potential influencer.

Conventional ways of working won’t cut it. We have to interact with audiences and listen to what they want instead of telling them what we think they should have.

Social and digital play a huge part in this quiet revolution – the number of Brits with internet access has more than doubled in the last few years. Everyone is connected. Social media and developments in mobile technology have accelerated the rate at which information is shared and influence grips. Together, these have redefined communications.

But communications also needs a more emotional approach as we look to develop deeper relationships and engage loyalty. Imagination not information has become a driving force as we seek to do this.

In the industry we are all constantly innovating and looking for ways to do things differently and better. We believe engaging always is an effective response to changing times and changing needs. But then everyone has their own ideas about what they rate and what they don’t, and so time will tell if we got it right and if our drive and determination to be engaging always is effective ...

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