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Kelly Brockman and Mark McNeely

Three years ago, in June 2018, the two of us embarked on a business journey full of enthusiasm and wanderlust, but also shadowed with uncertainty, fear and potential landmines. This was when we opened McNeely Brockman Public Relations.

In the life of a business, three years is not really anything to crow about. Making it through the first year and then reaching the five-year mark are the conventional milestones of success.

But we are very thankful to make it to this point. We’ve both had to work very hard at it (the intangible driver of being in business for oneself in the first place) and have been fortunate to notch quite a few “wins” for ourselves, our team, and our clients.

We both have learned a lot — about going into business, about going into business with a parent and/or child, about hands-on management with very little administrative support, about planning, budgeting, and wrestling with that beast that has been the pandemic and related economic chaos. We have become pretty good at being undeterred by fear of failure.

We learned from one another, both personally and professionally. We have learned that we have very similar thoughts on how to handle client work, we have learned that one of us has more patience than the other, we have learned that one of us is much better at math. We have also learned that while we love and appreciate working together, we are also appreciative of the paths that each of us took to get here.

None of it would have been possible without the unwavering support of our family, friends, and MP&F Strategic Communications (which Mark started more than 30 years ago), and our staff.

Both of our strengths and experiences are in old-fashioned, meat and potatoes media relations, strategic planning, and community engagement, and we both love crisis communications.

Some of it has worked beautifully, some has not, but through it all, our main fear has not come to pass – that we would not mesh as business partners. We’ve (knock on wood) excelled on that front.

So just over a year ago, with COVID-19 shuttering offices and businesses across the city and nation, our new endeavor hit its first big snag. We had to try to make do without promising new projects that were in the pipeline, convert to a work from home model and Zoom work mode, and, in Kelly’s case – and the case of many working moms trying to manage school-age kids being forced into virtual learning – wear both hats at the same time.

From a recent Facebook post of Kelly’s: “A year ago looked a little different when – six days apart – my sweet babies (Ella, age 12, and Austin, age 8) both had bike wrecks, broke bones and had surgeries. It was like the Big Man knew how close they were and how they needed to go through this journey together. I look back on that week and feel so proud of them and how they handled it then and now. It took a few months to get back comfortable with their bikes, but they got back on and did not let fear bring them down. They supported each other in true sibling love. Moral – don’t let fear stop you.”

Dealing with personal traumas make so many other things feel insignificant and puts things into perspective. We have both learned and grown from this. There will surely be more bumps in the road, but we know for a fact we will continue to support each other in the business and as family, but we also know that whatever the challenges, we will never, ever let fear stop us.

Mark McNeely and Kelly Brockman are the father-daughter founding partners of McNeely Brockman Public Relations, founded in June 2018. Brockman’s previous positions include serving as press secretary for Transit For Nashville, public information officer for Metro Nashville Public Works and communications director for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. In 1987, McNeely founded MP&F Strategic Communications after a career in journalism and politics that included four years as Capitol Bureau chief for the Knoxville News-Sentinel and a stint as then-U.S. Sen. Al Gore’s first state director.

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