Loughborough Alumni


6 Aug 2020

Founder of PR agency shares award-winning story

Alumnus James Crawford is approaching his tenth year of running an award-winning PR agency, despite graduating from Loughborough in 1999 with a degree in Industrial Design and Technology.

PR Agency One, which is based in Manchester, works with brands such as Auto Trader, Decathlon and Money.co.uk. The agency is well known for demonstrating measurable excellence, helping brands to track the impact of their marketing efforts. 

James and the team were listed in the PR Week Top 150 and in July 2020, the agency continued its success by winning four gold awards at the AMEC Awards. The agency has also been named PR Agency of the Year by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and PR Moment.

But how did a graduate of Industrial Design and Technology become a PR agency founder, and how did the Loughborough experience shape his career? Here, James tells us more.

“I loved my time at Loughborough - especially the social side. I wasn’t particularly sporty but took advantage of everything the union had to offer. During my final year I had decided that a career in Industrial Design wasn’t for me. I wasn’t too worried as the course was commercially focused and offered so many transferable skills, including presentation skills, business acumen, understanding of product USPs and communication, and a degree from Loughborough University is recognised globally as a mark of excellence.

“During my final year I spent a lot of time sub-editing a music column for Label, the student magazine. I blame fellow alumni Matt Mabe and Toby Jones for goading me to write the column and subjecting students to my opinions on music! if it wasn’t for those two I doubt I would have even got a career in PR. Incidentally both Matt and Toby now have successful careers in the technology and marketing spaces. Matt runs Bulb Studios and Toby leads The Awesome Consultancy.”


So, how do you go from writing for the student magazine, to becoming the founder of a PR agency? James continues:

“It was at Label where I started to enjoy copywriting and after a short stint at Rolls-Royce, working on a helpdesk, I jumped at the chance to write their internal newsletter after the role became vacant when the internal communications person left. ‘Me, I can do that!’ I said. I wasn’t shy at putting myself forward. 

“From there I applied for a number of PR agency jobs, again using the transferable skills of copywriting and internal communications and worked my way up from a junior role. In 2011 I had been left a few thousand pounds after my uncle, Ian, died. I used that as a financial cushion to leave my job and start PR Agency One as I could live on that money for three months.”

Where does the passion for becoming your own boss come from?

“I’d always wanted to run my own company since I was a kid and I was inspired to create an agency that did things differently and measured PR.  I was frustrated with the lack of accountability within the PR industry and had noticed the impact between press coverage and the impact on a client’s website.

“I was a very early adopter of digital PR and SEO and had developed some good skills in blogging and Google Analytics, which taught me lots about how search engines worked. I had the idea to use analytics as a way to measure PR. It was original and ahead of its time.

“Fast forward nine years, we are now a £1.6m turnover organisation with a 20-strong team. I look back on things and think how scary it seemed to graduate into the real world but over time you find your feet and put into practice all you learn. The main thing that Loughborough taught me was resilience, adaptability and confidence.”

Congratulations to James on the success of PR Agency One. You can find out more about the business online.

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