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A Focus On... United Kingdom

VitalStatistics

Population: 62,262,000
Monetary unit: British Pound (GBP)
Capital city: London
Major languages: English
Major religions: Christianity (71.6%), Islam (2.8%), Hinduism (1.0%), Sikhism (0.6%), Judaism (0.5%), Buddhism (0.3%), Other(0.3%)
Ethnic composition: white 86.8%, of which British 81.6%; Asian 5.3%, of which Indian 2.0%, Pakistani 1.6%, Bangladeshi 0.6%, Chinese 0.4%; black 2.5%, of which from Africa 1.3%, from the Caribbean 1.1%; mixed race 1.1%; other 1.5%; unknown 2.8%
Age breakdown: under 15, 17.5%; 15–29, 20.0%; 30–44, 20.8%; 45–59, 19.3%; 60–74, 14.6%; 75–84, 5.6%; 85 and over, 2.2%
Life expectancy: 79.4
Education: 77.7 years; female 81.9 years
Urban/Rural split: urban 79.5%; rural 20.5%
Income per household (USD): -
Broadband internet users (%): -

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Introduction

For much of the twentieth century it seemed as though the UK's post-imperial decline was terminal. Then in the final two decades a remarkable transformation took place as successive governments shifted the country's economic base from manufacturing to finance, media and services. London became arguably the financial capital of the world, and, aided by North Sea oil revenue, the fortunes of UK plc began to improve.Then came the financial crash of 2008. The credit bubble burst and it all went terribly wrong, first for Britain's banks, then Britain's public purse, and finally for the British people. The 2010 election of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition ushered in “the age of austerity” in which growth would be sacrificed in an attempt to pay down the Government's deficit.

It has had a significant impact on the PR industry. Some agencies lost well over half of their revenue in 2009. “The global economic downturn has set the context for the PR profession for the past two years or more,” says Phil Morgan, Director of Policy and Communications at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. “It has acutely affected budgets and employment levels.”

Yet there remains much for PR professionals to do. Crises such as BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the spread of swine flu, have highlighted the need for businesses to plan and deliver effective issues

and crisis communications. The change of Government has ushered in a new approach to communications with the closure of the  Central Office of Information alongside continued public information campaigns on issues including family health, alcohol, tobacco and safety.

Then there is social media. Some proclaim it as the future of PR, deriding those who cling to traditional media. Others maintain the long-established principle of impartial third-party recommendation, and insist social media is merely another channel to consider, and one that in the end may be more a concern for customer service than public relations departments. And finally there are the 2012 Olympic Games to be held in London. With budget overruns, questionable legacy, and profound concerns over transport and security, these have not been without controversy. Yet, they will undoubtedly bring opportunities for brands and a boost to the PR industry. The UK remains the world’s sixth largest economy, and in 2010 the PR industry bounced back. PR Week’s 2011 League Table showed the top 150 agencies growing by an average of 9.24%. The UK’s economy may have taken a battering in recent years, but its PR industry remains one of the world’s most established, most dynamic, and most important.

Working There

In Association With:

Fabric Recruitment

A diverse economy and culture coupled with liberal immigration laws have combined to make the United Kingdom an appealing place to relocate to. Recently however, it has become a little harder to be granted access. Since the economic difficulties, the government has tightened restrictions on foreign workers and jobs are harder to come by; as are work visas.

 

Since 2011, there’s been a cap on the number of visas granted each year.

Overall though (and despite its continuing economic problems), the UK is a welcoming environment for expats, particularly those with specialised skills and qualifications.

 

Red Tape

The ease with which you can obtain the right to work in the UK depends on where you’re from and where you plan to work.

European nationals

Under European law, if you’re an EU national then you automatically have the right to live and work in the UK: providing you have a job lined up and can support any family members who are relocating with you. And, unless your family members aren’t EU citizens, you won’t have to apply for formal documentation to confirm your right of residence.

Non-European nationals

Different rules apply if you’re not from an EU country; it’s likely you’ll need to apply under what’s known as the ‘points-based system’. Depending on what category you fall into, you may also need a licensed UK employer to act as your sponsor during your time in the country.

This employer may also be asked to prove you’re the best candidate for the job, above any other UK or EU candidate.

Points-based system

The seemingly complicated points-based system has five categories:

  • Tier 1 - highly skilled workers
  • Tier 2 - skilled workers with a job offer
  • Tier 3 - low-skilled workers filling specific labour shortages
  • Tier 4 - students
  • Tier 5 - youth mobility and temporary workers
(Tier 1 is in the process of being scrapped.)

Approval is granted to applicants that score the highest number of points. These are allocated according to whether you meet specific criteria to do with qualifications; expected earnings;

sponsorship; English language skills; and available maintenance funds. To put it simply, the more highly skilled and experienced you are in a specific field, the easier it is to get a work visa.

National Health Service

If you want to be able to use the free healthcare system in the UK, it’s essential to register for a National Insurance Card. It involves filling in some forms and sitting an interview so that you can be assigned an NHS number. Once you have this number, you can register with your local doctor’s surgery.

