Kerry Hayes, former chief of staff to Mayor Andy Berke, said he is forming his own consulting business.
Mr. Hayes said in a letter to friends:
My time as the City of Chattanooga’s Chief of Staff closely paralleled the pandemic. I accepted my promotion from Mayor Berke at the very end of January 2020; within a matter of weeks, the operations of our office were consumed by daily decisions of unprecedented severity and complexity in an attempt to protect people from both a lethal virus and a cratering economy.
The end of my service happened to conclude, ironically, with (we hope) the beginning of the end of the pandemic, thanks to highly effective vaccines and the Biden administration’s adeptness at distributing them.
Prior to joining Mayor Berke’s staff in late 2017, I led a successful strategic communications consulting practice, held senior public relations and external affairs roles at communications firms large and small, and served in the mayor’s office of Tennessee’s largest city during the depths of the recession. Each turn in my career taught me invaluable skills and hard lessons. None could have prepared me for 2020.
As my time at City Hall was drawing to an end, I tried to reflect on what it showed me and how it shaped me. Suffice to say, I learned a lot about what communications really is — the importance of being both precise in what you want to say and empathetic in how you say it; the need to be both quick in responding to crises and patient in how we listen to those in crisis; the way that leaders earn respect through tough decisions as well as the value of empowering the most dedicated and wise voices in your community, whoever and wherever they are.
I regret that I was not always successful in doing this. When we did succeed, however, it was because we were thoughtful, strategic, compassionate, and creative in how we told a story.
Above all else, this period has taught me the essential value of connection. A year hunched over a laptop screen, restricted from traveling or in-person socializing showed how badly humans need to be connected to one another and to their communities— and how those connections can form and be nurtured against the toughest circumstances. When connections are weak, neighborhoods, communities, and institutions fail, but when networks are strong, everyone can thrive.
This brings me to my own next steps — the launch of a new consulting venture that I hope will do just that: Coeo.
Coeo is a Latin word that means “connection,” “assemble,” or “come together.” I like the way it sounds, and I love what it means. My intention is to be a practice of communicators and strategists that have the skills and experience to connect your business, brand, or cause to the right audience in the right way.
Coeo is press coverage that informs. It's storytelling that inspires. It's helpful guidance that elevates. Coeo is media that connects.
I am fortunate to begin my business with a few terrific clients from around the country, but I’m looking to grow anywhere I can add value.
If you are a business who wants to position yourself favorably in the local media, a brand hoping to reach new audiences in new ways, or a cause that needs to build a coalition, I hope you’ll reach out.
If you’ve always thought about starting a podcast or streaming video show but aren’t sure how to get started, I’ve got some advice.
If you’re a local government leader who needs an outsider’s perspective with an insider’s experience on how to aid your city’s recovery — especially as more federal resources become available, I’d be honored to help.
I don’t sell packages. Every solution is different because every situation is unique. What I will offer is expertise and candor in exchange for your time and trust.
In addition to my consulting work, I’ll also be sending a weekly email newsletter, Network Effects, to anyone who would like to know what I’m thinking, reading, or listening to. If you’d like to get it, sign up here. I’d love to hear what you’re excited about these days.
Stay safe, take care, and please be in touch. I’d love to stay connected.