Dillon’s Kinkennon Communications finds national reach from a mountain town setting
Ryan Summerlin February 23, 2013
For years, Shane Kinkennon had Colorado on his mind. A native Texan, Kinkennon first visited the state in the 1990s, when working for a start-up in St. Louis necessitated commuting over state lines. It didn’t take long before he was hooked.
“I fell head over heels in love with it,” Kinkennon said. “From that point forward, I was fantasizing about living in Colorado.”
In 2006, while working in Washington, D.C. in various marketing and communications jobs, Kinkennon made that a reality. Instead of simply moving, however, he had a bigger plan.
“I wanted a way to get from Washington, D.C. to Colorado,” Kinkennon said, “and I thought an easy way to do it would be to create my own job that I could take with me to Denver.”
This was the start of Kinkennon Communications. Although the staff is small – consisting solely of Kinkennon – the company’s reach is nationwide. Kinkennon Communications is a high-end consulting firm that orchestrates national issue-advocacy campaigns for large corporations, charitable foundations and large nonprofits.
And since the end of December, its headquarters is now in Dillon.
The move to Summit County was a mix of personal and professional reasons, Kinkennon said. Getting out of the city allows him closer access to the outdoors, where he loves to play, and also may help connect him to the outdoor recreation industry, where much of his work interest lies.
“Kinkennon Communications is the embodiment of the personal principals that I have, which is this work-life balance thing,” Kinkennon said. “I work in a universe of people who are also workaholics. They’re very productive, but they’re workaholics. I’m not a workaholic. There are times that I work around the clock, but most of the time, work-life balance is sort of a guiding force in how my company pursues business, how we choose clients. We do very high quality work, we do it fast, enabling playing outside, which enables more high quality work which enables us the luxury of being able to choose the kind of projects we want to work on.”
Having the closeness of beautiful natural surroundings energizes Kinkennon. He’s a snowboarder and also an avid mountain biker. He loves the fact that he has a yard for his two dogs to play in and a trailhead just down the street. It doesn’t hurt that Keystone Resort isn’t very far away, either. Fulfilling his personal life, he says, only makes his work that much better.
In order to keep up with work on a national level, Kinkennon travels across the country, often back to Washington, D.C., where he still helps clients. He has a partnership with former White House press secretary Michael McCurry, who is a partner at a firm called Public Strategies Washington.
Kinkennon’s client list includes many Fortune 500 companies, as well as large national corporations and nonprofits. He says a lot of what he does is “making trains run on time,” which means facilitating the coordination of people and ideas between companies and coalitions.
“The simplest explanation,” Kinkennon said of what his company does, is that it “helps organizations, specifically big ones, figure out what to say, how to say it, to whom, when, and that’s really communication strategy.”
These strategies can be applied to coalitions formed by multiple corporate interests, or foundations and large nonprofits planning national campaigns.
For example, Kinkennon Communications is working with the American Council on Exercise, one of the nation’s largest fitness-related nonprofit organization, to take on the obesity epidemic.
Kinkennon’s job is to facilitate the communication between the experts within the nonprofit and help them figure out the best way to conduct their campaign in the most efficient and effective way possible.
“What I do is facilitate having these ‘ah ha!’ moments,” he said. “They’ve been talking about it already, often times it’s just being able to walk in with a new client organization and be the spark that helps them articulate where they’re going anyway.”
One of the things he loves best about his job, Kinkennon said, is the ability to mix work with issues he is passionate about. He’s not afraid to refuse or end contracts with companies that don’t match with his personal philosophies, and he finds the time he spends with his chosen clients rewarding.
“I love organizations that are doing good, important work that can end suffering or better the human condition in some way, I enjoy getting involved in that,” he said.
Having his own company affords Kinkennon the freedom to make these kinds of decisions, and he says that it’s worth it.
“If you’re willing to take on the risk of having your own shop – nobody’s looking out for my paycheck but me,” he said. “But the reward I get for that is the ability to serve clients in a way that I believe is very specific to what they need and consistent with my values, and it enables me to claim free time in the name of work-life balance, which results in happiness, which results in better work. All that is very cyclical for me.”
Kinkennon said he’s looking forward to getting involved in outdoor recreation advocacy, as well as commercial outdoor recreation companies and nonprofits that may be looking to expand.
“Occasionally some nonprofits try to do something that’s totally transformational or have just received a grant in communications which enables a shop like Kinkennon Communications to be helpful, even though they may only be making that impact on the regional level at the time, but there’s the potential to grow,” he said. “Then somebody like my shop comes in and helps them raise awareness and that helps them raise more money to take what they’re doing more places.”
Kinkennon is happy with his move so far, and said that he doesn’t expect that to change.
“Actually, I think it’s going to improve my ability to do (my job), because there’s just something about the clarity that comes from being here in this amazing place. I feel like it’s making my work easier, more enjoyable, more productive,” he said. “All signs suggest that 2013 is going to be a fantastic year.”
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