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Kelly Davis

Kelly is a passionate advocate for public health, education and philanthropy whose career has been devoted to helping nonprofits connect with communities and causes. She joined RP in 2013 after a decade of managing her own award-winning public relations firm. She is a self-professed PR geek who still believes in the value of traditional media while embracing the exciting possibilities of an increasingly digital profession.
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Recent Posts

posted by Kelly Davis Jun 22,2016 @ 01:56PM

The Story Behind the Story

I recently read an article on titled, “How Social Media Could Have Changed the O.J. Simpson Trial.” Inspired by the recent FX mini-series, “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” the author, Josh Rosenberg, points to the trial’s role in the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, reality television and participatory journalism. Rosenberg also raises the specter of what the trial experience would have been like for both the viewer and the people in that courtroom in 1994 “if the world had been watching in real time with a mobile phone in hand.”

Certainly, we now live in an “always on” world – a world in which it is difficult to hide from the onslaught of speculation, opinion and commentary. It’s a world very different from 1994.


As Rosenberg writes, “Today, all of us have a very loud microphone in the palms of our hands, and every time we share a thought, use a hashtag, communicate with a like-minded individual or get through to someone who doesn’t share our own belief, we are harnessing a power no one could have dreamed of in 1994.”

I would contend that not only could we never have dreamed of today’s technology twenty two years ago, neither could we have dreamed of the ability that technology provides us to share with the world a comment, observation or criticism of the actions of those around us – sometimes thoughtfully, sometimes carelessly. Generally speaking, while advances in communications technology have opened up a world of human connection and interaction, they have also closed our minds and hardened our perspective on the events and actions taking place around us.

How often have we seen – or posted ourselves – a video of something we’ve observed in a public place, or a video of a complete stranger? From concerts and parties to interactions with store employees, these slice of life videos seem to be permeating our society and generating opinion and commentary on a daily basis. We have to assume that there is always a camera present.

The challenge is that the very moment in time you captured is just that – a quick snapshot often shared without any further context. We may not know what happened before or after, or from a different angle, or behind the scenes. All we have are those few seconds and perhaps the commentary of the person who filmed the event. However, the instinct to post and share every moment now means that individuals who weren’t present form a perception of the event based on those few seconds of shared video – and not on the full reality of the experience.

While social media and our “always on” world certainly create opportunities, they also create great disconnects when it comes to human interaction and compassion. It has become so easy for us to handle our dissatisfaction with a negative customer experience with harsh words and a stealthily filmed video – shared not with a person who could have helped improve our experience, but with a random group of people who were not present and who are only seeing the event through our narrow lens.

What if instead we slowed down, put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, and thought before we posted? What if we quietly ask to speak to someone in charge to express our concerns? What if we ask how we can help? I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t call out a company when your experience doesn’t meet your expectation. I do believe that there is a better way to find a resolution.

Brand marketers instinctively look for the story behind the story. The next time you’re faced with an opportunity to “film and post,” try to do the same. While your instincts may tell you to jump to judgment, perhaps the better course of action is to dig a little deeper. We hold in our hands a little piece of technology that has the power to impact human interactions and to influence others’ perceptions of people and brands. The onus is on each one of us to approach this responsibility with compassion and discernment.

Kelly Davis, APR is the Public Relations Director at Riggs Partners. Read the AdWeek story referenced here.

This article originally appeared in the May 21-June 19 issue of Columbia Regional Business Report.

posted by Kelly Davis May 19,2016 @ 10:49AM

Embracing Purpose and Mission in a Rebranding Assignment

One of the most challenging assignments for brand strategists is the rebranding and renaming of an organization – particularly one that has a 20-year history and a well-defined mission among a devoted audience.

During last fall’s CreateAthon, one of our clients specifically requested a name change and new brand identity. We knew that the responsibility was a rather auspicious one, as the client was known (at the time) as the Death Penalty Resource & Defense Center.

The mission of the organization is to promote fairness, reliability and transparency in the criminal justice system for people facing the death penalty in South Carolina. They accomplish this by offering resources and support for lawyers tasked with representing a capital client; representing individual clients, including approximately one-third of the current death row inmates in our state; advocating for policy reforms; and educating the public.

What really struck us as we dove into the creative brief was the full-circle aspect of the work they do. They offer holistic representation not just to individuals facing a death sentence appeal, but also to their families. The client emphasized that the death penalty is not just an issue of criminal justice – it is one of race, ethnicity, education, mental illness, poverty and more – and that the work they do must encompass a broad continuum of societal issues while acknowledging and preserving the humanity of all involved in capital cases.

We needed to develop a name that would be memorable, easy to say and positive while providing descriptors that lend clarity and context to the organization’s work. After 24 intense hours of research, introspection and debate, we landed on:


In addition to the new name and identity, we developed a brochure to capture their work and position the key issues for which they advocate; developed social media graphics; and provided advice on redeveloping their website.


