In this episode of Coworking Out Loud, I chatted with Emilie Lashmar, creative director at Platf9rm, a brilliant coworking brand and community out of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, England.
Emilie and I are aligned on so many things around coworking, content and community. We definitely speak the same language.
I’ve used Platf9rm as an example of how to establish a strong and purposeful regional presence for your workspace.
Check the episode out and let me know what you think.
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Welcome to Coworking Out Loud, where we explore the deeper side of coworking, content and community. I’m your host cat Johnson
Hey friends in this episode of coworking out loud I’m chatting with Emilie Lashmar, who is the creative director at Platf9rm, an amazing brand out of Brighton in the UK. Emilie and I are aligned on so many things vision, values, content, community. We had a fantastic conversation and even are considering figuring out how to bottle vibe. Have a listen. Hope you like it.
Welcome to coworking out loud. Emilie, I am absolutely delighted to be connecting with you.
And thank you so much for having me. It’s it’s been a long time coming. So I’m glad that we finally have made this work.
Absolutely. I think the last time we were in the same place was at GCUC UK a few years ago. And we just got to nerd out on content marketing and different strategies. And right away I knew that we speak the same language.
Yet definitely. It was all around mainly around community, wasn’t it? In different partnership and making sure that you’re talking to your core customer. And us, you saw all the all the cool things we were doing on our on on social media? And I think I was yeah, it was very flattered.
You know, let’s jump right into that, because that’s one of the things I wanted to touch on. And I’ll circle back to learn a little bit more about you. But I’m so impressed with platform nine social media, I’m so impressed with the brand. And I’ve used you as an example numerous times in workshops of how to loop in the external community, make them part of your brand, like the way you showcase like how you know you’re a brightoner and different things like that. So will you just talk like some big picture about how you approach content for platform nine?
Yeah, of course, I think right at the beginning because nobody knew it. Platform nine kind of arrived out of nowhere. Brighton and Hove is also for those that don’t know it’s in on the south coast in the UK. It’s only a city, it doesn’t have a cathedral. But we were Brighton and Hove became a city. The Queen let us have it because of the population and the size. But we’re sandwiched between the sea and the South Downs. And it’s quite a unique place.
There is already a really deep sense of community in Brighton, lots of artists, lots of creatives, but also lots of startups and loads of people that want that quick connection to London, but perhaps, you know, one, a little bit of London and Brighton. And platform nine came out of nowhere. The founder had moved down from London and he created platform nine which was the there are eight platforms at Brighton station, and he wanted to create a new destination in Brighton. So thus platform nine The name was born.
And I think when I joined as one of the first employees, my whole kind of marketing and content strategy approach was about really celebrating what Brighton is all about. And Brighton is love a Brighton independent business. And that’s what we were and we wanted to attract other independent like minded individuals. And I think the best way to do that was to celebrate the members that we had, and what made the city so great, and the the traits and the values of the people that live here. So that was really what it was, it was about speaking to people that wanted to make Brighton a better place to live and work, people that valued their life, you know, as a well rounded kind of idea as opposed to necessarily grinding, but also what but people that were also ambitious. So I think it really at the beginning became what sort of directed it was talking to what people want and what people were feeling and what people wanted. And I think celebrating other people’s achievements is always a really lovely way and we record platform nine we are a platform for others, a platform for partnerships and, and so all of that kind of directed the content strategy right from the beginning. It’s obviously evolved since then.
It’s so brilliant though when especially when you say popped out of nowhere. Coworking space operators have to do a lot of educating especially if they’re the first or the first few spaces in a town and I love the idea that you immediately kind of embedded within Brighton instead of trying to drag people to something they didn’t know what it was you were you immediately looped into the larger community and you still do that really well with social and with your content, that it’s really a celebration of Brighton a celebration of the people. And then it feels really like this open door that people can then come check out the space because it’s just an extension of who they are.
Exactly, we’ve always really tried to cocreate with the members and with the team and with other people that I think other organizations, whether that’s a charity, or a cultural organization, or businesses or whatever it might be, but that share sort of similar values. And that kind of helps to strengthen your brand, because you’re partnering and celebrating with them. We always used to joke as well that we wanted platform nine to feel, I wanted it to feel like the Cheers bar, you know, like you walk in, and everybody knows your name, like that’s the kind of feeling I want.
