PR: An attention seeking business

By Ged Henderson

04 Dec 2023

Team Viva 2023

Lancashire’s PR professionals have a strong story to tell as they continue to make their own headlines in the industry.

The storytellers continue to gain clients from across the UK, and in some cases overseas – often going head-to-head against bigger, big city-based operations.

For many of Lancashire’s PR agencies and consultants the key to their success is sector specialisation and a keen focus on exploiting that expertise and knowledge to raise the profile of their clients and build their brand.

Rossendale agency Viva was ranked in Prolific North’s Top 50 PR agencies for the first time this year and was the only Lancashire operation on the list.

Tony Garner, Viva’s founder and managing director, says: “Making it onto the list tells me we’re going in the right direction - the next stage is to make sure we climb higher.”

Its work with Rossendale Council to promote recycling behaviour change also saw the agency lift a prestigious national public sector PR award this year – taking on and beating the likes of Transport for London.

Viva PR was set up in 2002 by former journalist Tony and today has a wide portfolio of clients.

It has a long-established relationship with BAE Systems and the Eurofighter Typhoon consortium and has built strong specialisms in healthcare and the public sector.

Tony says: “We are all about building strong and collaborative partnerships with our clients. In today’s multi-media world, the industry is about delivering return on investment and impact and measuring that accurately.

“We are very much focused on that measurement of output and impact and delivering something meaningful for our clients.”

Viva, which has a 13-strong team, has grown its turnover 20 per cent year-on-year for the last five years. Tony and his leadership team of Lisa Woodhouse and Lucie Rohani are now looking to continue on that course.

He says: “We’ve barely scratched the surface and there are real opportunities out there.”

He adds: “My message is there are great PR agencies in the county that are every bit as good as those in Manchester or London.”

Based on Preston’s Winckley Square, PR and communications consultancy Freshfield is another award-winning agency. It has a 10-strong team and a wide client base.

Chief executive Simon Turner says: “The Lancashire creative and marketing sector is probably the strongest I have ever seen it.

“In-house teams are growing, attracting leading industry professionals, agencies are becoming more specialised and stronger, and we are seeing new entrants, which is always healthy.”

Freshfield focuses on a small number of sectors and Simon says its specialism is attracting clients from across the country. He says: By focusing we are often in that valuable ‘first to be asked’ status for pitches due to fact we have the know-how and insights to solve a big business challenge.”

And he adds: “We are seeing more organisations work with multiple agencies to tap into focused expertise.

“The spirit of collaboration between Lancashire agencies is strong too. I have my own agency peer network and I’m seeing more Lancashire agencies competing on a national level. And it’s not due to price, it’s due to expertise and results.”

Preston and Blackburn based PR agency Limitless has a core team of 10 consultants and then a wider network of 50.

Michael Gregory, director of the business, said: “The sector is performing reasonably well, and we have a community we can be proud of.

“However, I do believe that there is an uncertainty in the wider economy that might be causing organisations and businesses to apply slight pressure to the brakes, but at the same time, many businesses realise that they don’t need to go to the bigger cities to find the expertise they want.

“We’ve seen that first-hand, and clients are more comfortable dealing with agencies closer to home that have the expertise they want.”

He adds: “Agencies that are doing well are specialising in specific sectors and by doing so have formulated an excellent proposition that’s attracting clients from out of the county, and in our experience from overseas too.”

Simon Couchman is managing director and creative director at ICG Strategic Marketing Agency based in Warton. His business takes a different approach.

An integrated agency it seeks to offer a range of services to its clients as a “marketing partner”.

Simon explains: “A key part of our pitch is our ‘one agency, one brief’ approach which means we can make life easier for the client. Whether it’s plugging gaps in their own resources or working on specific campaigns or projects, we can provide a range of marketing support.”

Enjoyed this? Read more from Ged Henderson

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