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Q&A with James Crawford about Starting a Coworking Space within an Agency Office

It’s been a while since I did an interview on SEOno – the last one was with Emma Barnes about selling her blog (you can see all past interviews here). However I recently discovered that James Crawford (@jamescrawford) of PR Agency One had started his own coworking space within his agency’s office and – given that I’m a bit fanatical about coworking(!) – I thought it’d make for a good interview.

In addition to being a fellow State of Digital author, I met James when we were sat at the same table during a UK Search Awards event a few years back. I was chuffed that he was happy to answer my questions about how it was going with his agency’s new coworking space.


Steve Morgan: Hi James! To start things off, tell us about PR Agency One.

James Crawford photoJames Crawford: PR Agency One (pragencyone.co.uk) is an award-winning consultancy that has specialist teams focusing on communications, reputation and digital. We like to measure what we do, be that sales, brand or reputation and we believe that we have an industry leading suite of measurement tools designed to attribute even the most complex mix of marketing. Founded in 2011, the agency is currently the CIPR PR consultancy of the year and has a turnover of £1.5m.

Steve: You recently launched a coworking space within your office. What was the inspiration for this?

James: I wanted to give something back and support people who – like me back in 2011 – want to start and grow a business. Secondarily, the reason for the coworking space is ‘innovation’. By bringing in specialists in their field who are both accountable for themselves and to us, we can ensure we have the highest standard of consultant support, all under one roof. We’ve all seen agencies hire full-time staff in non-core services and often this cost-centre quickly falls behind the industry and stagnates. We wanted to avoid that and always remain at the forefront by working with with and nurturing best-of-breed experts.

Steve: How many people can you accommodate?

James: At the moment just four, but we have plans to extend the office still further.

Steve: What perks do you offer beyond the usual stuff (the desk, the coffee and the WiFi)? E.g. Do you offer meeting room use? Anything else?

James: The main perk is being around one of the UK’s fastest growing, award-winning PR agencies. As a business, the ability to knowledge share is important.

We are also looking for a particular set of skills. Ideally people with a grasp of branding, analytics and website development would be favourable. In return they will win projects from the team here as we are asked for these types of services all the time.

Apart from that we offer the usual: free coffee, water and WiFi.

Oh and did I mention our sun terrace complete with BBQ…

PR Agency One's coworking space photo
Steve: What type of ‘membership’ do you offer? Is it a pay-as-you-go/drop-in-for-the-day type arrangement, or more of an on-going monthly fee? Or both?

James: We offer a monthly £150 per-desk rental. Anything more informal than that is difficult to manage and raises issues on security and health and safety.

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Working Tue to Sat: Pros & Cons of an Alternative 9-to-5

“What a way to make a livin’…”

A few months ago, I changed up the days that I worked in order to try and achieve a better work-life balance. Instead of the traditional Monday to Friday, I dropped the Monday in favour of working on a Saturday. So still five days a week, but different days.

I wasn’t going to bother blogging about it (honestly because I didn’t think anyone would care, haha!), but I told Lee Sharma (@startuplee) about it and he found it really interesting. I’ve also chatted to couple of other people about it as well (including someone just the other day). This got me thinking that it might be worth writing about after all, as there’s some pretty unexpected pros and cons with the whole thing.

MOM desk Prisma image

The habits we all fall into…

I’ve discovered a weird sort of irony in that a fair few freelancers I know went into freelancing so that they could have more freedom and flexibility in their working hours… and yet they’ve gravitated towards continuing to work the traditional Monday-to-Friday 9am-to-5pm routine you get in the employment world.

And I’d done exactly the same thing.

Even though I had the option to work whenever I wanted, it still felt like a weird alien shift in mentality to work evenings and/or weekends instead of weekdays. I guess that’s how much it’s become engrained as the ‘norm’ in our society (non-office work notwithstanding). Heck, I even remember reading a blog post by Dom Hodgson (@TheHodge) – which I can’t find now sadly – where he talked about his freelancing style and that he often worked an 8pm to 4am shift, and I thought to myself how utterly weird that sounded. But hey, if that worked for him, it worked for him – we certainly shouldn’t knock it.

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Community: The Key to Happiness?

This post was originally intended as a guest blog post on behalf of Welsh ICE. However, given that it’s quite personal in nature, we agreed that it’d be a best fit on SEOno instead.

ICE coworking community image
People who know me personally or via Twitter might see me as a (mostly!) cheery, friendly, positive guy. However I’ll be the first to admit that when I was growing up, I wasn’t happy for a lot of my early life… I was bullied in school, suffered from depression as a teenager, and also experienced bullying in the workplace in some job roles that I took on. I’m in my early thirties now and I’m pretty happy about my life and where I am at the moment… And recently, while looking back over key moments in my life, I noticed an interesting pattern in the times that I’ve been happiest in my life so far:

  • 2003-4: Working behind the bar at a live music venue in Leicester (The Musician Pub – I recommend it if you’re ever in the area)
  • 2005-7: Helping to run LULUMS (Lancaster Uni Live & Unsigned Music Society) while studying at university
  • 2013-present: Joining Welsh ICE, a coworking space in Caerphilly (on the outskirts of Cardiff)

In each of these instances I was in a fun environment and working on things that I love, but there was another key ingredient: a sense of community. When I worked at the live music bar, I became friends with my fellow bar staff, the pub managers/owners, the regulars and the performers (especially the locals on the open mic circuit), and we bonded over our love of good music. Similarly, with the live music society at university, I became good friends with other members of the society, the venue owners that we worked with, and the bands that we put on. Jump to the present day and I’m a self-employed online marketing consultant working out of a coworking space, and the people who run it – as well as my fellow members – have become such good friends that they feel like family.

