People

2013 30 Under 35 Profile: Kyle Leighton

Kyle Leighton
29
Public Relations Director, EverLast® Lighting

By Joe Nowlan

Kyle Leighton always had a good idea of what he wanted in his career.

“I wanted to be in an industry that promotes life-long learning. I was raised that way. My mom is a college instructor and education has always had a big value,” Leighton explained.

He is the public relations director at EverLast Lighting in Jackson, Mich. Prior to joining EverLast in late 2011, he worked in marketing and sales at a local television station.

“I saw a job posting at a temp agency for public relations, which is what I was studying at the time—so I decided to apply,” he said.

After a series of interviews, he was hired—and “life-long learning” was exactly what EverLast had in store for him.

“I did not know anything about lighting or the electrical industry,” Leighton laughed. “So the first couple of months I spent a lot of time learning about lighting technology, the ins and outs of the distribution channel….[In general], how that business is done.”

In his first year, Leighton attended the Electro Expo in Cleveland. It was a source of information and key relationships that have aided him in his career. (He cites Brad Wiandt and Rob Fisher of Madison Electric Products and Joe Carroll of Arlington Fittings as just a few of those who provided great help.)

“I was able to meet a lot of different people from a lot of different areas of the electrical industry. That [trade show] was essentially my training day,” he explained.

Leighton is also quick to credit many of his co-workers at EverLast for helping him during that early learning curve—citing CEO Mike Nevins and vice president of administration Joelle Bragg.

“They really sat me down and explained to me how the electrical industry works. There was such a wealth of information for me to absorb [that] I was hearing from these veterans in the industry,” he explained.

In his job, Leighton has by-lined or ghost-written several articles for industry publications—as well as starting a corporate blog. However, he emphasizes that “nothing happens without people.”

“I like working with people. In public relations, it requires teamwork to get campaigns done.… It all requires other people to get objectives and goals completed. It’s much the same in the electrical industry…. That’s another thing that’s attractive to me about the industry—the teamwork.”

Recently, Leighton contributed to a handbook for building owners and contractors published by California Lighting Technology Center (part of the Department of Design at the University of California, Davis.) The handbook explains some of the new California State Codes that go into effect in 2014.

Leighton is a graduate of Siena Heights University and also teaches business classes as an adjunct faculty member at Jackson College. Kyle lives in Jackson with his girlfriend, Erica Konopka, and in his all too-infrequent spare time plays golf when he can. A challenge, he admits, living in Michigan.

“Well, I like to golf in the summer. Of course, here we have eight months of winter,” he laughed.

Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?

A. On top of being connected and establishing relationships, it is really important to be immersed in it [the industry] in any way that you can. Because the electrical industry thrives on innovation and bringing new products to market, it is imperative that young professionals get as involved as they can with their company and outside organizations. [So] they can take advantage of new opportunities. I am an IESNA [Illuminating Engineering Society of North America] member for a reason. As the industry continues to change, opportunities are really limitless.

Wouldn’t you rather be carrying the torch of innovation and leading the industry rather than chasing it down? I think the only way to do that is by gaining ideas and having those relationships so you’re able to share and also receive information—and then push things forward on your own. But you are not going to be able to do that if you’re not involved in it and if you’re not immersed in it.

Q. What is the one thing a company should never post about on social media?

A. Brands should not have an opinion on social media about anything that isn’t related to business. There should not be a stance on social issues, political issues. I mean, there are lots they can participate in, in terms of community involvement and that kind of thing. But above all else, brands should not take a stand on social issues, political issues. That can be bad and any time you see a brand do that, they are usually on Fox News or MSNBC. I think it was Chick-fil-A that had a thing earlier [last] year that everyone paid attention to. Whenever anybody does it, people don’t respond well and it damages their brand.

Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at jcnowlan@msn.com.

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