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Boom town Belfast

Northern Ireland is famous (or infamous…) for many things, but being a hotbed of public relations is probably not one of them. That looks like it could be set to change in the coming years, with agencies and practitioners here regularly producing work that puts us firmly alongside our peers in London, Dublin and more.

PR in our country has been on the up for a while now. We’ve always been a creative bunch, coming up with the ideas that gave birth to the penalty kick, the pneumatic tyre, the defibrillator, and the Titanic (she was fine when she left here…) while also playing host to Game of Thrones and now this creativity looks like kickstarting a bit of a PR revolution on these shores.

Some of the work coming out of Northern Ireland these days is, quite simply, brilliant. The days of CEOs posing with cardboard props for a picture that lands in the business pages are slowly being replaced by increasingly innovative campaigns for global brands, in the UK market and beyond, by agencies based here in Belfast.

Our friends at JPR’s work on the launch of the Upsee generated global press coverage, the team at Smarts Communicate’s clever campaigns for Diageo brands are consistent and brilliant and Aiken PR’s work with McDonald’s helps form UK PR strategy for the brand. Clearbox works with a handful of the world’s biggest retail and entertainment brands while also creating some cool campaigns for local companies.

These are just some examples of ideas and strategies that are born in Belfast but executed around the world.

If campaigns aren’t enough to convince you that Belfast’s PR scene is booming, then take a look at our awards cabinet.

JPR has won international accolades for its work and Smarts has been recognised nationally for its campaigns. The team at Clearbox was named New Consultancy of the Year by the PRCA at 2015’s awards gala in London. Just this week, Smarts, Serious PR and ourselves were shortlisted for the PRCA’s DARE Awards. We’re genuinely standing alongside our peers in the UK and beyond and it’s a fantastic time to be involved in PR in Northern Ireland.

The awards may be starting to roll in and the ideas are getting bigger and better, but what is it that makes Belfast an increasingly brilliant place to work and do business? For me, it’s a number of factors from our finances to the people.

From a financial perspective, to be blunt, Northern Ireland is cheap. Our overheads are lower than pretty much anywhere else in the UK. These cost savings can be passed on to clients, offering obvious advantages.

Our location is also a big plus point. An hour from London by plane and two hours from Dublin on the train, Belfast is perfectly placed to offer a PR service for organisations looking for representation in the UK and Ireland. We trade in Sterling here - you’d be surprised how often we’re asked that - so there are no exchange rates to worry about for UK-based clients.

The final thing that makes Belfast a great place for PR is the people. We’re mostly a friendly bunch over here, willing to help in any way we can. A rivalry does exist between agencies and practitioners, but we’re all still willing to help each other out when we need to. I really like that quality - we’re madly competing against each other for business, but we’ll still have a pint if we see our peers in the pub.

In summary, London is the reigning global hub of PR and the place where lots of amazing work takes place. However, there are a few heirs to the throne springing up around the UK and Belfast is definitely one of them. Watch this space.