Why have you decided to create Eleven Hundred Agency?
Myself and Claire sold our previous agency Johnson King to Finn Partners back in 2014 and we spent three good years working there. When we sold to Finn I had no intention of doing it again but after three years at a much larger firm we both realised how much we missed the cut and thrust of running and building a small agency.
We’ve realised we’re both at our happiest when we’re in control of our own destiny and there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of building your own business.
What is the reason behind the name?
M and C (for Mike and Claire) in Roman numerals is eleven hundred. I stole the idea from a book I was reading called Double Cross by Ben Macintyre (an amazing book by the way).
The book is a true account of the critical role MI5’s spy network had in the success of the D-Day landings. They specialised in turning German spies into double agents. The ‘Double Cross’ system was run by the Twenty Committee, so named because a double cross, XX, in Roman numerals is twenty.
What has been your biggest challenge to date in setting up Eleven Hundred Agency?
I’ve been amazed by how much easier it has been to set up an agency now compared to 25 years ago when we first started Johnson King. The whole business environment – from subscription based cloud services to co-working space and online access to HMRC – is geared up to simplifying the process of getting a business up and running.
Of course, the same challenges remain of getting the word out, winning clients, doing exceptional work and establishing a strong, differentiated brand but that’s the fun of it.
In your launch release you stated that some B2B agencies have been slow to move away from only providing media and analyst relations. Why do you think this is the case?
It can be difficult for agencies to see beyond the day to day work that they are doing, particularly when they are making money doing it. Often it is simply a case of keeping on keeping on particularly when the prospect of moving into new areas seems daunting.
Why are you targeting the high growth tech market?
Tech and professional services are what we know and what we have always loved doing. That is where both myself and Claire cut our teeth and where we have both worked for more than 20 years. We’ve worked with clients of all shapes and sizes but one thing they all have in common is that they are in fast paced, rapidly changing and hugely competitive markets.
We enjoy working in an area where there are tremendous challenges in being able to translate complex technical messages in an accessible, interesting and compelling way.
Do you think that the present growth in niche and boutique agencies will continue in the long-term?
In a word, yes. No matter how much PR services change, and PR is clearly going to continue to evolve and change with the different ways we all access information, there is always going to be the need for talented people who have the diverse skill set needed to shape and tell the story and deliver it to the right people at the right time.
This requires in-depth understanding that comes through specialisation. The ease with which businesses can be setup means many of these people will want to set up their own firms.
Finally, which piece of technology are you most looking forward to getting your hands on in 2018?
An Amazon Alexa that actually understands me when I’m drunk. My daughter bought me the latest incarnation, an Amazon Echo, for Christmas and it is great when I’m sober. Not so much after I’ve had a few.