Regional digital media sector comes of age

Being based 100 miles North of London – albeit on a very fast train line – and working principally with specialist media businesses and a range of SMEs in the Midlands, I’ve had two main frustrations in creating digital media and marketing strategies for regional clients. Firstly, the digital agency world is overwhelmingly London-centric, and secondly, there is a complete dearth of standard qualifications and accreditations for digital agencies, creating a minefield for regional small or medium businesses seeking reputable providers to implement their digital media and marketing strategy.  So I was cheered to hear two pieces of news, that should help strengthen the regional digital agency sector, and safeguard regional clients.

The first is Onedigital, a new initiative to bring together existing regional bodies, including Bristol Media Group, South East Media Group and Manchester Digital (see article in NewMediaAge).  I’ve always advised regional clients to choose agencies within their own business community as it is more likely that they will be keen to impress and obtain further referrals.  If the going gets tough – and in my experience most web or digital marketing projects reach this point – it is always helpful to be able to get face to face with your agency at short notice to resolve the problem.  Sometimes 100 miles can feel like thousands…. So I heartily welcome any move to recognise regional digital excellence and promote the agency sector outside London.

The second is an initiative by the IAB to create professional qualifications in the search sector.  From the clients’ viewpoint, the digital agency sector is particularly uncharted, and it is hard to know the reputable companies from the snake oil merchants.  Google Adwords provides some professional credentials in PPC, but most other digital disciplines have no standard accreditations.  This can cause huge headaches for clients when it comes to web developers, a big problem when this is such a crucial long-term business relationship to get right, and a highly expensive one to terminate.  My current advice to clients who are selecting a developer is to go through the laborious process of talking directly to previous clients in a similar business, and listening hard to their experiences.  See my earlier blog on tips on working effectively with digital agencies. It would be fabulous to have a simpler approach!  If anyone knows of any other schemes to help formalise qualifications and accreditations in this sector, do let me know.  I am aware that e-consultancy run plenty of excellent training courses – but what they and other training providers need is the endorsement of a central body – I wonder if this is on the agenda for OneDigital?

Carolyn Morgan’s consultancy business, Penmaen Media, creates practical digital media and marketing strategies.  If you would like to discuss your own plans, and find out how we can help, please contact us.