Chalk Newsletter: October 2021
This month we feature a recap of Chalk so far and a profile on Eastbourne-based marketing communications agency PRG.
How can Chalk help you in 2022?
We thought it would be useful to take stock of what we have achieved so far and would like your help in where we go next. Read on to find out how.
We started the Chalk project as an idea in 2019 and now we are two years on.
We started out with bold ambitions of putting on a digital industry conference for the town of Eastbourne (and the surrounding areas) to show off what Eastbourne has to offer.
We wanted it to be fun, engaging, insightful, and definitely not stuffy.
We held meetings with the council and MPs about the event and we had high hopes of bringing together a local digital community.
We quickly scrapped our plans for an in-person event in 2020 and 2021 and, after mulling over the idea of a virtual conference, we decided it just wouldn't cut the mustard to achieve our aims.
So, since then, here’s what we have been doing:
- We launched a simple website with our aims and objectives for the Chalk project.
- We started to conduct interviews and write profiles on different digital businesses and career journeys in Eastbourne. These can be seen in our past newsletters.
- We built up a newsletter of digital business owners, staff and people who were interested in the digital community.
- We made some stupid, and some great, videos about our aims.
- We spoke to a number of local businesses and organisations through our podcast, Chalk Talks.
- We spoke to many secondary schools and colleges in Eastbourne, to educate the careers advisors on the jobs that are available locally and find out what we could all do to better support young talent.
- We collated some digital careers advice for students and added this to our website.
- We updated politicians on the digital community that actually existed on their doorstep, so they could fly the flag for Chalk. MP Caroline Ansell appeared in one episode of Chalk Talks too.
Have your say - in-person meet-ups for 2022!
We would like to hold our first in-person meet-up in the spring - not a huge digital conference, to begin with, just a chance for us to get to know each other over some nice food and drink.
But what else would you like these in-person events to be? Do you want networking? Sales opportunities? To hear case studies from growing digital firms? Hear inspirational stories? Attend learning seminars?
We have lots of ideas, but need to hear from you.
So, in preparation for next year, this is what we are asking from you:
Email us and tell us the types of events you would be interested in attending in the future from Chalk and a digital community.
It could be something we have listed above, or something we have not thought about before.
Let us know.
Garry & The Chalk Eastbourne Team
This month we caught up with Simon Groves from PRG to find out more about him and his company.
Tell us about your company?
PRG is a second-generation family business that was started by Simon's father, Ray Groves, 41 years ago. Ray was a journalist, working up in London, who could often be found writing press releases in his notepad on his daily commute. Realising his strength in PR, he one day decided to take the plunge and set up PRG.
Over the years, the business offering has grown from purely PR to full-service marketing, with graphic design, web design and digital marketing incorporated under that umbrella.
Its office today is based in Eastbourne town centre with a team of nine handling the full marketing mix in-house. They also work with a network of freelancers when additional support or specialist skills like photography are required.
PRG has "a real pedigree and strength" in their PR offering, which really sets them apart from their competitors.
The name PRG has one of two meanings: "PR Groves" or "Publicity Ray Groves" - something Ray himself could never really decide upon. Either way, it works! Today, Ray remains Chairman of the business but no longer has a day-to-day hand in the running of the company, although you may occasionally see him at an event stand.
PRG is truly a family business - not only is there the father and son connection, but Simon met his wife Jo at PRG 17 years ago too. They also appreciate that everyone in the team has their own families as well, so Simon ensures there is flexibility for people to never miss a parents evening, or watching their child swim, or other important events.
Tell us about your clients?
PRG works with a broad mix of clients. Typically the more national companies, which make up about 60% of PRG's business, give them free rein to handle all of their marketing with a retainer budget in place. Other regional or smaller companies may just need a website, brochure, or social media campaign as an ad hoc project.
Most of PRG's clients are B2B; they have quite a pedigree in building services, logistics and fire and security. Their biggest client is Chubb Fire and Security, for which they handle the UK PR, marketing and design. PRG also work on specific campaigns for Chubb such as their wireless fire alarm and smoke alarm systems and their connected services package that they launched back in the summer.
PRG also works with Johnson Controls, a global technology and industrial leader. Their Building Management Systems division partnered with PRG to deliver a pan-European digital marketing campaign to strengthen its distribution channel. The microsite, paired with digital and traditional marketing methods, secured an impressive 5% conversion rate (more on this case study here).
