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Nicola Burns was recently interviewed by Conference & Incentive Travel (C&IT) for their Five Agencies To Watch series. As well as reflecting on the past year and highlighting our achievements, she talked about agency expansion (through both the Ashfield Meetings & Events and SPARK THINKING brands) and highlighted some plans for 2017.

How was 2016 for Ashfield?

We reviewed and invested in our core service offerings to position the agency for growth, which included the introduction of a hub strategy to align with our clients and their meeting requirements. As a result we moved our US office in Pennsylvania into new premises and are relocating our Indianapolis office into larger space. We also launched our Science Of Meetings approach which offers insight-led personalised healthcare professional experiences. It resonated very well with our clients and has resulted in an increase in the multi-channel communication activity we are now providing.

Nicola Burns talks future plans and agency expansion with C&IT

What were your goals for 2016 and did you achieve them?

We wanted to develop SPARK THINKING as a consultancy and communications brand. In addition to utilising the brand to offer our existing clients a blended team approach, we have diversified by winning financial, automotive, technology and public sector business. Together Ashfield and SPARK THINKING provide a broader, more diverse skill set to our clients and a more powerful communications offering.

We also used the strength of the Ashfield brand in the healthcare sector to expand outside of pharmaceuticals. By adopting a health first and sector second mind-set we have opened doors into health beauty, health foods and nutraceuticals. These represent a significant growth opportunity in 2017.

AbbVie exhibit shortlisted at Experience Design & Technology Awards

What have the biggest highlights and successes of 2016 been?

We were particularly proud that we won a prestigious UK Employee Experience Award for our learning and development programme. This is because everyone in the business contributed towards it and it demonstrates that we put our employees first. We invest a lot of time and resource into providing our employees with the opportunity to have a long and successful career with us.

Nicola Burns talks future plans and agency expansion with C&IT

What are your plans and focus for next year?

We will be investing in new and innovative ways of servicing our existing clients as well as focusing on our new business pipeline. To help drive this innovation, we recently held a future technologies advisory board and are currently exploring how we can strengthen our technological offering with strategic partnerships. Our content team are involved in these discussions to ensure it is aligned with our approach to personalising audience learning preferences; as we reach a tilting point with digital native audiences this is critical.

There is lots of talk about the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the recent US election. Whilst this hasn’t impacted us to date we will be keeping a very close eye on all the external influences that can impact our industry and our clients’ event activity.

Nicola Burns talks future plans and agency expansion with C&IT

Click here to read the interview on C&IT’s website.


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