News & Updates

Confidence returning
Posted on Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Confidence returning

Just had a couple of PR meetings with prospective and existing clients and it gave me clarity on what is truly happening via the world of commerce and industry.

Confidence is returning.

It is not a bluff, over-hype, wishful thinking or speculation based on some sadly misplaced optimism. Confidence is returning to many corners of the South Yorkshire business sphere.

I remember meeting a journalist at one of the national property trade magazines at the beginning of the recession and asking ‘what kind of stories are you after,’ meaning - do you want investment pieces, completion pieces, relocation stories, etc, etc... The response was unequivocal. ‘We want negative stories – counter-cyclical stuff at best.’

This still sits with me as a pivotal PR moment. I understood at that point just how much Public Relations is governed by, and needs to adapt to, the requirements of specific media agendas – but more importantly, it demonstrated how quickly we were all drawn into the despair of recession by the nature of the news which was being reported at that time.

The magazine editor’s logic was understandable - it is a business model after all. The approach was dictated by the level of click-through on the mag’s website for stories of mothballed projects, companies reaching administration, scaling down of developments versus the click through for positive stories such as investments, appointments or contract wins. These stories weren’t ignored – but they would have received second billing on valuable page space.

And throughout that recession investors held tight to their funds, developers shelved their plans and construction companies downed their tools. They were all waiting for the signs of recovery, which are still threatened for many good businesses by the oppressive cash-flow situations earned as a legacy of four years’ slow trade.

And despite all this, we are seeing confidence returning. Knight Frank, a client of ours, recently let the largest industrial property in Yorkshire, the LPP Sheffield building near Meadowhall. This is massive for Sheffield and it is now seeing interest starting to show across various properties through lettings and new investments. We have lots to consider at our PR meetings.

The famous Fletchers Group of Bakeries has gone through a similar process of sitting tight – but they didn’t sit still. Their philosophy was to drive investment within their own business, to plough large sums into state-of-the-art equipment and go for high-profile contracts and it is paying off.

And despite employment figures in the region being lower than the UK average, the swathes of development at Sheffield Business Park, the AMP and the last piece of the puzzle slotting into 3 St Paul’s Place in the Heart of the City, are the kind of measurements we need to keep an eye on as a continuation of this investment will drive employment.

What is key about the confidence returning and the developments I’ve mentioned in this blog? It’s that these businesses had the foresight to embrace public relations and communicate their developments, efforts and tribulations to the wider world. They demonstrated that the confidence might not simply be returning, for the Knight Franks and Fletchers Groups of this world, it never really went away.

LLP Sheffield