When your hiring strategy is to build a team of “incredible humans who are both interested and interesting,” you create the kind of global agency that succeeds from day one. Named International Agency of the Year in The PR Net Next Gen Awards, Alpha Kilo is revered both for its creative campaigns across industries like design and travel, as well as a company culture that honors local nuances for their London and New York-based teams. We spoke with founder and managing director Amanda Kasper to learn about her diverse work background, the strategies she uses to keep a global team running smoothly, plus her predictions for the future of PR and events.
Tell us about your career before launching Alpha Kilo in London in 2015.
I definitely had a winding path before launching Alpha Kilo. I studied Studio Art at Denison University and after being rejected from my dream MFA program based on my GRE scores (I’ve also been a terrible tester), I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I did a post-college internship in Germany in marketing, advertising, and exhibition building for a massive industrial conglomerate that turned into a two-year adventure. I came back to the States, moved to New York City, and started working for an event management firm that specialized in trade fairs. For eight years, I worked on the design and shelter divisions of the gift fairs in NYC, SF, LA, and Seattle. The company had an incredible tuition reimbursement program, so I went to UCLA and received a graduate degree in Interior Design and then ended up back in NYC as the Show Director of the ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair). In 2007, I wanted to move to London, and Patrick Stallard and Ian Fredrikson introduced me to the brilliant Judy Dobias, the founder of Camron PR. We met and I remember her saying “with what you know about art and design, I can teach you the PR side no problem.” So I learned from the best.
How did you come to launch your agency?
In 2012, the agency I was working for at the time transferred me out to San Francisco and by 2015 I was ready to move back to London. I felt as if I had gone as far as I could there and Lauren and I had built an incredible client roster in a few short years with minimal support from the other offices. We also wanted to evolve beyond the common practices of a traditional PR agency. Lauren and I led clients from a place of creative ideas and executable strategies – team players that were a true extension of the internal teams. So we set out to create a next generation PR agency that is built on ideas and shaped by incredible humans who are both interested and interesting, looking at the world through many different lenses. As Alpha Kilo has grown, it’s a delight to see that vision come to life and expand. We are a thoughtful, engaged, and dedicated team from different cultures and backgrounds, who together build outstanding press campaigns, events, and new audiences for our brilliant clients around the globe.
What have been some of your career highlights to date?
I would say coming out of the gate with Airbnb as a client was definitely a career highlight. Reporting directly to co-founder Joe Gebbia – who called me his “Idea Factory” – and working alongside marketing visionary Jonathan Mildenhall, was an extraordinary experience. We could present a BIG idea and be given the budget and bandwidth to execute it at speed, like the Yoshino Cedar House project. I call those days the Halcyon Days of Airbnb, when they were attracting the best marketing talent from around the world, and we had the distinct privilege and pleasure to work alongside and learn from that extraordinary group of humans. We are still very tight with the “Airfam” of those days and find ways to work and support each other at every opportunity.
Other career highlights following closely would be bringing the Concours d’Elegance to Savile Row in London and seeing the meteoric rise of Mortlach since we began 18 months ago.
Alpha Kilo was named International Agency of the Year in The PR Net Next Gen Awards. What do you consider key to operating smoothly across continents and cultures?
There are a few key elements to operating smoothly across continents and cultures:
1. Respect the culture of the office and its locale
While the Alpha Kilo team has its own culture that resonates no matter where one is located, each office and each locale has its own unique characteristics and ways of working. For example, our London team can find the American style of email quite direct (and perhaps a bit rude), so we train our American team to always start an email with a greeting and sign it off with a complimentary close – and to use extra words like “kindly” and “please do.” This prevents any misreading or ill will and is actually quite lovely for any recipient, really.
2. Open lines of communication across offices
One of the perks of operating across different time zones is that one team can pick up where the other leaves off. In order for this baton pass to go smoothly, it’s important to ensure that the work is recorded and shared between teams. Live updates in systems like Google docs, Slack, and Notion (which we love for To Do lists) allow for a seamless interchange between teams. We believe in transparency not only between the teams but with our clients and these shared documents are the cornerstone.
