Why postcodes don’t define great PR

Elevate Communication's Mel Deacon makes the case for why, in the world of communications, Brisbane could be the new Sydney.

Great PR strategies and results are generated by great people, whether they choose to work in a high rise building overlooking the Sydney Harbour, or a boutique office in Brisbane.

While practitioners in the industry have probably always known they can deliver exceptional work anywhere – even from home – I have seen a real shift in client perception and behaviour in the last two years. Brisbane is now on the radar for interstate clients seeking PR expertise. The borders are coming down.

The country cousins are city-bound

With $10 billion of infrastructure earmarked for development over the next decade, a global spotlight on the 2018 Commonwealth Games and being dubbed Australia’s incubator for start-ups and robotics, Brisbane is finding its feet on the world stage. Certainly business confidence in Queensland is on the rise, and this helps put us on a par with the ‘big players’ of Sydney and Melbourne, and adds a level of tender and pitch competition that to date has had little impact on the southern states.

Traditionally, agencies wishing to attract the biggest business and the best talent have set up shop in the heart of Sydney or Melbourne, where rent is high and status is perhaps higher. Certainly when leading global agencies such as Edelman and Weber Shandwick pick the Sydney Harbour Bridge for their Australian backdrop, it’s clear why consumer and B2B brands would think bigger equals better.

But while Sydney and Melbourne agencies steal the spotlight, the sunshine state north of the border is stepping out from the shadows and proving great PR can be executed anywhere, regardless of where the client is located.

Even global and national agency brands have identified Brisbane as a place of trading, with the likes of Thrive and Ikon opening a new office in Brisbane, and other major players already established in the market.

As an independent agency celebrating ten years in the river city, Elevate has witnessed a considerable shift in what clients want, and who they want it from, especially over the past two years, which has given us the insight to adapt and deliver successful and award winning work.

Digital vs physical

It goes without saying that digital technologies have played a major part in breaking down state borders and opening up new opportunities. This month alone our team has used Skype and Zoom to speak with clients and key stakeholders in Uganda, Vietnam, the United States and New Zealand – managing interstate clients is a piece of cake.

Speedy flights mean we can also be in Sydney in 90 minutes and Melbourne in 2.5 hours for critical face to face time or to manage events, so while digital technologies support our ‘remote work’, physical barriers are also significantly reduced.

The challenge of the maroon state

Unfortunately being a Queenslander still has its drawbacks in doing business interstate.

Aside from the obvious “Is that 1pm your time or my time?” confusion we battle every daylight savings, we still have to overcome the perception that we really aren’t a small country town any more. Yes, digital technologies have helped us overcome considerable barriers to doing business remotely, but sadly, bigger is still thought to be better.

More informally, great leads and ideas often come from great relationships, and those great relationships are formed when you can drop in for coffee or catch up between meetings. When the majority of creative and PR business is still headquartered in Sydney and Melbourne, it makes it challenging to form sticky relationships with potential partners and clients.

In addition, our local professional development opportunities leave a lot to be desired. Access to expert mentors and trainers are limited to networking events and free Eventbrite workshops on the latest in social media platforms and online measurement.

Our PD budgets for staff need to include flights and accommodation, just to give our team similar opportunities to their interstate PR practitioners.

The same subpar conditions exist in the awards and conferences category. National awards for our industry are largely hosted in Sydney, and attendance is often necessary as a pre-requisite for an award.

This means flights, hotels and time away from the office, when Sydney agencies can drop into these events after work. Brisbane has a host of internationally astute venues that can accommodate such events – but then Sydney and Melbourne staff would have to fly, book accommodation and miss time in the office.

On the flip side, corporates, not for profits and consumer brands are realising the PR industry is competitive, and they know they have the ability to shop around. This means that no longer are Sydney agencies competing against Sydney agencies for business, they’re also competing against us, Brisbane agencies who are no longer the country cousins. And we’re out to prove our place in Australia’s communications scene.

Mel Deacon is managing director, Elevate Communication.


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