Five years of no fluff, no fillers
Between them, our co-founders Claire Ayles and Mike King share more than five decades of experience working in technology PR. Yet January marks a major milestone in their long careers, as it's five years since they set up Eleven Hundred Agency.
Here’s their take on half a decade of no fluff, no fillers.
Q: Looking back at the past five years, how would you summarise the progress of Eleven Hundred?
Claire: Fast and furious! On day one, it was just the two of us based out of a co-working space. We had two clients, both of which were just embarking on PR for the first time so their budgets were understandably modest. That meant we didn’t take salaries to start with. We just had to roll up our sleeves and get on with the job. Attracting clients and staff when you’re just starting out isn’t always easy but we worked our networks hard in order to get established.
Fast forward five years and we have a team of 12 brilliant PR pros and clients that many large global agencies would be proud to have on their rosters.
Of course, along the way there have been challenges – onboarding new hires during a lockdown is something I hope to never have to repeat – but I get an enormous amount of satisfaction when I think about where we started and how far we’ve come.
Mike: Impressive, even if I do say so myself. We did have some modest growth targets when we started but the rate at which we have grown has surprised even us.
We started Eleven Hundred because we wanted to get back to running an agency on our own terms, focusing on providing exceptional levels of client servicing and a supportive working environment with staff development and progression at its core.
Our success is entirely down to the quality of our account teams and the work we have produced. This approach has enabled us to attract exceptional clients and has fuelled our strong growth.
Q: Are there any specific campaigns that stood out in the past five years?
Claire: We had enormous fun working on a sponsorship campaign for Medallia. It works with solo round-the-world sailor, Pip Hare, who is without a doubt the most inspirational person I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. The team managed to snag a fantastic interview with her and BBC Click on the role tech would play in tracking her mood during her journey. She also received a video from the Master and Commander himself, Russell Crowe, who wished her a happy birthday during the race. That type of stuff doesn’t happen every day, at least when you work in business-to-business PR.
Of course, success doesn’t always require Hollywood stars. We’ve worked on all types of business, vertical and trade campaigns for all shape and size of client. I always get a buzz when I can see that the work we’re doing is contributing to their success.
Mike: There have been so many that it is hard to for me to pick specific examples. We’ve had plenty of variety, that’s for sure.
One of the most bizarre that sticks in my mind was some pro-bono work we did shortly after we started EHA in 2018 to promote the charity auction of a Cryptokitties virtual cat. No, I don’t fully understand it either.
CryptoKitties is a blockchain game that allows players to buy and breed virtual cats. We promoted a charity auction to sell a one-off Cryptokitty, called Honu (the world’s first sea-loving CryptoKitty) to raise funds to help protect the planet’s ocean. That was a memorable experience.
Q: For any aspiring entrepreneur out there – how would you describe success in running a PR agency?
Claire: I was relatively long in the tooth when we started Eleven Hundred. It’s made me think I should have done it years ago, so my first piece of advice is crack on with it.
Other than that, our recipe is pretty simple. First of all, focus on doing a great job for your clients. If they like what you do, they’ll be your biggest advocates so will help you grow organically. Indeed, never prioritise new business over existing clients who’ll immediately tell if you’ve taken your eye off the ball.
Secondly, remember that your business is nothing without your team. It’s their expertise that will drive your company forward, so invest in them both financially and emotionally.
Mike: I’d echo Claire’s comments. First and foremost, make sure you do exceptional work for your clients. For us, this means building a team that has the skills and motivation to do exactly that. We focus on ensuring we have a friendly, collaborative working environment, investing in training, and helping team members to progress and develop their careers.
Q: Where do you see the agency in five years’ time?
Claire: I’d like Eleven Hundred to be a bigger, even better version of what we are now. A larger team with a more diverse skillset will put us in an even greater position to meet the needs of yet more top-drawer tech brands.
The tech market is unpredictable though and it’s inevitable that the boom time of the last few years will come to an end; we’re seeing that already with big tech layoffs. This slowdown hasn’t filtered through to us yet but it might do, so we have to be pragmatic. But if we keep focusing on doing a good job for the clients we have, we know we’ll be in a good place.
Mike: It seems a little dull, but more of the same. As a tech specialist agency, we have plenty of diversity in our client base and in the work that we do, so I see no need for us to change our focus.
Our aim is to continue growing and building Eleven Hundred Agency as a top UK tech PR firm by focusing on what we are good at. I’m not sure that we can maintain the same growth rate that we’ve had in our first five years as we get larger, but steady, managed growth is what we are aiming for.
Q: Finally, hearing all these great things – is there space to join Eleven Hundred?
Claire: 100 per cent! Right now we’re on the look out for an experienced account manager, someone who has worked in tech PR – preferably at an agency – for two or more years. However, ever since we founded the agency, we’ve been on a rolling recruitment drive, so we’re always eager to hear from people of all levels. As long as they’re smart, passionate about PR and are talented writers, we’re always up for a chat.
Mike: As I think we’ve made pretty clear, we’ve been on a continuous growth path since we started five years ago so we are always on the look out for new, high-quality people. Any intelligent, enthusiastic PR professionals who are interested in joining a young, fast growing tech agency should certainly drop us a line.
Thank you, Mike and Claire! To anyone thinking about joining Eleven Hundred Agency, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org