Laurna Woods, MD of the independently-owned PR group Beattie and Andy Bounds, the FT’s Northern correspondent and enterprise editor, were the guest speakers at the recent Prolific North Top 50 PR Agencies celebration event.
The event and 2014 edition were published and staged in association with theEword and at the event it was announced that research for the 2015 edition of the Prolific North Top 50 PR Agencies will be commencing shortly.
Comms practitioners from across the North came along to hear the two speakers share their thoughts and insight at Barclay’s Escalator tech-hub in central Manchester.
Woods began her career as a journalist undertaking all manner of duties in newspapers before she was headhunted to join PR. Despite her initial reluctance, she grew into the new challenge and in due course “got it”.
The agency she joined as an account executive in 1997 was a modest affair back then, established and run by Gordon Beattie and focussed solely on Scotland.
Over the ensuing years, Woods was promoted through a variety of increasingly senior roles until she was ultimately rewarded with her appointment as MD in 2007 as Gordon Beattie decided to step away from running the agency and focus on business development and spending more time overseas.
Today Beattie Communications reports a turnover of £7m for its latest financial year and employs around 100 staff across its HQ in London with further offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and New York.
Woods describes much of her time over the years as being parachuted into situations; from heading up pitches to solving crises to identifying new office locations.
She described the current year as the best year the agency has ever enjoyed.
Looking both back and forward, she said the agency’s continuing success had been anchored on a few key fundamentals:
- Always endeavour to work with clients who are fun
- Focus on your skills and specialist services wherever possible and constantly strive to improve and enhance those specialisms
- Guard against complacency and always keep profitability to the fore
- Ensure complete transparency in your workings so that clients are always fully aware of what they are paying for
- And finally, work and play hard but don’t overwork your staff (talent).
Andy Bounds was somewhat privileged, he conceded, as the FT is one of the very few national or international publishing titles enjoying both buoyant print and digital sales (recently recording a 21% year on year increase in digital subscriptions) with advertising revenues also robust.
Although the title’s footprint and reflexes are now global first, Bounds noted that, notwithstanding London’s position as one of the two or three leading global centres, he is picking up increasing signs that there is a distinct and growing sense of ‘ennui’ in the capital and that what is happening outside London (in the UK), is starting to attract metropolitan attention.
Some of this attention is being stimulated by a desire for ‘new things and new industries’ and fortunately the North is becoming increasingly successful at generating these sorts of companies he suggested. There is of course still an historical legacy of corporate HQs being based in London and the South East but he noted that in 2014, 25% of the flotations in the UK were undertaken by companies based in the North.
And speaking purely from what he sees going on around him, Bounds added that in this, his sixth year based in Manchester, he has never seen so much activity taking place.
Beyond his patch, other areas that remained of key interest to the FT included commodities – primarily oil – deflation, disruption (from new technologies), the changing nature of employment and work spaces, wealth and entrepreneurialism, China and increasingly reshoring, which in a digital context was generating more Northern interest than was the case a decade ago.
A lively Q&A session took place and the event was ably chaired by Holly Yates of theEword and Prolific North would like to thank Barclay’s for hosting the event.
We look forward to commencing work on the research for the 2015 edition of the Prolific North Top 50 PR Agencies. Jo Iaconianni of Mustard Research will be in touch shortly!