By: John Stearns
Storytelling is in Jessica Lyon’s bones. That’s how Lyon put it in 2009 when she was named a Hartford Business Journal 40 Under Forty winner as then-vice president of Co-Communications at age 29.
It still applies for Lyon, 35, who was named partner of Co-Communications this year and also is executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Mount Kisco, N.Y.-based marketing and public relations agency with offices in New York City and Farmington, where Lyon works.
“I love telling a good story and making sure the right people hear it,” her LinkedIn profile says, cleverly adding, “Simply as complicated as that.”
Her storytelling journey began as a newspaper journalist at a group of weekly newspapers in southern Connecticut, where she eventually became editor of its largest paper, the Stratford Star.
“Once I started working full time in news, I started realizing there are elements of stories that I really want to be able to tell in other ways, through video, marketing, graphic design and other mediums, because I really love just being creative,” Lyon said.
Women in Communications
Someone suggested she attend a Women in Communications meeting to explore a more integrated approach to storytelling. There, she met Stacey Cohen, founder, president and CEO of Co-Communications. They hit it off.
Lyon began working for Cohen in Mount Kisco in 2004, commuting from Trumbull. That was difficult with a young daughter at the time, and she left the firm briefly for another company closer to home. She stayed in touch with Cohen, who asked Lyon to return by opening a Connecticut office in 2006.
“Our clients are really unique and all over the map — and that’s what I really love with my journalism background; I love the eclectic nature of the work,” Lyon said of helping clients across myriad industries, including health care, real estate and education, tell their story.
One would never suspect the engaging executive was shy as a youth. She took up acting in her teens and early 20s, and learned to express herself and overcome her fears in a venue she loved, theater. She held roles in mostly classical productions, including Viola in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” where she learned to fence.
Lyon — along with her husband, Brian Hendrickson, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Suffield Public Schools — is a fan of the arts. Arts open new ways of seeing things, which can be applied to work, she said.
Lyon also enjoys creating. She recently started candle making and gives candles as gifts and party favors.
Co-Communications is relatively small, with 16 full-time employees, four in Farmington.
“Growth is important to us, but what’s most important to us is maintaining strong client relationships,” Lyon said. “We don’t have any aspirations to become a huge firm. We like our boutique feel, we like to be very hands-on with our clients.”
It’s the “co,” for collaboration, behind the firm’s name.
Co-Communications this fall acquired 341 Studios, a marketing and design agency in Darien. The deal allows Co-Communications to expand its website and online marketing, staff and clients. Don’t, however, look for Co-Communications to acquire just anybody.
“There are tried-and-true practices that we apply every day here, but we also need to understand where PR and marketing is going and in order to do that and do that well for our clients, I feel like remaining smaller and more nimble is where we want to be,” Lyon said.
Danielle Cyr, Co-Communications’ vice president of integrated marketing, was Lyon’s second hire in Connecticut eight years ago. She praised Lyon’s collaboration, integrity and creativity.
“When you meet Jess, she’s very warm, she’s a great networker and relationship-builder and really takes the time to get to know people and what makes them tick,” Cyr said. “She’s incredibly high-energy and incredibly creative and … has this consistent ability to come up with these big, creative ideas that are out of the box and not something you would typically expect.”
Lyon credits her father, Gary Lyon, who owns a precision sheet metal fabricating business in Milford, as the person she most admires. Among his many attributes, he taught his children that mistakes don’t define them.
“How you pick yourself back up and how you deal with it is what your character really is,” she remembers him saying. “That’s how he taught me and our family about integrity. That’s something that I definitely take with me today as a leader and a manager.”