David Nevins is the president and CEO of Nevins & Associates, a public relations firm based in Towson, MD. Nevins & Associates provides strategic communications services to a wide variety of regional and national companies in industries such as retail, financial, healthcare, and more. David and his company boast over 30 years of experience in marketing and PR. Since starting Nevins & Associates in 1983, David has also acted as head of Comcast SportsNet, Mid-Atlantic (2001–2002) and serves in a leadership capacity at numerous business and civic organizations such as Board of Governors for the Center Club, Maryland Public Television, the Jewish National Fund, and the Towson Business Association. Last year, David co-founded Protégé Executive Coaching & Consulting, a local executive coaching and management consulting firm.
EDWIN WARFIELD: What inspired you initially to pursue marketing and PR?
DAVID NEVINS: I was in lot of ways the accidental PR guy. I was working at the Baltimore Symphony, and my boss retired and a couple of board members said, “You know if you start your own PR firm, we’ll give you our business.” So people say all the time, “You’re such a big risk taker to have started your own business.” The fact of the matter is I took no risk. I went from a job to starting my own business, and had a couple of built-in clients from day one. If the truth be told the original title, Nevins & Associates—still our title today 30 years later—was somewhat of a misnomer because it was just Nevins; and then, it was Nevins and an associate; and then, in 30 years since, we now have about twenty people. It’s been an incredible run, a great run. I never would have figured myself to be the independent business guy, but we handle clients large and small, all over the United States and certainly heavily throughout the Baltimore and Maryland areas. It’s been a blast. I wouldn’t do anything else.
What is your role at Nevins & Associates now?
I serve essentially at Nevins & Associates today as the chief new business development officer and, in general, the chief strategist. We put teams together to handle our clients’ needs.
How did you grow from what the company was originally to the national firm it is now?
We’re based in Baltimore, but we have the same skills and capabilities as a New York-based firm or a Chicago-based firm or an LA-based firm. You know, that’s one of the battles I fight every single day: we’re just little old Nevins & Associates, a boutique style firm in Towson, Maryland, but we have the best staff in the business, and I believe we can do as good a job—if not a better job—as virtually any marketing and communications firm in the country. I see this everyday, but it’s not always the easiest thing to convince prospective clients of that. So we go after local clients. We start with local and regional clients: hospitals, universities, schools, restaurants, locally owned businesses; publically held, privately held; and then, we help them grow, and hopefully we remain partners throughout the process. That’s the reason we tout ourselves today as a national marketing and PR firm, because that’s what we are, but I don’t know that we actually ever picked up a national piece of business to begin with. We grew from local, they liked our work, they recommended us to the next region and the next region, and then we grew with our clients.
How has the company changed in the 32 years you’ve been in business?
PR is now just a sliver of the pie compared to what we once did. Today, clients are looking for new business development—how to grow their business—we don’t have a single client that hires us for anything other than “how can we make more money,” “how can we make more profit,” “how can we sell more services or products whatever or raise more money,” or whatever the case may be. It’s really all about new business development and that involves certainly the traditional PR and media relations work that we’ve been involved in for 30 years, but today it involves the world of social media, marketing, branding, image development, crisis management, advertising, and pretty much a little bit of everything. We have grown as the field has changed, but in terms of what I say to new clients… and for the most part all of our clients, pretty much all of them, come to us on a referral basis—we don’t really advertise ourselves, we’re like the shoemaker’s children in that regard—they often get referred to us, which is a great thing—hopefully, most of our clients are happy with the work we do—and they also say, “Hey, I saw what you did for client X or client Y, that was great, can you do good things for us too?” And I always really say the same thing, which is “we’ll try to—tell me what you’re doing that is good. Essentially, we view ourselves as storytellers. Over the years, at least from time to time, the PR field has gotten a bad name in certain parts. We’re not at all about smoke and mirrors and sizzle and any of that stuff. We’re storytellers, and we help our clients tell their stories, hopefully in a positive, good, attractive way that makes some news and makes some noise on their behalf, but they have to start with being good, solid companies with good products or good services, high integrity—those things, and then we help them put their best foot forward.