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The Final Fantasy Marketing Strategy: Nostalgia & Back Catalogue Introduction

Note: I’ve tried to keep this spolier-free, but if you’ve yet to start playing Final Fantasy XV and you want to be kept 100% surprised at what’s in store, then it might be best to hold off from reading this post. You have been warned, dear reader.

I recently bought and started playing Final Fantasy XV (FFXV for short), having been a life-long fan of the Final Fantasy series (my first taste was with FFVIII in the late 1990s, in case you were wondering – don’t worry, I discovered FFVII later on, it’s ok). 😉

One thing that’s really grabbed my interest while playing it is how Square Enix (its creators) are framing it: when you start loading FFXV ready to play it on a PS4, you’re greeted with this message:

FFXV intro tagline

“A FINAL FANTASY for Fans and First-Timers.”

It’s the “First-Timers” bit that especially got me thinking. It’s pretty much a given that fans of previous games of the series will dive right in – so it’s interesting to see that they’re also targeting and marketing the game to complete newbies to the franchise.

In this post I talk about how Square Enix’s marketing strategy for FFXV is two-pronged…

First… a bit about Final Fantasy and Square Enix

FFXV cover artFor those of you who are reading this but haven’t ever played a Final Fantasy game before, it’s important to know that they’re not ‘true’ sequels in a series. For example, the characters of Final Fantasy XIII don’t appear in FFXV – it’s a new set of characters, a new world, a new story. However there are similarities – and expectations from fans – of each new FF game, as I’ll talk about below. It’s similar to games series’ like Elder Scrolls (i.e. Skyrim) and Grand Theft Auto – in the case of the latter, the protagonist of GTA IV does not appear in GTA V, although there are certainly ‘nods’ to previous games.

Square Enix has been pumping out FF games since FFI was developed way back in 1987. In recent years however, it has been no real secret that the company has been struggling financially. Some were theorising that they were banking – maybe even relying – on FFXV being a hit, a make-or-break game in the series which may determine their future. Well, reviews of FFXV are good, sales have been strong (in the millions of units), and in the last few days they’ve struck a deal with Marvel, so it looks like they’re gonna be ok (phew). But given this on-the-brink-of-catastrophe feeling they’ve had in recent years, it looks like they have really been pulling out all the stops to try and make their later releases accessible to fans old and new.

Let’s start with the former – us old-timers…

For fans – it’s all about the nostalgia, baby

FFXV carries with it what other games have had in the past… There’s monsters such as flans and behemoths and iron giants. There’s spells like Fire and Blizzard and Thunder. There’s chocobos! There’s a Cid! The gameplay mimicks the previous versions (you have HP and MP, you encounter enemies in the big open world, you level up and get stronger)… You get the idea.

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Looking Back on Your Achievements

Celebratory whiskey image
We all sometimes get that feeling at the end of the working day where you just sit there are you think to yourself: “enh, it feels like I didn’t get anything done today…”

One of my favourite ever blog posts (which annoyingly I can’t find for the life of me now) offered a great tip on this: actually write down what you did that day. That way, despite feeling like you might’ve accomplished nothing of note, you’ll actually see for yourself what you did and therefore realise that you managed to get a fair bit done.

When you’re engrossed in the day-to-day, it can also be easy to forget what’s happened in the bigger picture – such as during a year-long period. As we enter December, take the time to write down your achievements over the past year. Here’s mine from 2016:

  • MOM‘s income increased for the third year running – an increase of around 60% on the previous year
  • I started work with a company that I’d considered a potential dream client for years (Target Group)
  • I continued to get good results for clients… In one instance I helped to increase a client’s organic traffic by 300x in one year (from c. 30 visits per month to over 10,000 visits per month)
  • I spoke at the mighty brightonSEO for the second time (link to talk info, etc.)
  • I was a finalist in the UK Blog Awards for the second time
  • I’ve continued to write for State of Digital, and continue to receive great feedback from my editor
  • I launched Cardiff SEO Meet – we’ve had three meetups so far with turnouts of around 30-40 each time
  • I did a lightning talk for charity and raised over £300 for Climb (Children Living with Inherited Metabolic Diseases)
  • I was invited to give a talk on SEO at the Big Ideas Wales Business Bootcamp (an event which made national news), which was a huge honour
  • SEOno – this very blog – turned 5-years-old, a heck of a milestone in my eyes

And the best bit? We still have a month to go.

Don’t get me wrong – there have been problems, hassles, frustrations and probably an epic fail or two this year, too. But why fixate on that? Learn from it and move on.

How have you done this year?

[Image credit – Heather Anne Campbell]