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Q&A with Cat Johnson of Coworking Convos
We asked the marketing maven 7 questions, and she did not disappoint with her answers about coworking, new marketing tactics, and the exciting future of the industry.
How would you describe your marketing philosophy?
Lead with humanness, service and stories. Especially in coworking, which is where I spend 90% of my marketing energies. People want more from brands than generic messages broadcast to the masses. We want to know who you are, what you care about and your vision for your space, community and business. It takes courage to lean into humanness, but that’s where the good stuff is. That’s what people feel. Brands of the future are all-in on community and real connection.
What’s one thing you wish coworking owner/operators deeply understood about marketing?
Marketing is way too important to phone in, dismiss as an afterthought or push off on whoever happens to be around. Marketing is the face of your brand and business. It should be done strategically, intentionally and consistently.
What is your favorite thing about the coworking industry?
How long do you have? The obvious answer is the people. The deeper answer is the power of coworking to transform the lives of members (and operators). The thrilling answer is that we in coworking are building the future of work —showing the world the potential and possibilities for people in an activated, engaged, connected space. Exciting times, for sure!
Who should join The Lab and what exactly does it offer?
The Lab is for coworking space operators and community managers who are ready to work hard to create great content and level up their marketing. The people who absolutely thrive in the Lab are the ones who take advantage of all that it offers: coaching sessions, office hours, worksprints, a resource library, Coworking Convos recordings, a fast-moving Slack and an incredible community of generous, smart and fun space operators from around the world. Lucky me that we have a lot of those people in the Lab. It’s inspiring to watch people’s marketing and space just take off.
What’s a new tactic you’re particularly intrigued by?
The influencer explosion is interesting — especially as I tiptoe around what that means for me and CJ Co. It used to feel like such an icky word, but it’s quickly becoming mainstream as a marketing tactic.
I also love the return to newsletters as a broad marketing strategy. LinkedIn has newsletters, Substack is hot, Twitter has newsletters. The power of email is undeniable. And my own newsletter is the core of our content marketing. It’s the one nonnegotiable each week. Whatever else is happening, I get the newsletter out.
All that said, I really love the timeless marketing wisdom that imbues everything: copywriting, simple language, clear strategies, storytelling, empathy and understanding, making connection. I love to read marketing, copywriting and advertising books from the 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s. There’s a lot of evergreen wisdom and knowledge in them — and it has nothing to do with chasing algorithms.
Can you share an ‘aha’ moment you had about coworking or marketing?
For the first handful of years I was in writing and marketing, I was creating kind of generic content — shying away from sharing too much about myself. But the times that I dared to actually share of myself and my life (including talking openly about grief during one particularly challenging time), people reached out and responded with such enthusiasm, energy and humanness in a way I had never experienced before. That's when I decided I would never go back to generic writing. People are desperate for meaningful connection, but we have to open that door. Leading with humanness has been the driving force of my work ever since.
My coworking a-ha was at GCUC 2015 when my now-friend Tony Bacigalupo asked people to raise their hand if they thought coworking was about dividing up office space for a profit. Not a hand went up. He then asked them to raise their hand if they thought coworking was about something more than that. The room went wild. That was the moment I knew coworking was my home. I’ve been swimming in the “something more” of coworking ever since.
What excites you about coworking’s future?
That the possibilities are unlimited. This industry is set on an insane growth trajectory. As I said, we’re creating the future of work. But within that is a duty to keep the humanness of coworking as our throughline and North Star. We have so many new operators — and more every minute! It’s our responsibility to carry the message and mission of coworking and invite the newbies into our global coworking community so they can find their home here too.
Coworks is beyond pleased to have a partnership with Cat Johnson! We sponsor Coworking Convos and offer all our users a free month of membership in the Lab.