Permanent residency

You can apply for permanent residency in the UK after four years of working full time. Your spouse and children, if you have them, are also eligible once your residency has been approved.

Costs

As with most popular expat destinations, the cost of living in the UK will largely depend on where you live and what sort of lifestyle you have.

Accommodation

As with many countries, paying for somewhere to live can turn out to be a significant monthly outgoing, particularly if you relocate to one of the major cities or a particularly up-market area. However, for savvy expats, a wide range of affordable rental options are available; particularly if you don’t need to be near a city centre.

Rental prices in London vary from around £600 a month for a one bed flat to £4,000 a month for a two bedroom house or flat in a sought-after location. Edinburgh is considerably cheaper than London and there are several locations outside the main UK cities where your money will go further.

Alternatively, you could consider renting a room in a house that’s shared with others, which is a very cost-effective solution if you have to live in a more expensive region.

Most landlords will expect about six weeks’ worth of rent as a deposit. This should be returned to you at the end of your tenancy, providing you haven’t damaged anything. Many landlords also work through an estate agent, which may result in various extra fees for credit checks and admin.

Utilities

As a tenant in a rented property, you’ll almost certainly be liable for your own gas, electricity, water,phone, internet and council tax bills. It’s rare to find properties that include these extras within the monthly rent and the extra costs can soon add up.

You should expect to pay, on average, around £100 a month for water and electricity. Heating is essential in winter and may cost you £50 or more a month. You should also make allowance for council tax, which will cost you at least £80 a month, depending on the value of the properties in your neighbourhood. Other monthly outgoings to factor into your budget include landline telephone, internet and digital/cable TV. Although, if you shop around a little then it’s possible to find some reasonably priced package deals.

Income tax

Bear in mind that if you’ve lived in the UK for more than 183 days you’ll have to pay tax on your income. The rates vary from 20% to 50%, depending on how much you earn in a year. Most expats are assigned a temporary insurance number (emergency tax) until their tax level has been established. Make sure you get in touch with the local tax office as soon as possible; otherwise you may find yourself paying a higher rate on your earnings.

Shopping

The average expat is likely to spend around £40 to £60 per week on groceries. Of course, this will vary according to where you shop and what sort of produce you buy. The UK imports a lot of its clothing and electrical goods and subsequently these items can also be fairly pricey. Cars are affordable and can also be bought on monthly part-payment schemes; however, petrol prices in the UK are amongst the highest in the world so actually running the car may cancel out any saving you’ve made.

Healthcare

Emergency healthcare is free for expats at all National Health Service hospitals. However, waiting times can be long and you’ll still need to pay for dental care. Private healthcare is costly but tends to have shorter waiting lists and a more individual level of care.

Entertainment

How you spend your free time can have a big impact on your finances as going out to eat or drink is quite expensive. A pint of beer may set you back as much as £4.00, while eating out at a restaurant can often cost upwards of £20 per head. Even a single ticket for the cinema is likely to be between £8 and £15.

Culture Snapshot

For most expats, there’s very little cultural adjustment needed when moving to the UK. The large amounts of foreign workers that have relocated over the past decades have given the UK a diverse and exciting mix of people, cultures and cuisines. There are huge numbers of expats from the former colonies of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and well-established communities of Asians, Jamaicans, Africans and Eastern Europeans. You’ll find that, on the whole, the UK is very accepting of foreign nationals and you’re unlikely to encounter any ill feeling in the workplace.

Expats moving outside of the cities and further into the countryside may experience the more traditional, middle-class side of Britain, and there may be less cultural diversity in rural areas.

Weather

The UK has a famously unpredictable climate and ‘the weather’ is jokingly referred to as a

favourite topic of conversation among Brits. In general, you’re likely to see a lot of overcast skies and fairly.

frequent, drizzly rainfall. The winters run from November to March and are known for freezing fog, frost, occasional snowfall and far less hours of sunshine per day than you may be used to. On the other hand, UK summers can be beautiful and hot, and the days are much longer. Most Brits like to take advantage of the good weather by enjoying outdoor activities. Picnics, impromptu football or Frisbee matches, going to local parks and drinking in pub ‘beer gardens’ are all firm favourites.

Safety

Although robberies, pick-pocketing and other petty crimes are more common in the cities and other built-up areas, the UK is actually a very safe destination for expats. As with most western countries, there is a small threat of terrorist attacks. As a result, you may find

yourself subject to long delays, queues and tight security checks at the airports.

Business etiquette

The British are known for being fairly reserved and this extends into their working life. Importance is placed on good manners, punctuality and reserved behaviour and, as a result, business dealings are usually diplomatic, fairly formal and polite. Most business meetings are fairly impersonal and will involve discussions of the agenda at hand with little or no room for personal chit-chat.

For example, specific instructions that you are expected to carry out will sometimes be suggested to you in the form of polite requests. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Brits are soft however: individuality is prized and expats should expect to work with competitive and ambitious colleagues.

