Careers in restaurants and building sites face the same PR challenge

SKV has long been servicing the leisure and hospitality sector in Manchester. Our very first project in March 1998 was opening the Malmaison Hotel, and we have launched brands which are now familiar city destinations such as Deansgate Locks, The Lowry Hotel and Tast.

Naturally, we work with some of the city’s leading lights and we have provided annual PR support for man-about-town Thom Hetherington’s Northern Restaurant and Bar Show, and this year’s NRB messages involved the number new units opening in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, bucking the recent trend for closures.

In a further reminder that the sector is a significant economic sector, we have supported our client Tomas Maunier, a director of Fazenda restaurants, to explore the parallel skills and training problems facing the leisure and construction sectors in his comment column for Place North West.

Tomas notes that both sectors employ around 3 million people in the UK, and both have large numbers of EU workers – and both are concerned are about what Brexit may bring.

At the time of writing, no one knows which way the Brexit cards are going to fall. But in any scenario, it seems that UK companies, whether in construction or in the restaurant trade, will no longer be able to hire new EU workers at the lower wage levels.

As Tomas notes, it will be business as usual – but with higher salaries in the short-term. However, in the long-term, these sectors will need to make themselves more attractive to young UK workers coming out of school and college.

In doing so, they will have to make some jobs which do not seem attractive today, be a career of choice not just for youngsters, but also for their influencers – their peers, parents and career advisers.

Behaviour change is difficult stuff; trying to influence ingrained attitudes using media relations, even using the ‘nudge theory’ techniques now the favoured UK government approach is a tall order. You can see some of the communications campaigns the Government is proud of here.

It’s a big ask for a few media stories to change ingrained attitudes towards being a waiter or a builder. The future comms challenge in the leisure and construction careers is one which government, business and education will need to respond to in a joined-up way.

Every behaviour change campaign has different key factors, and the task of reaching elusive audiences via ever-changing online channels seems to only get more complex.

Even some basic, and to many obvious, health messages are losing ground in an age of online echo chambers in which disconnected groups ignore traditional public information. There is a worrying drop, for example, in parents getting their children inoculated, due, it’s believed, to fake news on social media.

It’s in this context that media relations can be part of a wider armoury of traditional and digital techniques – but before work begins, it will always need to be backed up by strong research data showing which channels are most effective for reaching their identified audiences.