We have a big pub culture here as well. I think we have more pubs per square mile than anywhere in the UK, I might be wrong, but there are so many pubs in Brighton. And in my 20s, I used to frequent them a lot. And when you do that, you end up knowing all the bar staff, you know, people are like, Hey Emilie, or, and when I worked in pubs when I was 18, I would see people park in the carpark and be pulling the pint of Guinness that I knew that they wanted so that when they arrived at the bar, it’s already there for them. And I think that that’s something that in terms of brand, it’s not just really in the strategy, like the content strategy and or social media. Of course, they’re all important in your logo in your in your copy in your messaging, but it really is at every touchpoint. So it’s from that first moment they’ve walked through the door, welcome them, make them feel comfortable, ask them loads of questions, you know, listen to what they’re looking for from that coworking space, and then kind of pin point or direct them or try to help them to get the best out of it. But always making them feel like they’re part of it and that they belong.
Yeah, one of the things I love about platform nine, just from watching from over here, is it’s such a strong brand. But when I see photos inside the space, it feels really warm and cozy. Like everybody’s connecting and knows each other. I think that’s an interesting and sometimes challenging balance to strike. Because we’re seeing more and more super fabulous spaces. And then we’re seeing a lot of community focused spaces. And striking that balance of the two, where it has all the professional amenities and all the things that we members need, but it also feels warm and cozy. That’s an interesting challenge.
Yeah, I think a lot of that is to credit Rich Brett and Nathan’s over we like today who are the architects that said engaged with to design platform nine. And I think that was really part of his he wanted it to feel like Brighton. It’s imaginative, it’s playful, kind of space, Hove. It feels like you’re like a like an adult at like a, I don’t know, it’s like, the walls are like Scratch and sniff like everything’s tactile, you want to touch everything, scratch it, smell it, lick it. Like it’s, it’s, he really worked with the materials of the space or the colors are so considered. And also it’s playful. So wherever you are in the space, you can almost see or you can see something else going on. So you have this kind of you can tuck yourself away and get your head down. But you also have a sense of FOMO. And you’re always seeing something that’s happening or people connecting. And I think that really adds to the that kind of the elusive vibe that is quite hard to kind of do if you just fill a room with desks and chairs and a coffee machine and call it co working like I think you have to be quite clever, and get creative to get to get to achieve what platinum line has. And we’d like to do did a great job with that.
Agreed a 100%. And I’m seeing more and more people are reaching out to me where they’ve opened a space whether as a landlord, business owner, franchisee whatever, they get all the things in place, open the doors, and they’re like, now what, right? Like what do we do now? Like you just said, that elusive vibe that you know it when you feel it. And you also know when it’s lacking and when it’s lacking like I’ve I’ve been a co working member for a lot of years. And I’ve worked out of a lot of spaces, and some of them have it and some of them don’t. And it’s not just a flip a switch kind of thing. Like here’s the checklist of things to do. It’s like an all day everyday kind of thing.
Yeah, I completely agree. There are so many developers that wish like if you could bottle vibe and sell it, you’d make so much money because there’s so many big developers that you know have to have an element of coworking on. I think that’s going to tick a few boxes for what they need in a development. But it just ends up being a bit like flat. And I think but it’s a combination of things. It’s, you know, and and it’s the small subtleties, as well, as I said, made some decisions right at the beginning that he didn’t want to have been to coffee machine, he really wanted to have a coffee grinder in the space to get that kind of coffee culture than the smell of coffee. So it’s, it’s not just about coffee, but it’s about the small subtleties of decisions that you make. It’s about all of the senses that music was so important to us at the beginning, me and Seb would talk about how we would curate the kind of experience when it came down to the playlists, you know, and it’s multifaceted to get it right. And even you’re right, even if you have the checklist, I think it’s all down to seven different things. And also the people that make it what it is.
Yeah, the music like what it is, where it is, how loud it is, is a huge thing. And the coffee machine, I was thinking about this the other day, we have a really nice coffee machine here. And it grinds for each cup. There are days where I’ve been like, should I go in? Or should I work from home today, and I thought, oh, going because I can get good coffee. Like, I don’t think that operators understand that coffee is not just something you check off. It’s like those of us who want good coffee and good tea, it’s a really big deal. It is sometimes the thing that gets us to come into the space.
