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Hillgate Communications can help bolster your business reputation

By Staff | Jan 15, 2009

“Glass, china, and reputation are easily cracked, and never mended well.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Jeremy Kane has some free advice for Sanibel business owners: “Wake up, look in the mirror, and say, ‘What am I going to do for my customers today?'”

With more than 40 years of experience in marketing and public affairs in Washington, D.C., London, Tokyo, and Brussels, and mammoth clients such as IBM, Kellogg’s, Manpower, L’Oreal, Bank of New York Mellon and Hasbro, Kane should know what he’s talking about.

Kane and his wife, Blanaid Colley, have been visiting Sanibel from their home in London for the past 20 years, with a time share at Casa Ybel, and decided the island would be a great place to open a communications business.

“My wife and I sat down and talked about what we wanted to do with the next 50 years, and this is where we ended up,” explained Kane.

Hence, Hillgate Communications, located in the Bailey Center, was born.

An E-2 Visa will allow Kane and Colley, proprietors of Hillgate Communications, to remain in the United States, pursuing their business, for the next two years, said Kane.

“And then, we can apply for a five-year extension if all goes well,” he added.

So, why would globetrotters like Kane and Colley want to settle in – and open a business in – Sanibel?

“Because small businesses have the same communications needs as big businesses,” replied Kane. “They all have customers or clients, they all have needs, they all have the same sort of requirements for succeeding in business. It’s exactly the same, except smaller.”

Account manager Libby Andrews, has been putting a face on Hillgate Communications as she takes part in various Chamber of Commerce and other business-to-business activities all over Sanibel. At the age of 22, Andrews’ extensive knowledge of the principles of communications, and their practical application, belies her limited experience. A graduate of the University of Florida, with a B.S. in public relations, Andrews was born and raised in Fort Myers.

“But my parents both worked in Sanibel,” she explained.

Already, Andrews has served a six-month internship with a London public relations firm – ING Media – where she successfully helped a Mexican restaurant attract customers.

“It’s different in London,” explained Andrews of the challenges such a restaurant would face. “We had to convince Europeans that Mexican food is good! And when we accomplished that, they kept coming back.”

Andrews said she hopes to apply for a work visa of her own this summer so she can return to London to continue the work that she started there, now that Hillgate Communications is nearing the completion of its set-up phase.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” she said.

Hillgate Communications offers a wide range of services for business owners who want solutions that will deliver measurable results in sales and profits, says the company’s promotional material. Services offered run the gamut from marketing, to analysis to strategy planning. Among the myriad of services offered by Hillgate are Web site development, annual reports and brochures, conference and event management, crisis management and media relations, to name but a few.

Generally speaking, “It’s got to be all about the customer,” explained Kane. “What does the customer want?”

Kane offered 3M as an example of a company providing what the customer wants, but doesn’t know it wants. “No one ever came to 3M and said ‘We want little yellow squares of paper with sticky stuff on them,'” he said. “But people did express frustration in finding a note pad or leaving notes that got lost. 3M filled that need with the Post-It Notes that can now be found in every office and in every home and on every desk. Where would be without the Post-It Note?”

Kane explained that businesses must provide a superior product or service at reasonable prices to survive in today’s economy, and they must get their message out.

“Did you know that about 75 percent of people polled say they like advertising?” asked Kane. “It helps them as consumers become familiar with what a business has to offer.”

In addition to getting the message out, businesses need to take a good look at the products and services they’re offering, as well as their approach to customer service, said Kane.

“Advertising may get the customer’s foot in the door, but it’s great, innovative products and superior customer service that will keep them coming back,” he added.

When asked if it was possible for small island shops and restaurants to build a good reputation in a community fueled by visitors, Kane answered with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”

“Word gets out here among visitors, word-of-mouth and the Internet, with travel sites like Travelocity.com and others,” he said. “Building a good reputation is extremely important in a place like Sanibel. In any place.”

Kane said that any business can survive, even in a rocky economy, if it employs the proper principles of hard work coupled with businesses savvy.

“The American way is what I call positivism,” said Kane. “And we’re here to help businesses achieve and increase that success. We’re a business-to-business company, so it’s our raison d’etre.”

For more information on Hillgate Communications and how the company can help you get your message out, call Jeremy, Blanaid or Libby at 472-3400 or visit the company’s new Web site at www.hillgate.biz.