By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Dylan Jones says he grew up in Northern England wanting to be a journalist. After a year working as a show biz reporter during the era of the Spice Girls and the second British music invasion, he says simply, “I hated it.”
Today, Jones is part of a five-person team of highly seasoned communications strategists who formed a new Knoxville-based, globally-focused firm named Boldsquare. Joining him in the venture, founded last May, are Jeff Hooper, Mark Kroeger, Ron Fuchs and Deb Mitchell.
“Together, we have 180 years of experience of helping businesses be better at communicating their message,” Jones says of the team focused on helping executives with complex business problems.
To further underscore the new firm’s focus, he says, “We’re not a public relations firm, although we do use PR as a tactic from time to time. We’re driven instead by a problem-solving ethic, helping businesses solve complex issues with engaging employees, aligning a board of directors, or creating a solid go-to-market strategy. We focus on things that stop CEOs (Chief Executive Officers) from sleeping at night.”
Jones already had an impressive corporate background when he moved to Knoxville in 2014 to join Scripps Networks Interactive as Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications. Previous stops included communications leadership roles with MTV and Music Choice in the United Kingdom, before moving to the major music company EMI where he ultimately led global corporate communications, based in New York. There, he worked on a series of high profile M&A and legal issues, as well as big consumer initiatives such as the launch of the Beatles’ extensive catalog on Apple’s digital platform iTunes.
A year after joining Scripps, Jones was promoted to Executive Vice President and Chief Communications Officer where he was part of CEO Ken Lowe’s executive leadership team. In that role, he was heavily involved in all aspects of the acquisition of Scripps by Discovery Communications.
Knowing that he would be one of the exiting executives when the acquisition closed, Jones had a year to decide what was next for him. “If I was ever going to do anything entrepreneurial, I felt that now was the right moment,” he concluded.
So, where might he help start a new business? Why not Knoxville?
“My wife was originally from Oak Ridge, so that helped us settle here initially,” Jones says. “We love the area and wanted to stay.”
Equally important were the colleagues that shared a similar interest and set of experiences. The team draws on broad experience from time spent working with national and global businesses including Roche, Cardinal Health, The E.W. Scripps Company, Victoria’s Secret, Honeywell, NCR, Reynolds & Reynolds, Whirlpool and Packard Bell NEC.
“I wanted to be part of a like-minded team whose members had all been through similar intricate communications issues like I had,” Jones explained. “Senior business leaders need to be able to trust that their communications partners understand what they are going through, because they have been through it themselves. It’s lonely at the top (for executives), and it’s difficult to find people who will tell you the truth. That’s what we look to do.”
To illustrate the point, he draws an analogy between the work of the Boldsquare team and first responders.
“We are rushing in when others are rushing out,” Jones explains. “We are communicators who solve problems that others can’t. Our clients recognize that communications can enhance their businesses.”
To illustrate where the Boldsquare team feels it can be of greatest service to clients, Jones lists several questions: What kind of organization do you want to be and how can communications help you tell that story? How can we help reduce churn among employees? How do you get strategic investors to believe in your business? How do you redesign the onboarding process for new employees? How can you change the way you talk to clients?
Current projects are very diverse. There’s one client facing a potential class action lawsuit, while another needs help optimizing the top executive’s relationship with the board of directors. Boldsquare has a non-profit client that the team is helping with a repositioning process, and there’s a new CEO who is receiving assistance in evaluating a pivot for the firm. Other clients vary in scope and need, but all of them share a common recognition of the importance that communications play in driving financial success.
While the company is based in Knoxville, their clients are located all over the world, including Baltimore, Toronto, New Jersey, London, Cincinnati and Switzerland. None of their initial clients is in East Tennessee, but the firm has since added a number of clients in the region and is now seeing a rapidly increasing number of local businesses that want to use strategic communications as a way to supercharge their organizations.
“We’ve all chosen to be here, and Knoxville is special to us” Jones says of the Boldsquare consultants. “Companies are increasingly looking for more sophisticated communications services, and as the city grows, we’ll be ready to help businesses new and old.”