In the months since CreateAthon, it’s been really rewarding for us to see how deeply, passionately and enthusiastically the team at Justice 360 has embraced their new name and identity. They officially launched the new name during their annual holiday party, sharing the creative work and new focus with their closest friends and associates. That was followed by a mailing to key constituents that included a letter from their Executive Director and a copy of the new brochure. They updated their website and revamped their social media presence, demonstrating the use of purposeful content that reinforces their mission. It was particularly exciting during the current legislative session to see how the organization’s new name helped give them a stronger identity and presence in their public policy work.

This client has reminded us in many ways that it’s not only the work they do as an organization that is full circle, but the very act of rebranding is full circle as well. It’s not enough to simply change a name or put a new logo on a business card. It’s about taking that deep dive into your purpose and enabling your identity to be evident in the work you do, how you interact with others and the position that you stake out in the world.

Visit and to learn more.

posted by Kelly Davis Feb 18,2016 @ 03:37PM

With a little love...

When was the last time you stopped and offered a kind and sincere word to a co-worker? Just a little thought on what you appreciate about them or what makes them special?

Last week, our social committee asked everyone to respond to a short, anonymous survey with a word or short phrase of something that we appreciated about each of our colleagues. A compilation of these thoughts was placed on each person’s desk on Monday morning, the day after Valentine’s Day.


I share this with you not to say, “Hey, aren’t we great?” but rather to encourage you to think about that simple gesture of kindness that you may want to express to the people around you. If you know the folks at Riggs, you might also find yourself nodding in agreement.

Here is a glimpse into the things that we appreciate about one another:

Alexandra Frazier: Detailed perfection with impeccable wit. Thoughtful elegance in all things. She sees the beauty in every single thing, from a word choice to a baking ingredient to a human emotion.

Cathy Monetti: Kind soul with a big adventurous spirit. Generous in every sense and unfailingly so. Takes such a genuine interest in all our talents, careers and lives.

Courtney Fleming: Smart, talented, competent, trustworthy, fun. Wise beyond her years. The ultimate team player with the highest of good intentions. Impeccable taste in hip-hop.

Courtney Melendez: Her smarts. Her beautiful, soulful spirit. Her light-filled smile. Her willingness to make everything better. She embodies grace in everything she does, and in every interaction she has with people.

Katy Miller: Smart, stylish and sophisticated. Whatever it is, she has the smarts, insights, and intuition to just see through to the right, true thing. A great example of service leadership.

Kelly Davis: Thoughtful mentor. Incredible teacher and friend. Soft-spoken brilliance. Able to see all the way around a thing. Calm, measured demeanor.

Kevin Archie: Patient and willing to help. Thoughtful and talented. His perspective on life shines through in everything he does, teaching those of us around him a little more of what really matters in life.

Kevin Smith: Witty, clever and fun. A brilliant conversationalist with an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and a keen interest in a great diversity of things. Makes everyone smarter.

Jillian Owens: 100% fearless. Creative. Quirky, distinctive style. The ease with which she moves in the world.

Julie Turner: Joyful and encouraging. Endless optimism and fun. Always sees the good. Lover of words and bacon. The best, most distinctive laugh of anyone in the building.

Marcus Williamson: Imaginative. Enthusiastic. Friendly. Helpful. A vessel of light and positive energy, and his work shines through that. Quietly gets things accomplished with great attention to detail.

Michael Powelson: Perceptive. Brilliant and talented. Gifted. A highly evolved soul. Not satisfied with surface thinking. Sees the humanness of it all.

Ryon Edwards: Sincere. So thoughtful. Everything is designed with clear-minded intention. Honorable. Wildly talented and equally generous. He is the heart of all things beautiful here, not merely in design but in spirit.

Taylor Craig: Open-minded. Brings energy to everything. Love her willingness to observe, absorb and thoughtfully explore all the possibilities as part of a team. Making it happen with grace.

Teresa Coles: Such a beautiful blend of brains and compassion. Grace under pressure. An inspiring and thoughtful leader. A true giver. Committed. Generous and kind.

Tom Barr: Conscientious. Helpful and diligent. Envy his wit. Knows so much about so many things. He makes it all work. So smart, so thorough and so patient. Keeps the rest of us grounded.

Will Weatherly: Thoughtful, intelligent and kind. Capable. Committed. Smart. Insightful. Understands that being effective with people is more important than being efficient. Has a knack for asking the kinds of questions that draw people into meaningful conversation.

Yanti Pepper: Always cheerful. Brings out the best in people. Dependable. She makes everything fun. Keeps us hip to what the kids are into. She brings joy to other people in a way that continually astounds us.

posted by Kelly Davis Nov 11,2015 @ 02:32PM

The Role of Public Relations in Brand and Reputation Management

I have a story I tell college students when I am trying to illustrate the point of how far technology has come, just over the course of my own career, in helping public relations practitioners do their jobs.

I share with them that when I first started working in public relations in the mid-1990s, I would often stand in front of a fax machine for hours at a time, sending news releases to media outlets around the state.

At this point in the story, their eyes glaze over because most of them have never seen a fax machine.

