PR professionals across the North came together in Manchester yesterday to network and hear key industry insights from an incredible line-up of speakers.
At the morning event, held at Impossible Manchester, Prolific North editor David Prior welcomed talented attendees from across the North’s PR scene. He said this was a “timely” event and despite the fears around an impending recession, “there are opportunities, as there are in all economic downturns” for the PR world.
For the first time, guests were able to see Prolific North’s inaugural Top 20 Fastest Growing PR Agencies list, which we are delighted to reveal today.
It follows the recent publication of 2022’s Top 50 PR Agencies ranking, compiled with our independent research partners Mustard, where we found 20 of these PR agencies were displaying some impressive growth.
David Prior, Prolific North editor and chair of the event.
Kicking off the event, Steve Miller, Membership and Commercial Director at professional PR body PRCA, took to the stage. After providing an overview to PRCA and its presence globally, he said three weeks ago if he asked members the three challenges they face they would have said “talent, talent, talent”. But now, “three weeks is a long time in this crazy world of ours”, adding that “talent, economy and talent” would be the main three challenges.
Victoria Pourzand, Senior Director and Media Relations at Asda, then joined David Prior on the stage. She led the PR for Asda through its proposed merger from Sainsbury’s and currently oversees a team of 16 in-house PR staff.
Victoria Pourzand, Senior Director and Media Relations at Asda
On the proposed merger with Sainsbury’s, she said it posed a really interesting dilemma between brand and identity as consumers can be “tribal”, associating who they are with how they shop.
In 2021, TDR Capital jointly acquired Asda with Issa Brothers. Fuelled by an “entrepreneurial spirit” of the brothers who have “built their business from the ground up and really want to drive this business forward,” it has led to a “real gear shift” at the supermarket, she said.
“It has been really liberating for the business and for the messaging. I’ve seen a huge amount of newness that we’ve been able to strive for,” she said, pointing to a number of initiatives such as Asda’s recent low-cost essentials range, brand partnerships and working with influencers.
When it comes to challenges, she said Asda recognises its important to acknowledge how tough it is for customers amid the cost of living crisis.
“It’s really difficult out there at the moment for many families, particularly for those on fixed incomes. They don’t have any more growth opportunities in their earnings.”
Following a short coffee break, David Prior welcomed Rachel Gladwin, co-founder at international PR agency Tigerbond, to the stage. Tigerbond works with clients such as Specsavers, Tesco and Vue Cinemas.
Rachel Gladwin, co-founder of international PR Agency tigerbond
In 2021, Beattie Communications completed an MBO and rebranded to Tigerbond following the resignation of former chair and original founder Gordon Beattie as he faced criticism for a “tone deaf” social media post.
Gladwin, who has worked in the PR industry since 1998, explained what happened last year throughout the agency’s “reputational issue”.
“Very quickly Gordon held his hands up and realised it was time to step away from the business,” she said. “We didn’t think he’d ever retire. The idea was about accelerating a succession plan that he already had in place.”
She explained how after a vote, the management team at the agency came up with the idea of the MBO and rebrand to “reboot” the agency with “different values”.
“Starting a fledgling agency was risky, was scary, but we all agreed it was the best thing to do. Over the course of a few nights we were burning the midnight oil, we had to name the agency, brand it, create a website and we held a mirror up to ourselves in terms of diversity. That is something that’s incredibly important for the new agency.”
Now, the agency has expanded its digital team “rapidly” with a number of senior staff set to join the company before Christmas.
When it comes to times of uncertainity, she said clients have “always turned to PR in times of budgets cuts and restrictions”.
She added that brands that continue to invest will “most likely recover more quickly and prosper after a recession”.
David Prior then revealed the top 20 fastest growing PR agencies, followed by an insightful panel session featuring:
Lee’ann Kaufman, iseepr founder and CEO
Allie Dransfield, Head of Business Development at Chapter II (formerly HRM)
Anna Wilson, Chief Digital Innovation Officer at Tangerine
Anita Pace, Managing Director at Pace Communications
The first issue discussed was remote working. Anita Pace at Pace Communications said it’s difficult to have a culture with people sat behind screens and that it was “right” for the agency for get back to the office as soon as possible.
Allie Dransfield at Chapter II (formerly HRM) agreed, pointing to how the agency is now back in the office five days a week. For Anna Wilson at Tangerine, although she echoed what the others said, the agency encourages three days in the office to give staff flexibility.
On challenges to overcome with budgets or clients, Lee’ann Kaufman at iseepr said as with every business, costs have increased but is not aware of any clients needing to cut budgets and is seeing an overall positive picture in the tech sector.
All of the panel were in agreement that client budgets appear to remain steady. “PR tends to be higher up the food chain. Everyone’s budget is stable,” said Anna Wilson at Tangerine.
Coming out of the pandemic, the panel shared the view that it has become more competitive when it comes to attracting talent.
Acknowledging the cost of living crisis, focusing on retention and nuturing staff are all key to weathering the storm of the “great resignation”.
Finally, Anita at Pace Communications said the role of PR is “more important than ever”. “We should see this time as a huge opportunity.”
“It is at the heart of any business, clients understand that now,” added Allie Dransfield at Chapter II.
Many thanks to everyone who attended the event and of course, our incredible line-up of speakers. We can now announce the Top 20 Fastest Growing PR Agencies – well done to everyone who made the list!
Following Prolific North’s 2022 Top 50 PR Agencies ranking, the 20 agencies below all displayed some incredible growth. The figures are anchored on financials from the last full financial year, alongside a number of factors such as headcount and clients compiled by our independent research partner Mustard.
The Prolific North Top 20 Fastest Growing PR Agencies 2022