Yeah, I completely agree. I think we’re also missing out on sort of the events side of things, or the the creating of the community and creating those moments of serendipity, which I think that was a big thing at the at the beginning. And what Rich wanted to do with the physical space, it’s creating these pockets where people, you know, will collide, they will bump into each other, they will have these moments where they they can connect and talk. But events do that really, really well as well. If you can put on kind of thought provoking thought leadership, or events where people can be vulnerable and and connect on a deeper level, or they can be inspired, or they can learn from a workshop or they can feel part of a course like there are so many different types. I think part of why we have a lot of great content and good social media is because we put on a lot of great cultural programming type events as well.
I have noticed that and it you can tell it’s baked into platform because you have that event space, the little amphitheater that I see all the time. I’m glad that you brought that up because I wanted to touch on how you use events to bring in the larger community but also what like what you just said, platform nine really pushes conversations forward. Like you have conversations that may be tricky. You have conversations where people can be vulnerable, you open conversations that are kind of touchy, and I love that I love that you’re doing that it’s really setting a tone. Not just in Brighton, not just in platform nine but for coworking like let’s have some of those conversations, let’s use coworking as a way to move things forward. And I just adore that. Do you want to talk a little bit about just how you approach programming, and also what that looks like. Now I know, during COVID, everything got flipped upside down. So what’s that looking like these days?
Yeah, of course, I think you have to really think about who’s in your space. First and foremost, and what those people come to your space for. If you’re predominantly a coworking space that just has monthly to monthly freelancers, for example, then your cultural program might look very different to if you have a bit more of a mixture. So if you have, you know, startups or scale ups, or much larger companies that might have a hub and use users as a place to have their offshoot so I think thinking around who will be coming to the events, and who is it for? What do you want them to feel when they’re there? And what sort of speakers what topics we have different pillars for our event strategy around connection or physical is really important.
We don’t just like doing events in our space. We also like with going on wild walks and swims or we have a partnership with Kim slay who takes people on these mini adventures so last Christmas, they all went around a campfire and toasted marshmallows or they’ll they’ll go to a secret beach that not many people in Brighton have been to before and they’ll have a swim and there’ll be hot drinks that he will make over a fire and they’re kind of these special moments so but then also do badminton or sports days where you can kind of brings people together. It’s sometimes they can they they have an element of playfulness and fun to them as well that lets you reconnect with that childhood spirit and it makes people feel a little Bit more that they can be who they want to be.
But then again, we do we as you’re right, we do try to challenge ourselves with the types of events. And I know that serve is quite keen to think about what’s going on in the world right now, it is hard to ignore what is happening in the world, and how can we create those types of events where you’re doing it with sensitivity that people are challenged, perhaps in a way of thinking it’s quite easy to be in an echo chamber with social media and, and where you live.
So sometimes trying to have things from different points of view, but able to facilitate it in a way where people don’t feel attacked, and people feel like they’re learning. It’s quite a skill to do that, I think. But we, we also have our socials, you know, you can, you can do all of those types of things. But we’ll always have an activity around that. Because just putting beers out, there are people that don’t drink alcohol, you don’t want to exclude anybody.
So having to think around that diversity of the types of people and to allocate it for them. We recently every year we do Kick Ass Women Festival, which we sell out, it’s 120 people and it’s a full day kind of celebration of all that it means to be a woman or non binary person. We’ll have different people talking about their fields of work, but also what it means to you know, how we can do progression is it is not an anti man day men are invited to come along, we’ve had dads bring their daughters that are 14 and you know, accompany them.
The feeling on the day is is is unimaginable if you’re so proud to have sort of created something like that. And most recently I was away on I’ve been on maternity for seven months. And most recently, Holly and Tory, the marketing manager and Events Manager created work reinvented which was a kind of update on our welcome to work event which we’ve done, which is all around the future of work and thinking around our purpose our people, our you know, our planet, what that means. We were talking around physical space, obviously COVID has thrown up so many different ideals around how and where you want to work. I think it’s really interesting. The power is not as great resignation, maybe it’s a great reevaluation. People are having all sorts of revaluations in their lives post COVID That where and how you work is so important.
We spend so much of our time at work so you better make it work for you not just sort of living paycheck to paycheck or Living for the Weekend. You know, like think about how you can align your work to your greater to the greater good. And then we’ll kind of facilitating those conversations around that. So yeah.