More locally, PRG work with Go Plastic Pallets in Eastbourne; the largest distributor of plastic pallets in the country. PRG are supporting their growth trajectory at the moment and have driven Go Plastic Pallets' sustainability and recycling campaign which is starting to be recognised within the industry.
Simon is also a director of Eastbourne BID, helping to champion and publicise local initiatives including Eastbourne's first ice rink.
How much have things changed in the business in the past 18 months?
PRG already had plans in place to start upgrading their IT; the pandemic accelerated this change so everyone is working in the cloud, on laptops, and can work from home or from the office.
The nature of their business means that working in the office is better, in terms of idea sharing as well as being in the town centre.
Simon says they don't take anything for granted now, as "anything can change in a heartbeat". He finds himself perhaps a little more cautious now but also very conscious about looking after his team: the challenges faced have made PRG a stronger team.
Two new recruits have joined PRG in the past six months, an account manager and digital marketing manager, who have been keen to get stuck in and work in the office.
Any advice for people trying to start working in marketing?
Qualifications and experience will certainly help, but as well as having a good general understanding of marketing, Simon advises cultivating a specialism of some kind within marketing, such as PR, branding, or design. This will help you stand out.
If you are able to work somewhere even for a little while for a lower wage, Simon explains how gaining this experience can really help you to add value to yourself in a competitive market.
As an example, one of their recent hires, Robbie, joined PRG as a Digital Marketing Executive a few months ago. Rather than going to university, he completed an apprenticeship through Creative Process Digital after leaving Eastbourne College and then worked in digital marketing at Brufords before starting at PRG.
When the business started, Simon's father found it a bit of a nightmare being based in Eastbourne, especially with clients all over the country. But now, it doesn't matter where you're based thanks to online video communications.
Being in Eastbourne allows PRG to stand up against London agencies and offer a London-quality service at out-of-London prices. Operational costs are a lot lower, even compared to Brighton.
Most of the staff live in Eastbourne or the surrounding areas and can easily get into work with good parking.
This all sounds great - are there any vacancies?
Not at the moment - but check PRG's website regularly or feel free to send Simon your CV which he can keep hold of until a vacancy arises.
Funding options now the furlough scheme has ended?
With the furlough scheme now at an end, you may be looking for tips to aid your business recovery and help with working capital.
The Recovery Loan Scheme has been created to help businesses recover and grow following the COVID-19 pandemic, The loan, of up to £10m per business, borrowed over three months to six years can be used for anything including cash flow, investment and growth.
Let's Do Business Group are an accredited delivery partner of the Recovery Loan Scheme for the South East, providing loans of up to £150,000 under the scheme. Applications close on 31st December 2021.
Digital medical practice in Eastbourne first of its kind
A revolutionary medical practice has just opened in The Beacon, Eastbourne, where 70% of the services available are online offerings. This service is the first of its kind to open in the UK and is a walk-in based practice.
In addition to consulting rooms, a large area will be used for exhibitions and interactive events that will be open to visitors.
Lead GP Dr Mark Gaffney said: "This is a really exciting development for us and Eastbourne. Not only can patients see GPs by coming into the surgery but they can access all our services online.
"Anyone who needs support to access services online will be able to get advice and help from a team of on-site specialists so that our services are accessible to everyone."
Initially, the practice will open weekdays only for patients of Victoria Medical Centre, former patients of the walk-in centre at Eastbourne Railway Station, and university students.
Talent Fest is back!
Talent Fest from Wired Sussex is back with a five-day event from 15-19 November, to boost our region's thriving digital industry and to help businesses hire, nurture and keep the most talented people. There are some events online and in-person, including workshops, digital leadership forums and showcases spread across the week.
What makes you feel connected?
Strong relationships and connected communities are essential foundations for tackling loneliness and developing overall community wellbeing.
Local authorities in East Sussex, the NHS, the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VSCE) sector and others are working together – with the help of Collaborate CIC – to understand how to better support connected communities.
To do this, Collaborate CIC would like to hear from as many residents as possible. Your responses to their survey on what connection means to you will help Collaborate CIC to develop an approach based on real experiences of living in East Sussex.
If you complete the survey you could win one of two £50 shopping vouchers in their prize draw! The survey will be open until 7th November 2021.
ONE LAST THING
As always, we welcome any news stories, case studies or events to include in our forthcoming newsletters. Just email us or add us to your PR lists.