Memorial Created By
Christine Kerst

Alan Kelly

December 05, 1957 - April 13, 2022

This is a gathering place for professional friends and colleagues of Alan Kelly to share stories of time spent together, describe the impact he had on our lives and careers, and support each other as we come to terms with the loss of our larger-than-life mentor and friend.

Honoring a Pioneer: Celebrating Alan Kelly’s Life and Career   The world of business and political communications lost a true pioneer last week. And many of us lost a valuable mentor and friend.   Alan Kelly taught the public relations industry and related fields to invoke, jam, crowd, bait and peacock. No, they’re not dance moves or plays run on a football field. They’re strategic “plays” that are used (consciously or not) to...  see more
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Posts & Photos

  • daniel chow
    i am terribly saddened by his passing.

    please accept my condolences.

    Alan said this to me, and it has been my mantra: if you love what you do, it will show in your work.

    this has always guided me, and it has been the foundation for my art, or for...  more
    I am a little late with this post as I just learned of Alan’s passing today. Though it’s been more than 20 years now, I have such vivid and wonderful memories of working for Alan at Applied. Alan is everything you'd want in a leader: inspirational,...  more
  • Tom Sear
    Apologies for intrusion, as I didn't know Alan personally. I am just now following up on his work, after John Bicknell's considered note - who as VP of the Information Professional's association (IPA) - voiced a recent tribute to Alan's intellect,...  more
  • Matt Krebsbach
    Earlier this week (May 3, 2022) in San Francisco, we held a small gathering of Applied Communications alums and former clients to celebrate Alan and all that he meant to us. We were touched that Kim and Katie were able to join us, and I hope that seeing...  more
  • Christine Kerst
    Desk swap day, Scotty J. If only we had a photo of Alan sitting at yours.
  • Don Gentile
    Sorry, this one’s a little long. If I had more time it would be shorter… Alan said he was “taking a chance” on me when he hired me as employee #9 (I think) at Applied at our modest Burlingame office. The audacity of a tiny firm as agency of...  more
  • Scott Johnston
    I am saddened and shocked that Alan is gone. He was such a presence and inspiration. His vision for PR and comms was everywhere at Applied right down to the last detail. Like so many others I still carry and tap into the learnings I made while at...  more
  • RH Simps
    I was so fortunate to work for Alan at Applied in the research group and through subsequent consulting gigs. These experiences influenced my broader perspectives on marketing/data, gave me unique practical skills, and continue to open wonderful doors for...  more
  • Michael Cornfield
    I met Alan in DC when he was looking to apply his typology to politics. We collaborated on a weekly radio commentary in 2008 for Sirius XM and had a blast. I am not surprised to read all the tributes from his PR life; that’s the gregarious fella I knew....  more
  • Erica Pompen
    My first thoughts upon hearing this sad news a few weeks ago were of Alan’s commanding presence - the wide grin and boisterous demeanor, the sparkle in his eyes as he poked and prodded below the surface of communications and approached and shaped...  more
  • Viktor He
    I got to know Alan through the Circle 2019 in Budapest. Even if I can only look back on a short time in which I was able to work with him, it fills me with great sadness and a deep shock to learn of his passing. Alan was a great asset to everyone who got...  more
  • Jason Dressel
    I did not know Alan nearly as well as those of you who have shared your memories of him here. I hardly knew him at all. Nonetheless my brief interactions with Alan are perfectly consistent with the person you all were lucky to know and call a friend. We...  more
  • Lucas Held
    What an awful shock. Alan's work on the Playmaker system was ingenious, and illuminated something rarely mentioned in PR textbooks that are often exclusively focused on tactics and stakeholder mapping: The variety of strategic options that are available...  more
  • Allison Hopkins
    I met Alan 42 years ago, we were both 22 and starting out in life and career. We walked thru several years of career moments but that isn't what stands out. His gregarious laugh and his love for his family is what I will remember and makes me smile to...  more
  • David Eichberg
    Alan's passing is a severe blow to the psyche and soul of so many of us. He will be remembered for his big heart, brilliant mind and trail blazing of strategic competitive communications. Like so many others have noted here, Alan took a chance on me,...  more
  • David Downing
    So saddened to hear of Alan's passing and my condolences to Kim and his children, and all who loved him.