Everything you just said so brilliant. I don’t know what to circle back on. Because it’s all just feels feels like gold. I love that the reevaluation. It’s one of the things I’m very grateful for out of a really challenging time that we’re all just assessing and kind of recalibrating who we are and how we want to spend this this short time we have here. Emily, Let’s chat a little bit. So you mentioned working in a pub when you were younger, what was your entrance into marketing and then into co working? What’s a little bit of your story?
I think it probably starts at middle school when they they took they I don’t know how it happened. But essentially, there was this internet after school club that 10 of my year group of about 100 children got to go to this after school internet club. And that was back with dial up and I think I was like 11 years old. And my dad was very encouraging of this thing called the internet.
I remember, we had a desktop computer in our small little box room upstairs. And I made my first website which was a clipart picture of a lion I think it was 24 pixels Comic Sans Emilie’s webpage and like this awful purple. And I uploaded it to the internet I wouldn’t be surprised if it took you know a couple of hours to upload this very simple page. But I started I was just obsessed internet I’d be viewing sources copying pasting using all of those old school ex page new like live like all of those. And I was always on message boards and community boards for actually for pop punk bands in New Jersey mainly Drive Thru records bands, I was obsessed with them and I was I was like a moderator on the sidelines message board and I was always on AOL talking to Americans and got to go over to festivals in New Jersey when I was 17 and 18 My Skate and Surf festival.
But all of that was possible through the internet and community you know on message boards and and feeling like they’re all my really good friends. So staying up till 4am So late talking to Americans online. So but then I started making websites for bands and artists, friends and creatives, when I was at school, after school in some holidays, you know, making money at 15 making websites and, and I think that entrepreneurial thing of, you know I can do this school is boring, I’m bored at school, I can be doing more of this stuff or I can be helping my friends and taking photos at gigs and doing all of that kind of stuff. So after university, I created Brighton creatives, which was a blog and a platform to help the creatives in Brighton and Hove.
And we would do websites for them branding projects, but we would also do much larger projects. Because creators don’t usually have a lot of money. So you have to kind of do some other some other things to kind of pay the bills. And I did that for six, seven years before I started working at Platform nine. So a lot of the kind of blogging content creation, promotion came from the way that I had activated Brian creators and just a very similar thing, but for startups, freelancers, businesses. So that’s kind of how it led me to where I am now.
We have a shared intersection that I didn’t even know about before this conversation. I don’t know if you know, I spent many, many years working in record stores. So I filed many CDs, cassettes, I feel like probably vinyl to have drive thru records. That’s a fun, fun intersection. Emilie, I have to ask you about a marketing campaign you did at the train station A little while ago. Tell me about that. Because it was absolutely genius as people are questioning commuting, and the whole remote things exploding. Tell the Tell me about that.
So I’m going to give credit where credit’s due. So that was Holly Sangria our marketing manager who, who came up with that brilliant campaign, I had just come back from maternity and she was like, right, we’ve got the stickers, you make the coffee kind of sleeve, got the T shirts and went up to the station. But the whole idea when when platform line first started. And we obviously we have the platform nine names for the night, the platform at Brighton station, there were a lot of train strikes that were happening as well. So people weren’t able to get to work. And this is pre COVID people really staying in the city and knowing what coworking was. So we would have campaigns around, don’t get the train to London or like, shouldn’t say this, but they’re called Southern round, we would call them southern fail, which is probably a bit cheeky, to get people to go into coworking.
But the way that Holly did this most brilliant, kind more new campaign where we actually got to talk to the commuters. We connected with small batch coffee who are there a coffee chain in Brighton and Hove. They have some coworking cafes, but they tried to kind of leave laptops out of it. So it didn’t necessarily feel like a conflict of interest. What we were doing it it was on national coworking day. And I think you’re right. A lot of people still don’t necessarily know what coworking is, I think as a marketer, you will never be able to see your brand from I think you just see it. You’re so in it aren’t you as that you almost can’t believe that people don’t know what coworking is without us and but national co working day, there’s a load of people going in and out of the train station, small batch have a coffee cart, right outside Brighton station.
