Looking back on our first two years…
It’s two years ago this month that Aberfield Communications was launched, which has been cause for much celebration here at Airedale House.
Some said we were mad to give up well-paid jobs and launch a PR agency at the height of the recession, when client budgets were being chopped, but we had faith that our approach was not just different to our competitors – it was better. We just had to go out and prove it.
It’s not all been plain sailing – starting a business never is – but there have been many more highs than lows.
Here’s just a few of my personal highlights.
Gaining our first clients
Starting a new business is scary enough. Starting one with no clients, but lots of overheads, is even scarier. Fortunately, we had complete faith in what we were doing and knew (OK, hoped!) that clients would see the same. Happily, they did.
We’ve worked with almost 40 clients in the two years since we started, but it was the first few – the likes of Continuum Group, Leeds & Partners, NG Bailey and Happli – that gave us a chance, and their support helped to set us on our way.
Staying true to our beliefs
And we have stayed true to our Positive Influence positioning. It’s how we approach every client campaign and every pitch. It would be easy to say to clients “we’ll raise your profile and get you lots of coverage”, but that would be a cop out. We’re not interested in AVEs or numbers of followers. PR should be measured in terms of shifting opinions and behaviours, not on shallow quantitative statistics.
It’s been interesting to see how many agencies are now starting to talk about “influence” on their websites. That’s got to be a good thing. And it’s also good that some of the PR award schemes have banned AVEs as a measure – another positive, if long overdue.
Awards can be rewarding
We’re not here to win awards, but it’s still nice when you do. They’re recognition of the fact you’re doing something right, and they’re great for the agency’s profile. They help attract staff, and clients.
We’d had a couple of near misses in the first 12 months, so it was extremely satisfying to win two CIPR PRide Awards last November. Given our focus on Positive Influence, the fact one of the gongs was a special judges’ award for the best use of planning, research and evaluation was even more gratifying.
For those about to tax…we salute you!
If, like me, you’ve relied on finance directors and accountants for all the spreadsheets and form-filling at your companies, starting your own business is a hell of a wake-up call. PAYE, National Insurance, VAT, Corporation Tax…the list is endless, and you need to know it all inside out.
Despite its reputation, HMRC is actually extremely helpful to start-ups. Its website is comprehensive and relatively easy to understand, and its helplines are…err…helpful.
Schemes such as flat-rate VAT, NIC holidays and the recent Employment Allowance are all there to make life a little easier for SMEs, reduce their cost burden in the early years and encourage employment.
The upshot is that we’ve been able to spend less time running the business and more time growing it.
An agency is nothing without its people. Literally nothing. Clients are buying expertise, not widgets. They put their trust in a small group of individuals. The agency is just the name on the door.
So many agency websites are filled with client names and work that was carried out by people who have long since left the building. That expertise goes with them. All that remains is a meaningless case study.
When you look at the clients we’ve worked with, they’re all relevant to the people who work here now, not colleagues from the dim and distant past.
That’s because we’ve focused on building a team with outstanding track records, both individually and collectively, and with the hunger and ambition to make Aberfield the best around. We definitely have a team to be reckoned with.
As we head into our third year, that has undoubtedly been our single biggest achievement.