Reno marketing firm, KPS3, celebrates 25 years of adapting to change | nnbusinessview.com

Reno marketing firm, KPS3, celebrates 25 years of adapting to change

Special to the NNBW

Marketing is about adaptation. It's about defining a strategy and making that strategy work for a specific audience in a specific arena. The way experienced marketers hit that target often requires shifting strategies at a moment's notice. It's this ability to intelligently adapt that Stephanie Kruse, founder of KPS3, a full-service marketing, communications and digital agency, attributes to her firm's 25 years of success.

"KPS3 has managed to remain malleable where it matters most. We've evolved with — and often ahead of — the industry, which, in large part, is responsible for the success we've seen," Kruse said. "That being said, there are things that will never change — like the importance of research or the value of strong strategy and great storytelling — and it's this foundation that guides everything we do."

Before that foundation was ever laid, though, came the person who would one day lay it.

There are four distinct facets of Kruse's life that, together, define both her entrepreneurial drive and the fast-paced path her agency has remained committed to: an upbringing on a farm in Iowa instilled in Kruse an unwavering work ethic; her time as a registered nurse helped her hone a keen understanding of human psychology; her journalism background sharpened her skills as a strategic communicator; and earning her M.B.A. defined a framework through which she could shape solutions for clients.

Prior to opening her own PR agency, Kruse worked as the director of marketing at Saint Mary's Hospital for nine years, a role that involved hiring advertising, PR and graphics agencies. She soon noticed that these agencies lacked both the strategic approach to communications and the crisis-communications experience found in healthcare industry. Kruse saw something others did not.

"I felt that was an opportunity," Kruse said. "I had a vision to fill a couple of niches … even though there were big boys in town who had a much longer standing reputation as a traditional agency."

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In May of 1991, Kruse set out to fill those niches as Stephanie Kruse and Associates. REMSA/Care Flight became the firm's first contract and, soon after, the Reno/Tahoe airport hired Kruse to manage an economic development project.

"We began picking up clients left and right, and I hired my first employee about two months into the business," Kruse said. "We continued to grow rapidly in both accounts and staff to handle clients effectively."

One of those early clients was Dermody Properties, a national industrial real estate developer and operator, which still remains a client of KPS3's today.

"I have trusted Stephanie Kruse and her company, KPS3, for over 20 years with representing our company in the community," Michael Dermody of Dermody Properties said. "And for me, it is the ultimate trust having someone present you to others."

A commitment to perfection guided KPS3 through recessions and upswings, and, eventually, led the agency to strategize for and navigate the digital world with its interconnected form of storytelling.

"As traditional marketing tools have expanded to a digital, connected world, [KPS3 has] led the way," Bruce Gescheider of Moana Nursery, said.

Offering her clients digital services was a clear-cut decision.

"I saw digital-only agencies doing interesting things and thought, why shouldn't we be doing that in-house as opposed to 'jobbing it out' or, worse, not doing it at all?," Kruse said. "We eventually brought on the full range of talent we needed to become a true, accomplished digital agency within an agency. I compliment Rob Gaedtke, our CEO and creative director, for really bringing that to fruition when he re-joined the firm a few years ago. It's soared since then."

In addition to evolving into a full-service agency, KPS3 has seen a number of accolades under Kruse's direction. In 2012, it secured its largest account to date: it was chosen as the agency to represent the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, the state-run health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

"Steph and her team frequently bring us ideas that are fresh, unique and new," Jennifer Cunningham of the RSCVA said. "Many of these ideas have become industry 'best practices' well after they have been identified by KPS3."