3. Share intel
We pride ourselves on being a cultural communication agency, but in order to maintain that crown, we emphasize the importance of getting out to briefings, events, conferences, talks, and openings – and, of course, we read ALL kinds of content. From there, we share this intel across the agency so each office has a truly global viewpoint and insight into what’s happening on the ground wherever the A-K lands.
Has the post-pandemic shift towards remote work and a consultant-heavy workforce changed your business at all?
From the start, Alpha Kilo set out to create a flexible work environment, and as we were global from the get-go with me in London and my co-founder, Lauren, in San Francisco, we worked out the tools that could make the agency most adaptable and efficient across time zones. At the time, it wasn’t just about where we lived; we intentionally sought to tap into the powerful workforce of women who had been marginalized by rigid corporate structure once they had families. We knew if we could build a company that allowed for flexible work hours and locations, we would be able to build an incredible team of highly talented and efficient staff. So when the pandemic hit, we seamlessly moved into remote work.
Interestingly, in the post-pandemic years, we have opened a new office in New York beyond our London HQ in Savile Row and shifted to more full-time employees than ever. We still maintain a very flexible approach and offer work-away and remote options for all of our team.
What are current or upcoming projects you’re excited about?
I'm currently incredibly excited about the launch of Alpha Kilo’s own salon series, which we will be launching in September to coincide with the London Design Festival, PAD, and Frieze. Hosted in our beautiful London office at Number 11 Savile Row, Alpha Kilo’s Savile Row Salon Series brings to life thought-provoking conversations with inspiring and notable guests from around the world. Based on our Alpha Kilo Muses, the popular online interviews and Instagram Lives, the series invites guests to share insights into specific topics that surround the core interests of the agency – arts, culture, and entrepreneurialism.
For a period of six weeks around the London Design Festival, PAD, and Frieze, we’ll open our doors with a series of salons, together with Art & Interiors. Gallerist Georgie Grandy and interior designer Alice Leigh will completely reenvision the front rooms, bringing together their extensive expertise to create a beautiful space comprising curated artworks, furniture, and design objet that will be for sale throughout the course of the six week series. Furniture, objects, and artwork will be replenished upon sale, offering a dynamic and engaging space. Participating companies include Christopher Farr, Edward Bulmer Natural Paints, and Lorfords.
You’re a self-proclaimed nomad at heart; what cities have you called home lately? Have you discovered any new spots you’d recommend?
Currently I’m splitting my time between New York City, London, and Nantucket. A few of my favorites are the new gastropub The Audley in London, the utterly delicious and beautifully styled Green Market on India Street on Nantucket, and the Titsou speakeasy at Fouquet’s.
Where do you get your design inspiration from (clients, designers, publications, brands, etc.)?
To be honest, I pull inspiration from so many sources. One of my favorite sayings is “interested makes interesting” meaning the more curious one is about the world and spaces around them, the more inspired (and interesting) they will be. I’m constantly reading all types of content from the FT Weekend to the Daily Mail, from the New Yorker to Outside. Present obsessions include David Michon’s BRILLIANT For Scale and Sam Weiss-Hills’ Dinner @ 10.
The design inspiration in my own home comes from the beautiful spaces I’ve visited around the world – most recently the incredible Gae Aulenti archive in Milan. It has one of the best tapestries I’ve ever seen, not to mention a lust-worthy library and Italian design icons at every turn.
Do you have any predictions for the future of the PR and/or events industry?
On the PR side, with the rise of tools like ChatGPT, press releases could quickly become very same-same and even more boring. I believe the more human-based, evocative story angles and stylistic writing will become the differentiators. On the events side, over the top experiential will shift to smaller, thoughtful, once-in-a-lifetime moments.
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