So you know, we put the sleeves on the coffee and just offered people a sleeve where they could redeem it for a free coffee and a small batch in the city. And on there was a QR code that they could come in for and get a free day pass from platform nine. But you know, it’s that brand awareness piece we got to talk face to face. So it’s almost like that old school flyering we did have to get a flyering license from Brighton and Hove council to do it. You can’t just do stuff like that. But to be able to talk to people direct around why their coworker why they’re commuting where they work was interesting. And actually was chatting to this guy. And I said I’m from platform nine and he went, Oh, I know platform nine I know friends that have membership there. I work for a charity around the corner and I went oh great. Like what do you think about it? He’s like, Oh, you’re not just coworking, you’re a community? And I was I was like, yes thank you like that was music to my ears because I’d had this period of time away from from platform nine and it was just this really great sense of, you know, people really get get what we do and it’s not just desks and Wi Fi. We are a community. So credit to Holly for working out that partnership because it was it was a really fun morning. Obviously we got some people through the doors from a tube.
That is music to the years and I liked the old school like we do so much in digital marketing, so much of it is the algorithm and all the things. A lot of people have success with like a sandwich board or like a campaign like that, where you actually get to talk with people. I love it, and how would you advise people who are trying to create that vibe, that community trying to create a sense so that when someone references their space, they say, oh, yeah, you’re a community? Also, how would you advise operators that are working to, to do that?
I think the first thing I would say is that, I don’t think it necessarily comes overnight, you can’t just call yourself a community and, and hope that it’s going to happen. I do think it takes what what a few of the things that we’ve mentioned, the events, the rather than your, the team that work for you, rather than them, just filling up the coffee machine, like have them kind of integrate in with the members be talking to the members on a on a deeper level to find out what it is that they’re there for, and help them to get more of that. So whether that is just a quiet place to work. So maybe don’t don’t bother them, you know, maybe they just want to come down and put their head so to know what they want, other than somebody might be new to a town.
So maybe they want to know about all of the clubs and things that they can connect with in the city to feel less lonely or introduce them to people, you know that that community, you can’t, you can’t just push down community, you can’t shut it down people’s throats, what you need to do is you need to interweave people create those connections, those introductions, you need to really help people to get what that what they’re coming for. But I think also encouraging people to get involved because I think with community, you can’t just take from a community, I think you need you only really get out of it, what you put into it.
And so I think ways in which members can feel like they’re they’re part of the space that they have a say, you know, we’re so lucky as, as marketers in co working or even if you’re not a marketer, and you’re you’re a sole owner of one is that your customers are right there in front of you. You’re not selling a can of coke to like the masses, you are literally they are they’re like What better market research? Or what more could you want, if you think around be your member centric, so the members are at the center of it all, make them happy, they will tell their friends, they will tell other people that will it’s just a ricochet wave of that. So just ask them what they want. And just give it to them. Like it’s not there, right there. We’re so lucky.
Absolutely brilliant. I always think about that, like, we’re not selling dishwasher widgets or something that your people are right there, you can just ask them, you’re just, if you’re not already talking with them, you’re missing a huge opportunity.
Emily, before we jump off, is there anything you want to add anything that we’ve stepped over?
Let me just think I think maybe about just maybe the differentiators of coworking spaces now that you know, platform nine, open six years ago, there was obviously other coworking spaces, but certainly in Brighton in the market, as you know, we might have been the first of our kind, there were definitely coworking spaces in Brighton beforehand, that were kind of member owned, or slightly different kinds of setups. But, you know, in those six years, we’ve had a lot of new coworking entrants, and I don’t think that’s, that’s gonna end. And I think that really knowing who your audience is, what you stand for, what your purpose is.
So, you know, if you can have a mission or a greater purpose, and you have values and take time to really think about what they are, then you can use that as your kind of your North Star, your guiding light in all of your marketing to make sure that you’re talking to the types of people that you want in your space. I think, you know, some coworking spaces will really focus on one particular sector, they might just be freelancers, they might not have many co working, actually there might be more flex and have more offices, and they do co working depending on how they set it up. So I think thinking about who you want there, why you’re doing it, and you know, writing it down and kind of living by those values and referring back to that mission and trying to communicate that as much as possible, will will attract the people that you want in the space and it will make a lot more of an enjoyable experience. If you’re getting you know if you’re doing that.
Absolutely. The differentiation piece is so important, especially now especially with this like insane growth trajectory for brands but also for members like if it’s not clear who the space is for And I wander in there as a member, that kind of disjointed feeling or unclear vision values vibe, you can feel it and it doesn’t feel like a good fit because it doesn’t feel like it’s for me like it’s a space of belonging. That was so beautifully put.