Shevaun Cooper

MyMove

Shevaun Cooper

Account manager, Bondy Consulting

When I arrived in the UK during the summer of 2011, I was faced with an economy just coming out of recession, a restricted two year working visa and as most Australians will experience, a distinct lack of journalistic contacts in a vast media landscape.

On the flipside, Australians are lucky enough to have a standing as hard-workers and I’ve since found out also a reputation for being creative and good with the media (due to our lovely voices and enticing accents).

While the last part may be a slight exaggeration, it is true that working in a smaller market like Australia means that the campaigns are local, unlike in the UK where you might have to incorporate a Europe wide roll-out strategy, and on an average week I would be involved in at least one or two media-sell in activities. 

In addition, we had to undertake a large amount of social media and digital activity to take our message globally and with the huge boom in that in the UK, it also gave me a distinct edge.

Since joining as an AM at Bondy Consulting, I’ve found that my skills in media-sell and digital have come into good use; it’s also proved to be a great way for me to wrap my head around the multiple UK media outlets and really understand the various opportunities available to clients.

Coming from a country on the other side of the world has meant that I am able to bring a new perspective and fresh ideas. While I hope to stay here for a long time, when I eventually return to Australia, I know that my UK experience will provide me with an invaluable viewpoint and also exposure to working on big campaigns for highly-respected blue chip clients.

Moving countries is certainly a challenge, but there is nothing quite as exciting and satisfying as having the opportunity to create and shape your own future. 

Media

The UK media industry was convulsed in 2011 by the revelations of phone hacking at the News of the World. It led to the closure of the 168-year old best-selling newspaper, and many proclaimed the end of the Murdoch stranglehold on the UK media. They may be premature. With a circulation of 2.8m The Sun still leads the tabloid market, followed by the Daily Mail on 2m, and The Mirror on 1.2m.

The Telegraph heads the pack of broadsheets with a circulation of 634,000, followed by Murdoch-owned The Times with 441,000, The Guardian with 248,000 and the recently launched quality tabloid i on 184,000. Notable business newspapers are the daily Financial Times with a circulation of 337,000 and The Economist which is a weekly with a global circulation of 1.6 million.

Other notable trends in print media are the growth of freesheets such as  Metro, Shortlist and

City AM, the slow – some say terminal – decline of the business magazine market, and the rise of gossip magazines such as Closer, Heat and OK!

The BBC dominates television with a 33% audience share, only challenged by ITV with 23%. In fact, the only other channel to record double digit share of the audience is Channel Four with 11%. Channel Five has 6% and the rest is split between a highly diverse pay-to-view market. The BBC is even more dominant on radio with 55% of the audience.

The UK has near complete Internet penetration and is one of the most active users of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. “The rise and rise of social media is having a profound impact on PR,” says Jamie Harley, Head of Media Relations at Deloitte. “We are increasingly

generating coverage opportunities via Twitter, as well as gaining valuable insights into the issues piquing the interest of journalists.

”He continues: “While social media brings its own challenges and risks, it can also act as an early warning system for impending issues. For example, we spotted a negative story on Mumsnet 36 hours before it was picked up by the more traditional media, giving us breathing space to prepare our response before the inevitable first journalist

call."

Major Brands

The annual Superbrands report from Interbrand showed these as the top ten brands in the UK: Mercedes-Benz, Rolex, the BBC, Coca-Cola, Google, Microsoft, BMW, British Airways, Apple and Jaguar.

Much like the UK of the early twenty-first century, it is a curious blend of the traditional and the

new. As Morgan at the CIPR observes: “If you read brand books of 10 years ago, it shows that some of the biggest brands of today had not even been thought of.”

Agencies

All the global groups are represented in the UK, and PR Week’s Top 150 had Bell Pottinger, Brunswick, Weber Shandwick, FD, Edelman, Finsbury, Hill & Knowlton, Freud, Engine Group, and MSL as the top ten.

Perhaps the greatest split in the agency world of 2011 is the approach to social media. Some agree with Robin Grant, MD at social media agency We Are Social, who says: “‘With the notable exceptions of isolated names such as Edelman and perhaps GolinHarris, the UK's PR industry has been caught napping by the rise of social media, and the larger shift away from paid towards earned and owned media. By failing to grasp the opportunity this

presented, the PR industry has allowed young upstarts like We Are Social to come along and eat its social media breakfast.”

Others are taking a more cautious approach to this latest trend. Grant may be on firmer ground when he goes on to say: “A much bigger strategic failure is to have stood by and watched while the ad agencies start to eat PR’s lunch and dinner too. With big names like VCCP, Euro RSCG and Beattie McGuinness Bungay integrating PR into their offering, and with well over half of the Cannes PR Lions going to ad agencies, the PR industry needs to evolve quickly.”

Nonetheless, with the Olympics around the corner, a Government led by a former PR man, and its leading agencies growing at nearly 10% a year, the PR industry remains in rude health. As Claire Fowler, Head of PR UK & Ireland at recruitment firm HAYS concludes: “The diversity of the media, maturity of the profession and its professionalism is a key strength of the UK PR industry. It is increasingly well respected and supported by relevant qualifications that are helping it to be seen as a positive career move.”

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