Manchester's PR scene: A new creative energy
No longer content to play second fiddle to London, there have been winds of change blowing through Manchester’s PR scene of late as it pushes boundaries and jumps on new opportunities.Manchester’s media landscape, where the world’s longest-running soap opera sets its cobbles and the Guardian newspaper laid its foundations, has been through perhaps the most profound period of change in its history in recent years. From the BBC’s landmark decision to move a huge tranche of its television and radio output from London to the mammoth MediaCityUK development in Salford, to the Manchester Evening News’ disappointing retreat from the city centre to exile in Oldham for cost-saving reasons, the effects have been keenly felt by Manchester’s huge collection of public relations firms – and noted by outsiders too.Take for instance the London-based Frank PR, which claims to be the fifth largest PR firm in the UK. At the turn of this year it opened a Manchester offshoot, dubbed Manc Frank, to capitalise on the city’s burgeoning status as a national media hub. “Manchester is an exciting place to be from a media, client and talent perspective and we wanted to be right at the centre where that fuses together,” explains Frank PR founder, Graham Goodkind.Graeme Anthony, who has worked in PR in Manchester since 2006, is the man entrusted with running Manc Frank on a daily basis. He says the Manchester PR scene had been enlivened by an “influx of new blood” in recent times: “Three years ago, the PR scene felt a bit stagnant, content with playing second fiddle to London agencies and not really pushing the boundaries. But it now feels like we’ve got our spark back and a rejuvenated creative energy.”The sentiment is shared by James Crawford, managing director of PR Agency One, another relative newcomer to the Manchester PR scene. “There is a real feeling of change in Manchester,” Crawford says.“There are countless PR start-ups with innovative new offerings, which I feel are now genuinely starting to tackle integrated communications the right way. We see time and time again national clients turning to PR agencies in Manchester because we can offer an international standard of service without the expensive fees associated, which are inflated by the salaries of Sloane Rangers and expensive central London offices.” Sandy Lindsay, managing director of Tangerine and chair of the Public Relations Consultants Association for the north west, definitely detects a mood of optimism in the city: “Over the last few weeks (literally) I’ve been noticing the winds of change blowing through Manchester PR agencies with those who’ve had a really hard time starting to feel the reins easing up and money starting to flow again, which is great news for the sector as a whole.”A victim of the hard times was Staniforth, one of Manchester’s most high-profile PR agencies, which was abruptly closed by its parent company TBWA in November 2012. Two of its staff, Julie Wilson and Rob Brown, responded by setting up the phoenix agency Rule 5 at MediaCityUK at the end of last year. “The arrival of the BBC and continued growth of MediaCityUK has further boosted the city’s reputation as a hub of creative talent and has undoubtedly created new opportunities for north west businesses and PRs alike,” Wilson says.This arrival en masse of national media journalists and editors means Manchester agencies now have more opportunities than ever to secure widespread exposure for their clients, as Smoking Gun managing director Rick Guttridge explains: “The opportunities afforded by BBC Breakfast and 5 Live in particular are immense if you have locally based clients.” And because some of the UK’s most important news and current affairs programmes are now based in the city, coverage goes far. “The outlets are agendasetting, so often one piece of coverage has a positive spin-off for more coverage and the fact so many journalists are clustered together can often produce a viral effect of coverage throughout numerous BBC programmes taking up the one story,” says Andrew Spinoza, a former MEN journalist who set up the SKV consultancy in 1999. “The BBC move to MediaCity has also helped advance the perception that a London postcode isn’t a crucial requirement for quality,” adds Nina Webb, owner of Brazen. “Some of the best creative minds in the UK are here in Manchester and now that the BBC is here, and many others are following, more clients are beginning to realise that and take advantage of it. The Manchester Evening News [MEN] move is different. I like to see a provincial newspaper based in the heart of the community it represents and writes about. Manchester feels strange without the MEN at its heart.”Kevin Feddy worked at the MEN for 23 years and was the paper’s business editor before leaving to start his own eponymous media