10 Years of With: We’ve come so far and we’ve reached so high…

17 June 2020

By Debbie Zaman

Someone asked me the other day, “when did you realise that you were doing it right?”. After ten years of running With, there was a lot to look back on and consider…

Early Years

Starting out on day one with one colleague, ‘squatting’ in the corner of a friend’s graphic design studio in Dalston (before Dalston was, well, Dalston) might not be the most salubrious start but it was certainly very exciting. In the only way that having no clients on the back of the worst recession in decades and with two small children at home can be!!

Over those early years things moved a mile a minute. Being shortlisted for PR Week’s new consultancy of the year after just 18 months was a big highlight. I had only been at the glittering PR Week awards once before, with Consolidated Communications, independent heavy weight and darling of the comms industry led by the incomparable Alistair Gornall. I never thought little old us would make it there too. 

Both our first few hires and winning big with brands like Laithwaite’s Wine, WeightWatchers and Cardtronics ATMs really helped us feel we had top quality campaign thinking. A tight knit team of troubadours took our away days in the Turkish restaurants that surrounded us and dreamed of changing the world. 

The Tricky Second Album

The second phase of With saw us move in with some fashion designers across the street in Dalston…a bigger home as we grew. But we wanted to change our direction of growth and knew that we should carve out a specific groove. So we focused on some of the tech clients we were winning, started saying no to FMCG brand briefs and began to build a multi lingual team that could operate right across Europe. Pivoting in that way was not easy…you don’t make an omelette without breaking eggs as they say…but it felt right. A bunch of geeks able to bring their thinking to bear on some of the world’s most complex technologies.

We started growing with our clients into new markets, delivering multi lingual coverage all around Europe and really building a reputation. Our away days progressed to out of town… even though we went to Le Manoir in Oxford, apparently the trip to Southend Pier is the one everyone remembers!

The Third Chapter

As our reputation grew, so did our chance to bag a brilliant and diverse team. We hired a former client (from in-house to agency? Unheard of!) and crept our revenue up over 7 figures. We moved into our own space in the heart of Dalston (the former Gina Shoes factory…SO Dalston!) and started winning business off and against some of the biggest agencies in the world. One of those first few hires from our early days became our MD and the client we hired now spearheads our international operations. We created the With Global Alliance, an allegiance of tech PR agencies from around the world (10 members and counting) and took our away days overseas…letting the team lose in Budapest was amazing. As this ‘goes to press’ we are finalists in PR Moment’s Tech Agency of the Year, Top 30 in PR Week’s Tech Agencies League and the 5th fastest growing agency in the UK according to PRovoke. 

So What Have We Learned?

1. Collaboration works: we have partnered with people and organisations throughout the history of the agency and it has always made us stronger

2. Don’t Dream It, Be It: yes, I am quoting the Rocky Horror Picture show but deciding to go it alone when the economy (and many other factors) doesn’t seem to be in your favour is daunting. But it can be done

3. Coverage makes clients happy. It just does. 

4. Imposter Syndrome is real. And happens to everyone at every level. 

5. Laughter is a great equaliser. Finding ways to laugh with the team (being ready to be laughed at even!) brings everyone together

6. Bring your best brain: no clients get half our thinking, no matter their size. Push yourself. Always. People notice. 

7. Not every good idea has to rhyme or alliterate. Apparently. 

8. Putting song lyrics into byline titles is a game changer. 

9. Even this will pass. There are long nights sometimes, dark dawns too. Running an agency can be lonely and tough. But I refer you to my final point…

10. THE biggest reward of running an agency is seeing a team step into their own, grow and smash it every day. Literally. Couldn’t. Be. Prouder.