David Kyne
David Kyne

I recently sat down, virtually, with David Kyne, Group President-Communications, Evoke, which describes itself as having “a clear vision to build careers, brands, and organizations, unlocking the potential of today and shaping tomorrow to be better for the patients we serve.”

Kyne leads Evoke’s communications division, which includes US and European specialty healthcare agencies like Evoke Canale, Evoke Kyne, Evoke Incisive Health and Evoke Galliard, with a focus on global pharmaceutical, biotechnology and public health clients.

In our far-reaching conversation, we discussed a number of topics, including how the agencies he’s led became frequent winners of “Best Places to Work In PR” awards; how he has adapted his leadership style across his is leadership journey; a past leadership moment that made him wince; and the similarities and differences of leading different teams across the globe.

Here are some excepts from our chat. View full video >>

I first became aware of you when Kyne was regularly winning awards for “Best Places to Work In PR”. Why was this so important to you as a leader?

When we started Kyne it was all about great work. And from the beginning, we attracted people who maybe didn’t feel at home or weren’t comfortable in their own skins at their previous organizations. I’m proud of the fact that we created a workplace where people could bring their full selves, and care about their work they do, and care about the people around them.

It’s about creating a respectful workplace that just gets better as more new people join and change and evolve the culture.

Your titles reflect the ride that many entrepreneurial agency owners take, from “Founder,” to “CEO Of A Merged Company” to “ New Role At The Merged Company” What has that leadership journey been like?

I think that it’s very important to adapt along the way. When you merge with another firm, it’s really important to park your ego, and to park what you were, to an extent. If you’re bringing two organizations to create a bigger, new organization, the focus must be on that new organization.

Not that you want to lose the legacy, the culture, the clients, all that was good, but you can’t think that everything you did when you were one company was exactly the right way. You really have to merge those two cultures, ways of working, clients, and people into something new. We came together and decided to create something bigger and better than what we had as single entities.

A fair dose of humility is important, as is surrounding yourself with really strong people who don’t necessarily think the way you do.

All of us on the leadership journey have had moments that made us wince. Please share about one of your leadership moments when you weren’t bringing your best, what you learned from it, and how you recovered?

I do remember, very distinctly, when at another firm, coming into a new business meeting. Within 15 minutes the prospect interrupted and said “This what I really care about: How are you going to solve this problem for me.” And instead of engaging in a dialogue around that topic, we persisted in going back to our slides and presenting what we were all about as a company. Obviously, we didn’t get the business.

It was a real lesson in being focused on a client’s problems, and being able to, in the moment, have a real dialogue, whether we have all the answers at that time or not, and to let your guard down. That’s what client respect, and that’s how you form real relationships. That was a real inflection point for me, about listening to the client, and not selling, not making it about yourself or the agency.

You’ve led in one of my favorite countries, Ireland, in New York and across the globe. In what ways are leadership the same, regardless of location, and in what ways have you modified your leadership or communications, depending on where you or your followers are?

I would say my style of working is more American, in regard to my impatience and speed. But I think what’s most important, that I got from starting my career in Ireland and returning here, is the importance of that does of self-humility. I think you just get the best from where you are.

New York is one of the few places in the world that would have encouraged me, the way it did, to start my own business. I don’t think I would have started my own agency anywhere else in the world. And it’s really exciting to be back in a country that’s has moved on so much from when I left in the 1990s, that is a multi-cultural, modern democracy that shares so many of my values. I hope I’ve been able to glean the best of both worlds.

As an agency, we have a very global outlook. Our people work with colleagues across Europe and the US, and we strive to bring that global lens to the work itself, because clients benefit from that.


Ken Jacobs, PCC, CPC, is principal of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching: www.jacobscomm.com, [email protected], @KensViews and LinkedIn.