relations consultancy this year. He says: “Manchester has everything to offer in terms of being a big, cosmopolitan city with bags of entrepreneurial drive, spirit and vision. Clients getting a good service will be working with firms that know the region’s media well, are accessible and keep close to them, and can provide additional services by drawing upon experts in a burgeoning creative and digital sector which does not exist in other regions.” Lee Bloor, managing director of Label PR, agrees that Manchester’s creative reputation is a huge asset: “Manchester is a PR agency’s dream. The creative mood of the city means we’re never short of inspiration and the same can be said for our clients.” Today Manchester PR agencies can boast clients of national and international scale, but that wasn’t always the case, as Citypress managing director Charles Tattersall explains: “Being a national agency which had its HQ anywhere other than London really wasn’t credible 10 years ago but we now operate in London, Birmingham and Edinburgh. Manchester agencies have worked hard to establish that credibility, and hard work, creativity and focus on ‘bang for your buck’ is what has brought national accounts to the city.” Now, clients coming to Manchester will get “world-class thinking and solutions,” says Havas PR boss Brian Beech. “Manchester agencies are more grounded and straight-talking, meaning we have better client relationships and can offer realistic, cost-effective answers to business problems. We benefit from being close to London thanks to strong rail links, yet far away enough to obtain a UK wide perspective on issues.” If there is one thing to be sure of, it is that the city certainly knows how to promote itself. “This is the best city and the best time to be in PR,” insists Jo Leah, managing director at Weber Shandwick. “It’s tough, clients want more, but we are all thriving on the challenge because we’re savvy grafters who never forget to stand in the client’s shoes.”This article was first published in The Drum's Manchester supplement on 7 June.
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So what makes Tangerine so different?
Our solutions to clients’ communications challenges win awards. This is not, however, where our priorities lie. Your business, its requirements, aims, challenges and opportunities are the cornerstones of our activity. Our campaigns are creative, undeniably, but effective, primarily. We aim to become an extension of your business, enabling you to have absolute faith in the honesty and reliability of every member of your account team.
Yes but PR consultancies always over promise … then under deliver!
We hate this too so we offer: ‘PR with MERIT’, which is a way of pre-evaluating campaigns to ensure they deliver exactly what a client needs to meet their business objectives. So we find out what would represent success to a client, write it down, agree it and then deliver it – simple as that.
But what do your clients think of you?
"One of the things I like about Tangerine is that I know they'll give me the best advice, so it's been very easy to build a trusting relationship that benefits us both. We also appreciate their no-shocks invoicing policy - nobody likes shocks and this takes the 'eek-factor' out of opening bills at the end of the month!" Comms Manager, Dulux Decorator Centres
“From the offset Tangerine has shown immense enthusiasm for what they do and the Atkins brand. Their knowledge and contacts within the national media are second to none and they continuously deliver hugely impactful results.” MD, UK, Atkins Diet
What do you specialise in?
We don’t tend to specialise – we like variety! But we have areas where we are stronger and/or have more experience, including food & drink/FMCG/foodservice, home interest/lifestyle, women’s interest/beauty, fashion, retail, SME B2B, the built environment and anything to do with ‘green issues’.
So what do you offer?
Public Relations. That’s it. It’s what we’re great at and we don’t pretend to (or want to) be able to do anything else!
Our PR offer includes: PR consultancy (honest, business-based advice), social media marketing, media relations (on and offline), event management, Public Affairs, crisis and issues management, media training, networking consultancy and introductions.
See also: Juice Digital – our social media marketing sister agency.
Tell me a little more about Tangerine as a business…
OK… we were launched in March 2002 and we have around 40 clients and 30 staff. Our business is growing, steadily year on year and in 2007, due to client and business demand, we launched Public Affairs and event management offers. In 2008 to strengthen our digital PR capabilities, we employed a head of digital PR and in 2009 we acquired social media specialist agency – Juice Digital.
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