    My friendship and business journey with Alan spanned more than 40 years, two coasts and a variety of different roles during up and down chapters in...  more
  • Shernaz Daver
    I worked with Alan at my first job right out of school -- he was my boss' boss.  It was the early days of technology and communication and we were part of the Motorola team making semiconductors exciting. 

    Alan led the effort and pushed us in many...  more
  • Zach Nelson
    There are very few “firsts” in one’s life. First girlfriend, first house, first job. Alan was my first “boss” and as such he made an indelible impression on and contribution to my life.

    And what a boss he was. I had never had a professional...  more
  • Jennifer Jones
    Alan Kelly was one of my most favorite people who I met in the early 1990s. We were both executives in the PR/Marketing Communications business at the same time and loved talking strategy and treating each other to stupid jokes. I served on his Board...  more
  • Alan Smith
    I first met Alan at Oracle Open World in (I think) 1998 in the US. The PR firm I then worked for had Oracle as a client, as of course did Applied Communications. On my return, sand shifted in Australia and I did a snap return trip to the US to discuss...  more
  • Jack Browne
    Alan and I worked together for 10 of the best years I had as a marketing guy. As part of the 68000 team in Austin, we were the guys who broke the rules, ALL THE RULES. Only Strategic Bus Unit in company to work directly with market and financial...  more
  • Dan Keating
    In reading these reflections, many of you are expressing that Alan took a chance on you. I’m no different. I started as his IT person, and eventually spent a year with him working on his book, then another few after that building a business around it....  more
  • Peter Buchanan
    I met Alan over 30 years ago when he was just ramping up Applied Communications. I worked at GE, and we hired him to do a market study on our position in the eCommerce market. Our first interaction was a rollicking interview where he asked aggressive...  more
  • Cora van Muiswinkel
    So sorry to know Alan passed away. I first met Alan during a job interview over the phone. Even without seeing him (no videocalls at the time), I sensed him intimidating, impressive, interested and hilarious at the same time. Alan broke the ice by trying...  more
  • Rob Rooney
    So sad to read about Alan’s passing. I was blessed to join Applied when I moved to Amsterdam from Dublin in 2002. Amsterdam was the international office, full of gifted communicators and disciples of Alan’s incredible vision for strategic...  more
  • Brad Kerst
    Thank you Alan for your vision, your mentorship, your guidance, your friendship, and for teaching me to sail.

    You have always been an influencer, and I’m one of many whose lives were enhanced as a result of your influence. Rest In Peace.
  • O Schaeffer
    Alan, you hired me and offered me the opportunity to work for Applied and move to SF for my first job. To work in PR with limited command of the language, only you saw my passion. That made me what I am today. Without you I would be on a complete...  more
  • Bill Cox
    As a college senior, I was lucky to hear Christine Kerst talk about this small agency where she worked, and was hooked when she shared an article about Alan with the headline "PR as Bloodsport." That was it: I wanted to do competitive...  more
  • Sam Whitmore
    Alan without a doubt was one of the smartest people I've ever met in this business. He was such a good listener. I sensed a serenity in him that many top executives lack.

    Lou and Josh made a great point about the pedigree of Applied's alumni. That says...  more
  • Greg Spector
    Alan joined us as a partner in 1990, shortly after we founded Jennings & Company. His time with us, like his life, ended way too soon. But I like to think that we gave him the kick in the ass he needed to start Applied and go on to do great work for his...  more
  • Catherine  Cohen
    “CC” coming from his office. Countless times a day. My response “what AK”. The nicknames that stayed with us forever.

