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PR and communications post-Brexit. How will client and agency campaigns change?

11/11/2019

Cherish MD, Rebecca Oatley shares her thoughts…

So the 31st January is the next, no… final deadline for the UK leaving the EU and what the bosses of 1.9 million Limited companies in Britain hope will be the moment that they are finally able to get back to focusing on trading rather than worrying about what will happen next.

Brexit uncertainty and the resultant stasis have caused significant challenges for the marketing industry. According to the IPA Bethwether Report, UK marketing budgets flat lined in Q2 2019, even internet advertising budgets were hit, as forecasted growth was revised, to zero or even worse, cut significantly, as in the case of PR which saw a net balance of -5.2% from +0.0% (source YouGov).

Unlike a recession or downturn in which marketers look for cost efficiencies and smaller, nimble and creative campaigns, economic and political uncertainty means treading water and that causes stagnation because of a fear that any decision could be a wrong one.

We may now have a final date, but communicating in a post Brexit age will have just begun. So what will smart communications teams in-house and agency side be doing to prepare for a post Brexit Britain?

Communicate, communicate, and communicate

One thing that the public needs in a time of uncertainty is information.  Keeping a proactive communications pipeline with clients, prospects and the wider world is important.  Keep up that positive and productive communications.

However, remember that GDPR is still law and we expect that many of the EU rules on data, privacy will still remain. The moral is if it is an EU law before Britain leaves then it will be a British law after we leave.

Hold on to the long term mission but be prepared to plan for extra markets

Life and business goes on whether we’re in or out of Europe. Holding onto that long term mission and keeping focused on your communications strategy is important, agency or client side.

However, make sure that the campaigns you are planning that may contain creative designs, copyright or intellectual property are protected not just in the UK but now also in the EU. In fact, it’s a good idea to think about PR firms that have local representation in each of the markets you are targeting so that ideas are fully considered and protected in the markets you’re targeting.

Cherish is part of the Over There network of companies and has local firms in each of the major European countries so that we can operate pan-European campaigns but with the security of knowing that there is local agency compliance on the ground.

The UK’s highly skilled service economy

PR, like the majority of Britain’s GDP (80%) is service driven. We have a highly skilled service based workforce and good talent is in demand. When there is pressure for good marcomms people it’s tempting to snap up the best talent quickly, but work permits and visas will play an important part of the hiring process moving forward. Ensuring you and your partner agencies have the right processes in place will mean that there are no potential resourcing issues.

Finance and restructuring

We’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to no-deal. Turmoil still looms large and this is continuing to affect confidence and restrict lending. The availability of investment to small UK firms is vital to grow. When budgets are being squeezed, it is easy to squeeze increased credit from partner firms however be prepared to work collaboratively with your agency partners so that your comms team is fully motivated to keep up momentum, and spend time on setting up processes and contracts that will not leave client or agency exposed.

Make Britain Great Again

Unfortunately, over the past few years, British campaigns have fallen out of favour because our national identity has been used for the Leave contingent. As such, brands have become fearful of adding a national element to their PR but as we move through the next phase of Brexit, marketers and PRs need to get to work on giving our campaigns that uniquely British edge, refocusing on improving the perception of the UK globally. Perhaps good brand PR can help to unite the British public on what we can achieve as businesses and brands?

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