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Agency Spotlight: Kevin York Communications

Published on April 5, 2022, at 7:28 p.m.
by Jen Bowman.

Boston is particularly popular in the tech and pharmaceutical industries. However, its consumer industry is starting to grow, specifically with small businesses. In 2020, there were 700,646 small businesses and 1.5 million small business employees in Massachusetts.

Most small businesses already start out with a small budget that goes toward rent, payroll, fees, etc. Usually, public relations is left out of the budget, and with social media platforms such as Instagram nearing one billion users, more and more people are being their own social media managers.

When Kevin York made the move to Boston to be closer to his wife’s family, he also made the decision to bring his PR skills to those who need them, even if they do not realize it.

“What you don’t think about when targeting smaller companies is they don’t even realize PR is a need for them,” explained York.

Kevin York Communications (KYC) is a community-focused PR firm founded in 2014. York’s previous work history includes Edelman and Voce Communications, a Porter Novelli company, both named in Forbes’ 2021 list of best PR agencies in America. York worked on accounts such as The Walt Disney Company, Adobe and HP, which were all ranked in Fortune’s list of the 500 largest companies in the United States.

“I started out at the time when social media was first starting to emerge more as a tool that businesses would use,” said York. “The agency I was with at the time was one of the first to experiment with that [social media]. I worked with Playstation to create the first Playstation blog.”

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

York also worked with Disney in the early stages of its social media program. Eventually, he moved back to the PR side and then began to straddle sides of both agency PR and traditional media relations and social media. After realizing how little the two teams interacted, he thought it was a “disservice to clients” that there was not a more creative way to handle accounts and improve social media at the same due to a “cookie-cutter plan most large agencies use.” And with that, Kevin York Communications was born.

“I wanted to focus on the client service aspect,” explained York, “like ‘What are your objectives and goals?’ Let’s come up with plans that specifically pertain to those instead of going in and saying, ‘Here’s the social media plan we’re going to give you and we’ll tailor it to fit your goals,’ because the goal isn’t always establishing relationships online.”

York revealed he wanted to take a step back and become more focused on clients and what they were trying to accomplish. The firm uses more than just traditional media relations tactics to create its plans for customers. With most of its clients being craft breweries and nonprofits, the firm, just like its clients, focuses on community relations.

York described community relations as the “point of differentiation” between KYC and big firms. KYC understands how to form relationships with “super connectors,” which helps to form partnerships, he said. Prioritizing a focus on community means creating relationships and investing in those communities.

“Our main focus is craft beer, and I don’t think there’s another agency in the country that has the same level of specific industry knowledge on that. Whether it is being invited to give keynote addresses at beer-focused conferences to being interviewed by reporters, the people inside of it see us as experts now,” explained York.

Photo by Jon Parry on Unsplash

Meghan Sullivan is an account executive for KYC and agreed that the firm’s heavy emphasis on community relations is what makes it so unique from its competitors. She explained one of its recent campaigns with a brewery involved creating a beer series with cans highlighting different elements of the city the brewery was in. For example, one of the staple elements of the city was a factory in town, and they decorated the can and named it after the factory. This strategy caused people to come into the brewery while learning more about the city, ultimately benefiting the community.

“Massachusetts is home to some great breweries with such awesome people working there. That’s what made me fall in love with my job — the people and the content we’re helping them make,” she said.

Another way KYC emphasizes community relations is by taking on a pro-bono account every year.

“As PR people, we have a specialized skill set that especially nonprofits don’t have, so we help them out and treat them just like we would a paid client,” explained York. “It has been really gratifying for the whole staff to have the opportunity to work with those nonprofits.”

During the pandemic, KYC made the decision to not charge clients such as breweries, who had to shut down their taprooms, in order to invest in client relationships. Even though KYC went through most of 2020 doing work for free, York claims it was a “pretty good year.”

“We’ve become portfolio advisors for some of these breweries,” York said. “We tell them styles they should be making, gaps that could be filled in the market and help them give back to the relationships they have, which has really taken us deeper into those clients.”

York’s advice to anyone looking to make community relations in the PR field is to “dig into your career early on because that’s where you’re going to form most of that baseline level of knowledge.”

As its website posits, Kevin York Communications knows “your story is important” and wants to create the best way to communicate it “effectively and clearly.”

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