    I remember my first day at Applied. I was pretty much employee one. It was Alan, Kevin and myself. Boy they could intimidate...  more
  • Amity Van Hauser
    This news breaks my heart as I’m sure it does for many others. Like so many, Applied was my first corporate job after college. The collegial culture that Alan curated for so many young, inspired and smart people was truly special. I always felt heard...  more
  • Rob Goodman
    I’m shocked and devastated to hear the news of Alan’s passing. He was a mentor, friend, and someone I could always turn to for advice. He helped guide me through my career and has done so with many other people from the world of Applied. He was a...  more
  • Neville Hobson
    So sorry to read the news of Alan. I first met him in the early years of this century when I lived in Amsterdam and worked with his firm on strategic communication for my employer at the time. We'd not been in contact in recent years, but I remember Alan...  more
  • Joshua Reynolds
    I remember Alan as a brilliant mentor, leader and friend. Working for him at Applied was like an awakening ... like being shown The Matrix ... and all the strategic possibilities of rhetoric and communications. Applied was more than an agency, it was an...  more
  • Lou Hoffman
    I am shocked and saddened.

    I got to know Alan as a competitor in the 1990's and early 2000's as he built Applied Communications into a powerhouse that walked to its own drummer. At some point, I can't exactly tell you when, I sized up Alan as the...  more
  • Matt Krebsbach
    “Are you wearing your helmet?”

    For 20 years, this was the first question Alan asked me virtually every time we saw one another or spoke on the phone. It was an unfailingly endearing, almost parental part of our relationship…and quintessential Alan...  more
  • Bill Nichols
    Very sad news. Alan was a massive figure - I hope he would see 'disrupter' as a compliment - who challenged many of the norms of the PR business and very successfully. I met him (with BT) a dozen or so times when my then UK firm, Whiteoaks, partnered...  more
  • Thomas Stoeckle
    What sad and unexpected news. We only met a few times at conferences, but spoke for hours (and not just about our shared perspectives on the field of PR...). He called me an 'original thinker' over dinner in Bled, Slovenia, when we last met, at BledCom...  more
  • Gretchen Ushakova
    Alan helped me open the door to a wonderful career by hiring me straight out of college and putting faith in a CO girl. He was a great leader and will be missed.
  • Bill Mandel
    Alan Kelly was the closest we’ll ever get to experiencing a Biblical prophet face-to-face, and like a Biblical prophet Alan received too little honor in his homeland, by which I mean the Communications industry. Few things were as satisfying as an Alan...  more
  • Jen Martella
    Alan was big - he was tall but it was his personality and generosity of spirit that filled any room! However, it is the small moments I remember. He and Tim stayed until a crazy late hour to teach me how to write a press release. They changed the...  more
  • Inga Starrett
    I don't have one memory of Alan. I have a thousand moments with him that pop into my head randomly. I have friends and colleagues in my life today because of him. So, thanks Alan. And thanks to all the people I know because of him. You all shaped my life.
  • Carl Tsukahara
    I am so sorry to hear about Alan passing. I was blessed to work with him at Oracle for a number of years and he was a great friend, partner and bright and engaging person. We had fun times and laughs working together with the team at Applied and the...  more
  • Van Diamandakis
    I moved to San Francisco in 1994 to take a marketing job at Oracle barely 30 years old. I managed corporate marketing working for people like Marc Benioff, Polly Sumner and Gary Bloom. I was clueless on PR. My mentor and savior was Alan Kelly at Applied....  more
  • Brooke Kruger
    Was so sad to hear this news. Alan was one of the great's. He hired me as an AE at Applied when I was 25 years old. I knew nothing about technology PR but had worked in DC and on a campaign, along with some consumer PR experience so he took a chance on...  more
  • Christine Kerst
    Alan hired me at Applied when I was 25. He trusted me with professional responsibilities and opportunities that were beyond my imagination at that time. He filled my public relations toolbox with sharp ideas and skills I didn't find anywhere else....  more
  • Aparna Gray
    So so sorry to hear this. 😔 What incredibly sad news. Applied Communications was my first job out of college and Alan helped kicked off a PR career which has brought me to where I am today. 22 years later I still think often about his playmaker bible...  more