Fact: In 2004, the Publicity Association of Central England (PACE) raised over £8,500 for its chosen charity, Nabs. In 2005, the organisation is aiming to match or, hopefully, even exceed that achievement for Promise Dreams – a national charity which helps convert the wishes of seriously and terminally ill children into reality.
Another fact: 2004 also saw PACE host a series of events, heavily focused on the much neglected social side to this industry, providing key opportunities for networking with people from all corners of this unique region of the marketing and media industry.
As a voluntary organisation made up of individual members from the business community in the Midlands, PACE plays an integral role in the health, wealth and well-being of the local industry. Therefore, as part of this focus on the Midlands, Adline has met with Paul Fairburn and Sally Edwards – respectively, president and chair of the aforementioned organisation – to discuss the role that PACE plays within the Midlands media and marketing scene.
Outside of PACE, Edwards heads up her own PR and marketing operation, while Fairburn’s day job is managing director of Chrysalis Radio in Birmingham, and it’s here where we meet up over a brew.
“Broadly speaking, it’s a great networking opportunity,” begins Edwards, as she waits for her cuppa to cool. “It’s very well known for hosting a wide range of social events that give members an opportunity to meet with people at all levels – something you might be unable to do over the phone – and there’s also an opportunity to benchmark yourself against other people within the industry.”
The organisation’s reputation for hosting a good shindig may continue to be its lifeblood, but 2005 marks a big leap forward for PACE. In January, the organisation held its pilot training course in public speaking and presentation. It’s the first time PACE has ever been involved in formal training programmes and, as Fairburn explains, it’s something that will hopefully become a permanent fixture. “We’re looking at what value we might be able to add in terms of training. We’ve held our first training course and we’re doing research into what other training courses would be viable and demanded by our members. The first course has been very well received, and we believe courses like this could be of benefit to our members.”
Edwards, adds: “The emphasis on training and education comes from a survey we did into what members wanted from us. While they were very happy with the events side of PACE, people wanted a serious side too – something in the way of professional development.”
While research is ongoing, the positive feedback will undoubtedly see more events organised in the near future. However, Fairburn and Edwards are keen to make sure it’s maximum impact, minimum cost for its members. Fairburn explains: “We’re seeking funding for a training programme from the various government bodies, so we can ensure members have very good value on their training courses.”
Potential topics for courses ranges from media awareness to everyday skills, such as responding to pitches and taking briefs. This variety (along with the countless other ideas being discussed at the PACE council’s monthly meetings) reflects the diversity of the organisation’s members’ list. “PACE is supported by some media people and some agency people,” professes Fairburn. Taking the baton, Edwards continues: “It’s an organisation that brings together media owners and agency people, but it’s an organisation for the whole marketing communications industry – you come across people from all the different aspects and disciplines within the industry.”
PACE has always depended on the kindness of its most vehement supporters and while the organisation is made up of individual members, there are both media and marketing companies which have signed up on mass, and contribute both time and prizes to help PACE events come together. Edwards states: “We’re very grateful for the support we get from our key supporters. One thing people might not realise is that all of the council are volunteers, all of the events are organised by volunteers and we meet once a month to discuss the forthcoming events and where the organisation is going.”
With plans to make training a “second leg” to the PACE offering, the organisation is going from strength to strength. However, 2004 was a difficult time for many in the Midlands, with agency closures, staff redundancies and departing accounts hitting hard. It is important then that the industry mirrors PACE’s strides forward. As the president and chair of an organisation, Fairburn and Edwards are in the perfect position to pass comment on the current state of the local marketing and media industry.
Edwards believes the region has a lot to offer, but feels there are certain client tendencies that are difficult to change. She said: “I think some clients are surprised by the levels of skills that we have in this area, but I think sometimes they like to go to London because they enjoy a day out, and can say ‘I’m going to London’. Despite this, I do think Midlands-based agencies are increasingly being put on the pitch lists with London agencies.”
One of the ways the Midlands has overcome the problem of the lure of London is the increasing popularity achieved by the ever-changing, and improving, face of Birmingham. While pointing out that Birmingham is not the representative of the entire region, Fairburn does believe the developments have had a positive effect on the marketing and media industry. “I think the Bullring kicked it off. People’s views have changed, and I think it’s even made the people who live here change their views of the region. And no longer will a student who comes to study in the area think ‘where do I go to work after I finish?’ – they’ll see that there are some businesses round here that they could work for.
“I think the job of the industry now is to pull the industry up by its bootstraps, and make sure that the companies that are headquartered here don’t go to other cities for their marketing and media needs.”
For details on PACE events, becoming a member or to find out more about the charities the organisation supports, log on to www.pace-uk.co.uk.