IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Communications thrives outside of London. What do communicators say are the challenges and benefits of living and working away from the UK’s capital?
Amanda Coleman, head of corporate communications, Greater Manchester Police
I am a northern lass born and brought up in Greater Manchester. It is something I am proud of and although I am a frequent visitor to London, I have never made the move south for work. There is a thriving digital and creative industry in the north west and I am lucky to be part of it. We have Media City on our doorstep, amazing universities turning out would-be communicators, people with lots of ideas and a lower cost of living.
Despite all the positives, there are many challenges including that fact that it appears to take longer to get from London to Manchester than it does from Manchester to London! People are less willing to step out of the capital to come ‘up north’ and most events, conferences and PR industry meetings are held in London. At a recent meeting a London- based communicator talked about the ‘provinces’ in a dismissive way. I would challenge anyone based in London to come out of the bubble to see what is happening in regions around the country. Some of the most innovative, thought-provoking and creative communication is happening in towns and cities around the UK. Getting people to recognise that work is one of the biggest challenges.
There is a huge opportunity for the regions in 2017 with the arrival of directly elected mayors. It has the chance to put some of the power back into places outside London. We will have to wait and see the impact that this has on PR, communication and the creative industries.
Gemma McCall, relationship director, Made with Trust
I am an adopted Mancunian. Personally, I love living and working in Manchester and wouldn’t have it any other way. However, this life choice definitely comes with some challenges and the main one posed to regional communicators is undoubtedly resource. Not only are teams smaller and therefore overstretched, but we are also incredibly underserved in our access to training an events. This is a really big problem that needs to be addressed by the main bodies representing comms professionals. Having regular access to fairly- priced training and networking events to help people build their networks would be incredibly valuable.
It has long been a frustration of mine that activity is overtly focused on the capital. This puts regional communicators at a real disadvantage as they can ill afford the budget to travel to London, not to mention the time it takes to travel.
This is why I have started my blog Communicate and Engage. The blog exists to give internal communications professionals based in Manchester a place to find out information about the training and events being held (sporadically) in this area by all the different bodies. My ambition is to and join the networks that operate in silos together so that people can see a full calendar of events and have better visibility as to what is available to them.
Advita Patel, communications manager B2B, Manchester Airports Group
I’ve lived and worked in the north west all my life. I’ve been quite lucky with roles in Manchester and I’ve worked in some great places gaining a huge amount of experience. However, working in an in- house role outside of London can be lonely. There were hardly any networking opportunities for internal comms professionals, none that didn’t have sales pitch behind it anyway.
I joined Twitter and started connecting with people who had a genuine interest in internal comms. That’s where I found out about the CIPR Inside committee. I went along to the annual AGM and decided to volunteer to become part of the committee alongside Gemma McCall. We were determined to bring some networking opportunities to the north, so in 2015 we held our first event at Manchester Airport to great success.
Since then we’ve held various events in the north- west on different topics, with CIPR Inside support. We want to do more of these over the coming months and also look at bringing more courses and conferences to regional areas by working together with different industry bodies.