London Love; do you really need a London agency to PR your business effectively?

Perhaps the most successful PR campaign ever is the one that convinced businesses that they need an agency based in London for PR to be effective.

It’s not a surprise really, given that 51% of all PR agencies are based in the Capital; they’d quickly run out of clients, if clients weren’t convinced that ‘London is best’. So is there any merit in the argument, or is this simply a case of PR spin? We take a look…

Why London?

To really understand the London appeal, we need to roll back to the pre-millennium PR landscape and the days before constant smartphone communication. In those days, London was the place to be, simply because proximity mattered and being close geographically to the journalist traditionally meant better results. The PR and the journalist crossed paths in real-life, built face-to-face networks and regularly went for coffee or lunch, and those in PR worked hard to be remembered. Press releases were usually sent by post or hand delivered, so those in the Capital were best placed to glad-hand the journalists who were largely based there too.

Roll on to the current landscape and it simply doesn’t look the same at all. Everything has changed. Staff writers have been replaced with freelancers who live and work all over the UK, magazine and newspaper headquarters have moved outside the Capital to take advantage of lower overheads, journalists have specialised in a subject area or two that they prefer, and everything is much, much faster, with journalists receiving a much higher volume of content than their colleagues of old. What’s more, many of the world-class PRs that built their careers in London have realised they can get a better work-life balance outside of London, so they’ve moved too. Aside from the big national publications, if the journalists aren’t based in London, what advantage does a London agency have compared with its regional counterparts? The answer is very little.

There is another myth at play here too; because London agencies charge more, they must be better quality too, right? Wrong. Regional agencies have far lower overheads and therefore they don’t need to focus on paying overinflated bills, instead they can focus on whether their activity supports the client’s bottom line. That’s not to say that London PR agencies don’t do this too, but a lot of what you are paying for is higher rents, higher living costs and higher costs of operation; nothing to do with quality. There is absolutely no empirical evidence that regional versus London agencies get more, different or better results. Instead, it comes down to the quality of the agency, not to their location.

So you don’t need London. How should you be selecting an agency?

As PR experts, we’ve seen the landscape change and we’ve seen the relationships with journalists change too. We’re far more likely to meet and connect with journalists at specialist trade shows and at relevant events than we are to see them in London. Plus, if there’s a burning need to meet them in London, it’s not like we can’t get there easily enough by train or by car. Add to that the fact that many freelancers are based outside the Capital, and if we’re not meeting them at a trade show, then at least two thirds are met in a location that isn’t London.

So, if you’re not selecting an agency based on location, what should you be selecting them on? The answer is simple; you should be selecting the agency that is the best fit for you and for your budget. Here’s our tips:

  • Do you like them? You can pay a lot of money to work with someone that you don’t get along with and no matter how effective they are they’ll never achieve the same results as someone that you gel with. Pick someone based on chemistry; it’s probably the best decision you will make.
  • Which sector are you operating in? Consider a sector specialist PR for the main bulk of what you do. If you are in tourism, pick a tourism PR specialist – they’ll have the right relationships already established, and you’ll achieve results much faster. If you’re concerned, ask them to show you their results from the last few months and you should see relevant and current publications.
  • What is your purpose and can they deliver? PR measurement is a little insubstantial, mostly because it isn’t direct cause and effect. Look at what you want to achieve for your business and then determine whether the agencies you are considering have the right credentials and evidence of similar results.
  • How big is your budget? If you want to afford the artificial prestige of London, go right ahead, but remember the more you spend on high-overhead agencies, the less time they can actually spend doing the work. Could your budget go further or be more effective if you choose an agency based elsewhere?
  • Are they prepared to travel? If you’re worried about them not being in London, scope out whether they are prepared to travel. Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter how they get the results, only that they do, but if that means being in London, check that they are happy to go there, preferably at the own expense.

Naturally, as a regional agency, you might assume we have a bias (and we do), but we’ve been there, done that with London and it just doesn’t stack. By being regional, we’ve attracted the right calibre of people, can focus on being effective for our clients, not paying big bills, and have the time and connections with relevant journalists that we need. Honestly, our results speak for themselves, so if you want a high-quality, effective agency that doesn’t bust your budget, get in touch – we’re happy to chat!

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