Missy Hurley co-founded St. Petersburg-based B2 Communications in 2010; she is now the public relations firm’s sole owner and looks forward to ushering the company into a new era.
Hurley recently acquired co-founder Kyle Parks’ shares of the company and will serve as its CEO. The founders had considered selling the company, or replacing Parks with another partner.
“Over the past year, year-and-a-half, it was very clear I did not want another partner and did not want to sell,” Hurley said. “I wanted to purchase his shares, and that’s what we’ve been working towards the past year.”
Parks is starting a communications consulting firm, Parks PR. He will also assist B2 clients as a network partner.
Hurley noted that she and Parks forged a relationship that allowed them to overcome the challenges of running a company for 13 years. She felt their mutual respect and ability to understand each other’s perspectives was irreplicable.
In addition to helping clients implement effective communication strategies, Hurley has led B2’s operational and financial functions. The founders hired an operations coordinator last year to assume some of those responsibilities.
“It probably wasn’t the best use of my time and talent as a PR (public relations) person,” she added. “We were putting those building blocks in place to make this transition possible.”
Hurley will now oversee five employees and two interns. She said the firm also regularly utilizes around 10 independent contractors.
B2’s national and local clients encompass the technology, private equity and professional service sectors. The company recently won a competitive contract with Port Tampa Bay.
Hurley said she plans on exploring new forms of communications consulting. “To give you a little context, the traditional way for PR firms to work with an organization is to want to come in and do everything,” she said.
“We kind of look at it as, are there ways we can come in and add to what their internal teams are already doing? Or maybe take a look at a specific issue, problem or opportunity, which was actually how we started working with Port Tampa Bay.”
Her goal is to help organizational leaders identify how communications affect long-term outlooks. That includes incorporating emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI).
Hurley said B2 is now teaching clients how to use AI prompts to generate desired content. She will give a presentation on responsible use at a public relations conference in November.
She believes AI can provide a starting point for social media posts and marketing campaigns. However, Hurley noted the potential for copyright infringement and said organizations should establish policies that promote transparent usage.
“I think we’re all looking for the silver bullet when it comes to communication and customer development,” she said. “But in reality, there’s probably not going to be one. There still needs to be a level of quality control.”
While Hurley will look for growth opportunities, she prefers to focus on the quality of partnerships rather than quantity. She also envisions the firm working with more early-stage companies and supporting the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Hurley wants to help younger founders establish a business path, whether they are “building to scale or building to sell.” She said B2 could also assist more established companies with corporate acquisition announcements.
Hurley, speaking from personal experience, said young women business owners “have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously.” She stressed the importance of showing clients you are “pleasant to work with” and can overcome challenges in a relationship-based industry.
“That can be a really delicate balance,” Hurley added. “For younger women going into business, finding great mentors and people that can cheerlead for you – but also push you along and give you tough feedback when you need it – is really important.”