Then, I tell them how our practices changed when we got email and started communicating with reporters that way. This often generates a raised eyebrow, because they can’t imagine a time when people didn’t have email.

Finally, I talk about social media and how it has changed not only the way that public relations professionals communicate with journalists, but also in the way that online communications opened the doors to enable us to take our messages directly to consumers and constituents. While we continue to work with traditional media outlets, and greatly value those relationships, we also have new vehicles, avenues and devices through which to speak directly to our intended audiences.

At this point in the story, the students often perk up a little bit, because now I am speaking their language.

As a profession, public relations has evolved significantly over the course of my 20-year career – most substantially in just the past five years. While media relations remains an important component of our work, it is but one tool in a very broad toolbox of communications strategies and tactics that we use to develop effective programs and campaigns for the organizations that we represent.

It is important to note that it’s not only the tools themselves that have changed. Indeed, we live in a fast-paced and “always-on” world in which a photo, a video or a story can be seen by thousands of people in a matter of seconds. While that may be a positive step when one is proactively promoting a brand or organization, it also creates challenge and anxiety when an organization is thrown into a negative spotlight.

It is incumbent upon public relations professionals to manage brands, issues and reputations using a wide variety of strategies and tactics. Whether online or offline, brand communicators must constantly monitor conversations and issues, and evaluate all of the ways that their marketing messages could be construed. As the traditional gatekeepers of organizational reputation, public relations practitioners must be deeply involved in the development of brand and message strategy as well as ongoing, day-to-day reputation management both online and off.

One doesn’t have to look far to find very recent examples of brands that have been thrust into the spotlight either through their own actions or the actions of others. With their reputations on the line, the manner in which they responded to these crises, and whether or not the response considered and incorporated all facets of their communications and marketing, will ultimately determine whether or not the brand’s image will recover.

It is not unusual for clients – and even communications professionals themselves – to view public relations as a “traditional” and “offline” discipline. However, public relations must be viewed and practiced as a fully integrated brand and reputation management function. This begins with strategic planning that underpins the brand’s core identity and messaging, followed by continuous brand monitoring and management across multiple marketing disciplines using a variety of online tools.

Companies must anticipate, plan and rehearse every imaginable scenario that could cause damage or undue attention, and they must ensure that multi-disciplinary teams are represented when communications plans and tools are developed. Public relations practitioners are key players at the table when those decisions are made.

Even if they still rely on the good old fax machine.

posted by Kelly Davis Oct 14,2015 @ 03:24PM

The need has never been greater

It’s always so interesting to see the variety of CreateAthon clients that we are serving in any given year – from organizations that support the arts and education to those that serve children, pets, people with disabilities, people with cancer, etc. It’s really mind-boggling to think of all of the great work that is being done in our community, and of all the people who need help from these organizations.


The historic and tragic floods that washed over our beloved city last week also remind us that the need for these services is great. Everywhere we turn, we see nonprofit organizations in our community stepping in to help people and communities impacted by the floods.

While in the early days of the aftermath, the main focus has been on ensuring that people’s basic survival needs are met – clean water, food, clothing, hygiene, etc. – we also know that there have been isolated incidents of crime, assaults and desperation. The long term effects of experiencing and witnessing the devastation will linger, and will lead to the need for mental health services, counseling and healing. This is where the nonprofits in our community will shine in meeting these needs – but also where they will continue to rely on the financial and in-kind support that our community has always provided them.

It’s one of the reasons why I’m grateful that CreateAthon is coming up next week. It will be a wonderful opportunity for us to serve eight organizations in our community and to know that we are helping them build capacity for the future. Here are two clients for which we’ll pull the all-nighter on October 22-23:



Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands [] advocates for and supports survivors of sexual assault and abuse and educates the community to identify and prevent sexual violence.

While people may know them as one of the 14 rape crisis centers in our state, they may not be as knowledgeable about the extensive prevention and training work that STSM does in their four-county service area in the Midlands of South Carolina. Their violence prevention and professional development curricula are considered best practice programming. During CreateAthon, we will work on marketing strategies and collateral material to increase the number of schools and youth-serving organizations that engage STSM in providing these programs to middle and high school aged youth.



Along that continuum, another of this year’s clients is the Death Penalty Resource & Defense Center, whose mission is to promote fairness, reliability and transparency in the criminal justice system for people facing the death penalty in South Carolina. They accomplish this by offering resources and support for lawyers tasked with representing a capital client; representing individual clients; advocating for policy reforms; and educating the public.

While an exceptionally serious subject, our first meeting with this client was very inspiring. We were struck by the level of passion and conviction they have for the issue as well as the holistic representation that they offer not just to death row inmates, but also to their families. They also brought to light the staggering data about people on death row and how they bear out many societal stereotypes about race, ethnicity, education, mental illness and other issues.

While we know this one will challenge everything we know and believe about the criminal justice system, we also look forward to helping them articulate a vision that helps more South Carolinians view capital punishment through a different lens.




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