Cherish PR are an independent comunications agency based at Barley Mox. They've got some impressive clients on their roster like match.com, eHarmony and the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. Founder Rebecca Oatley tells us about her business, how she's weathered the recession and what's next in store for the boutique agency. 

Find out more about CherishPR at www.cherishpr.com and follow them on Twitter here.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Cherish is an independent communications agency working across print, online, broadcast and blogger channels. Our clients are big brands and new businesses, mostly digital and mobile based who want to achieve big impact PR in a digital age.

We’re really proud to have worked from the beginning with some enormous digital businesses and brands like crowdfunding site Indiegogo, fashion aggregator ShopStyle, watch retailer WatchShop, late booking app HotelTonight, dating sites match.com and eHarmony and lots more. They’ve grown up with Cherish and it’s great to be part of their success in the UK.

Tell us about Cherish PR and how you got started.

We’re actually not a new company at all. We’ve been going for about eleven years and in the Barley Mow for the last two years.  The company was started back in 2003. I was working in the UK’s leading internet PR agency Gnash, running the PR for clients like lastminute.com, Kelkoo and Excite. When the dotcom bubble burst, Gnash shut up shop and so I decided to take a few clients and start up on my own. Although the dot com business seemed defunct, there were some great internet businesses doing really well, like internet dating site udate.com, Cherish’s first client. Udate was sold to match.com in 2003, which then also became a Cherish client. In fact, the UK MD of match.com is still a client today, albeit in a new role.

Interestingly, although the company wasn’t started with a grand plan, we’ve developed one over the years and it’s not about being a multi-national agency. It’s about being a small and experienced team, working with great clients and delivering great campaigns. Working life is much better being a small and nimble team.  For a start, everyone is really close and supportive of each other. There’s no politics but plenty of evenings next door at Sam’s Brasserie. Everyone works hard and is committed to each other and to delivering great work for our clients. One would think being a small business would mean we wouldn’t get the big clients but that’s never been the case. We’ve a really experienced team and that shows and the big brands are keen to work with us as they feel we’re real consultants.

Being small doesn’t mean we don’t grow!  There are twelve of us now and it looks like we’ll grow again in 2015 but it’s managed because we want to keep the team, and the clients we have, happy.

What’s it like settled at Barley Mow?

The Barley Mow is such a good environment for companies like Cherish. For a start it’s a really creative working environment with lots of great natural light, big warehouse style spaces and a buzzy creative community. It’s an environment which really encourages growth and entrepreneurship and that’s definitely rubbed off on our business. We’ve made some great contacts here with companies that can help us do our job better and even helped another tenant with PR for a new app.

Business-wise, what are you most proud of?

It sounds strange but actually I am most proud of getting through and overcoming some of the biggest challenges Cherish has faced, mainly navigating our way through a five year recession. I remember the months in 2007 when the clients literally pulled their PR budgets and we were left with just a couple of clients and a huge new business task. After dabbing away the tears with a few boxes of tissues, we decided that there was nothing to lose and that we had a great product, a brilliant team and we needed to let people know what we could do for them. After just a few months, we had won a couple of clients, enough to keep us all at work and we built from there. These clients have stayed with us ever since and they’re the clients and the campaigns that I am most proud of.

However we also realised at that time that no business however small or large can think the clients that it has will be there forever. Budgets change, people change and the economy changes too. They’re all factors that influence every business however small. So many agencies think 'sales' is a dirty word and proudly state that they rely on recommendations only but that’s just foolish. Attracting new companies and building existing clients are absolutely critical.

How are you funded? Did you seek any outside help?

We started with £5K from my own personal bank account. This was to reassure the bank and cover some of the set-up costs. It’s very satisfying that £5K (and a lot of hard work) has led to the business we are today.

Where do you see Cherish PR in a year's time? In three years’ time?

It’s funny because I am working on a one, three and five year plan at the moment. 2014 has been a year of reinvestment back into the business. We have a good team, a new structure in place, clear roles and responsibilities, procedures and processes, amazing new offices and the infrastructure to grow. That’s what is going to drive the one and three year business plans – managed growth and maintaining profitability. Isn’t that what all good businesses should be aiming for?

What are the most important trends in public relations and how can small business take advantage of them?

I have been in PR for over 20 years and the industry has completely changed in that time, but this change has been significant over the past five years with a new meritocratic media. Digital channels have given rise to new influencers, bloggers, vloggers and social media stars who are passionate about their subject and not just paid to write about it. They’re a much harder group to engage and so PRs have had to adapt their skills to recognise who is influential and then build stories that are going to really interest them. Wine bar PR of the 90s is over - it’s no longer enough to go down the pub with a few journalists and keep feeding them stories. Strategy, skill and creativity have never been more important.

If you weren’t in charge at Cherish PR, what would you be doing? What do you think the rest of your team would be doing?

Gosh that’s a tough question. Before kids, I had plans of giving up PR and training as a marine biologist. I absolutely love the sea and would spend most of my time underwater examining the world beneath the waves if I had the chance. It’s my plan to move closer to the sea in the next 10 years definitely.

We have quite a young team and they are really ambitious. Asking around the office heralds cries of 'advertising', 'music' and 'art'. I think the team are a pretty creative bunch.

What are the most important things for you in an office space? What's your office luxury?

What’s absolutely vital for any creative office and happy team is natural light and loads of it. We have huge floor to ceiling windows in our office and seeing the trees and sky can calm and inspire you. And we have two office luxuries – cake and wine. Chloe and Nicola are amazing bakers so we’re forever scoffing mars bar chocolate brownies or big fat Victoria sponges. Then there’s wine o’clock on Friday afternoon where we celebrate the week with a glass of something.

We’re also indulging now in lots of dodgy liqueurs from the team’s summer trips abroad. We’ve caramel vodka, aquavit, Pommeau and even something from Malta that looks like Ribena. Needless to say that hasn’t been opened yet. Cheers!

Find out more about CherishPR at www.cherishpr.com and follow them on Twitter here.