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Agency looking to the future as it marks 10 years in business

PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:05 19 August 2018

The team from Pier PR and Marketing celebrated 10 years of the business with a party at Ipswich Waterfront. Managing director Kate Bowden Smith is pictured centre. Picture: Warren Page.

The team from Pier PR and Marketing celebrated 10 years of the business with a party at Ipswich Waterfront. Managing director Kate Bowden Smith is pictured centre. Picture: Warren Page.

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When Kate Bowden-Smith founded Pier PR and Marketing 10 years ago, she was clear about the kind of agency she wanted to create.

Her aim was to blend the ambition and quality of the London firms where she had built her career with a flexibility that would allow her to reclaim some work-life balance.

A decade on, it’s a goal she feels she has accomplished, having built her Felixstowe agency into a team of 14 permanent staff, plus freelancers, which turns over around £800,000 a year.

And Pier’s record in the industry appears to back up that judgement – the company has been shortlisted for 10 categories at the latest Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ regional awards, while its client list includes household names such as the East of England Coop, Homepride flour and ScottishPower Renewables.

“I’m really proud of the team what we’ve been able to achieve,” said Ms Bowden-Smith. “When I set up Pier I was at the stage where I wanted to have kids and also an amazing career, so I needed that little bit of flexibility – in London PR agencies that doesn’t happen.

“I also wanted to stop the unnecessary talent drain that I had seen. We’ve been able to keep a lot of talent in the industry by offering that extra flexibility.”

Starting from a spare room in Ms Bowden-Smith’s house, Pier identified early on the key sectors with growth potential in East Anglia, including food and drink and energy, as targets to pursue.

“From the start, they were our focus and we worked to build our reputation in those sectors,” said Ms Bowden Smith.

That meant bringing the skills required into the team before they were requested, often even before contracts had been won.

But the investment did not feel like a gamble, says the managing director.

“You have to take calculated risks. I always want to know what I’m taking the risk for and what the benefit will be, but I know that we have to take risks, invest and develop,” she said.

Pier has seen 61% fee income growth over the past three years - a trend its boss is keen to extend - but Ms Bowden-Smith also wants to focus in future on the agency’s environmental credentials.

The company has already begun introducing hybrid vehicles and is working to cut down its waste.

“We should be doing business in the best possible way,” she said. “We should be as green as possible, and encouraging our clients too.”

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