Jackson, whose background mainly has been in public relations, counts Proctor and Gamble, Shoney's and the government of Spain as longtime clients. Hilyard, whose resume largely has been in television news, covered major events around the nation and the world for CNN, including the Oklahoma City bombing, coverage which resulted in that Emmy.
But the two, along with Jackson's wife, Martha, feel they can successfully use a small-town base to conduct a big-time business. And that business is The Idea Farm.
"In an age of computers and instant communication, it really doesn't matter, at least as much as it used to, where your office is," said Jackson. "And since firms can now establish headquarters outside major media markets and still do a good business, what better place than a wonderful community like Danville."
Jackson is president of The Idea Farm, which was established in 1992, while Hilyard is vice president and Martha Jackson is vice president in charge of production. The firm has eight account executives and other employees based in Danville, plus one employee in a satellite office in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, and a correspondent in The Netherlands where The Idea Farm is involved in a cooperative venture with the prestigious Ducth architecture firm of Sckerdt-BV.
Other members of The Idea Farm's diverse and varied client list include General Motors, Iams pet foods, Heinz pet products, Starkist foods, Patriot Greeting Cards for military personnel, Lini Boutiques of Indonesia and the Sultanate of Brunei's tourism development office.
The firm's regional client list includes Cincinnati Financial Corp., Carrollton Federal Bank, Farmers Tobacco Co. in Cynthiana, which manufactures Kentucky Best cigarettes, and the Kentucky Hospice Network, which includes Heritage Hospice of Danville. Local clients include McDowell Health, Faulconer Mechanical Service and Johnson and Pohlmann Insurance in Danville and Tarter Gate Co. in Dunnville.
In addition, The Idea Farm provides free services for some local community service organizations or events, including the Great American Brass Band Festival and the Wilderness Trace Community Foundation.
"The festival committee entered the 2003 festival with a change in leadership and needed help," Jackson said. "So Karen Hilyard and the firm, on a pro bono basis, developed a public relations package including videos, brochures, ads, posters and T-shirts to make sure the festival's many fans around the state and region realized it was still a great festival and still going to be held, despite some financial problems."
The festival is an example of that varied clientele cited by Jackson.
Its work is as varied as its clients
The work that The Idea Farm performs for its clients is just as varied as the clients themselves, he said. The firm spends a considerable amount of time getting to know the client, its product and everything else about the company - so much so, Jackson said, that The Idea Firm often knows as much or more about a client than its CEO.
"Before we do anything, the first service we provide is to develop a strategy based on the needs of each client. That's why I say The Idea Farm is strategy driven," he said. "And there often is more to a strategy than simply increased or improved advertising and other marketing techniques. A strategy first might involve improving a company's distribution system to ensure its products get to key areas. Then, the advertising would kick in. It's counterproductive to make a product well known if it's hard for the public that wants it to get it."
There was a time when Jackson, now 54, didn't know much about the profession in which he now is an expert. In fact, he kind of stumbled into the PR business.