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How Brexit is affecting PR

It is a brave person who starts a Brexit conversation, as there are such strong feelings about the impact it has had - both personal and economic. So let’s not dwell on whether it should ever have happened, but instead look at some of the positive, as well as the negative, effects it has had on the PR industry.

It exacerbates the PR talent shortage

Mark Pinsent, managing director, Europe of PR agency The Hoffman Agency: “First, let me be clear: I’m not a fan of Brexit. I can’t think of a single benefit that it’s brought to the UK.

“That said, on the list of industries impacted negatively by the decision to leave the EU, PR comes a way down the list. Words and images transmitted electronically aren’t, thankfully, subject to the same import and export controls as physical goods. At least not yet.

“As a people-based industry, however (AI isn’t quite there yet…), the major concern should be more restricted movement across borders to work. We already know that talent scarcity is a significant challenge, and Brexit is only likely to exacerbate the issue.

“As a resident of France for the past 20 years, and a huge advocate of living and working in different cultures, if Brexit has stopped even one PR professional from making the same decision, it truly is a disaster.”

There is a lot of legislation to learn

Louise Austin, COO of agency Absolute Digital Media: “Brexit has impacted the PR industry in multiple ways; some more obvious than others. Crucially, you must understand how your clients’ business has shifted as a direct result.

“This could be how they operate, logistics with product lines, trade agreements and how we can best help them navigate the media, stressing the importance of client communication.

“Naturally, there is a level of uncertainty, including data protection as the general GDPR has now been replaced by the UK GDPR meaning agencies and businesses must adapt and comply with new strategies. Likewise, as the industry has scaled, there is now more competition from other countries and so UK-based companies must find a way to propel themselves ahead of their direct competitors.

“Whilst there are challenges ahead, there is also an opportunity to grow with many more businesses looking to expand their online presence across multiple markets in a bid to establish their brand as leaders of their field.”

It encourages the industry to explore global work

Ellie St George-Yorke, director at PR agency Definition: “In the immediate aftermath of the referendum outcome, we did see caution and scaling back of projects from some of our European clients, especially in industries which found themselves to be political hot potatoes such as commercial fishing.

“Overall Brexit has challenged us to look beyond our neighbours across the channel and to explore opportunities working with clients on a global scale. It has brought with it changes to legislation and unpredictability in the business world which could have meant it would be more challenging for PRs to plan and execute longer-term campaigns. However on the whole we’ve found quite the opposite to be true and actually clients have been keen to increase activity, explore new channels and communicate proactively to continue to grow through the uncertainty.”

The falling pound makes services more expensive

Emma Hull, PR manager at agency Liberty Marketing: “We use some software that come from out of the UK; Buzzstream, Hootsuite and Muckrack. With the pound dropping at a daily rate, these services are quite often more expensive for us on renewal than the previous year, due to the terrible exchange rate that’s gone on since the word Brexit was created. We need to seriously consider which services are vital to getting our clients coverage and results they need and want, and which ones aren’t just ‘nice-to-haves’.”

Comms is in plenty of demand

Kristof John, marketing consultant: “Manufacturing, financial, insurance and political PR had a field day and influx due to the desire for people in business, and consumers, to know how Brexit affects them.

“That’s obviously more prevalent for journalists, publications and publicists both here in UK and across Europe, but certainly something everyone has had an interest in. It’s also meant that manufacturing, freight and logistics and property too have been able to either positively or negatively attract PR and exposure.

“I work across manufacturing and hospitality and both have obviously been impacted.”

It has made working in EU countries a logistical nightmare

Guy Clapperton, founder and lead trainer at media training agency Clapperton: “Post-pandemic I’ve been getting requests to media train in different countries again and of course we no longer have freedom of movement or the right to work in different countries. So I went onto the HMRC website and into the chat because there was nothing on exporting services, only goods. I asked where I could find out about selling services overseas and the response came back “HMRC.COM, chat ended.” It had literally hung up.

“When I’ve been approached to train internationally I’ve therefore approached individual embassies and consulates. Some of them say I need to register even for a day’s work, some say I’m covered for “meetings” but not if I’m planning to get paid.

“The classic image of the media person is of someone who thought leaving the EU was a bad idea. I admit I fall into that category, but I can accept that my lot lost the vote; what’s so difficult is that seven years on there has still been no clarity over how businesses are supposed to function internationally if they don’t fit into a neat little box marked ‘goods’.”

Back in 2018, PRmoment wondered what affect Brexit would have on PR, and predictions were mixed. Five years later, the full impact of leaving the EU is still not clear, but at least some PR experts are managing to focus on the opportunities it presents… after all, if PR can’t find any positives then that really would be horribly depressing!

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