This month, we talked to Asheville-based PR and digital marketing agency, Darby Communications.

1. Darby Communications has a storied history with the Outdoor Business Alliance network: tell us how you folks first got involved?

We were involved early on, attending monthly meetings, and giving PR support as needed. In 2013, our agency was heartbroken over the massive flooding that hit Colorado. Knowing that Asheville often was referred to as the ‘Boulder of the East’ we felt compelled to pull the Asheville and WNC outdoor community together to support those in the Boulder area. We collaborated with the OBA, Advantage West, and Oskar Blues to host the ‘Toast to ReCOvery’ fundraiser to raise money for the Oskar Blues’ CAN’d Aid Foundation’ which was giving support to the communities of Lyons and Longmont, CO; two areas that experienced massive devastation during the flooding. The event was held at the outdoor center at the Subaru dealership in East Asheville with live music, food, Oskar Blues beer, and a silent auction! 

Since then, our President, Angie Robinson served as an OBA board member, we’ve presented at various Lunch and Learns, our current employee Abby Harris is on the board and serves as Secretary, we are mentors for the Waypoint Accelerator, and we’ve aided the OBA with many of its PR and digital marketing needs.

2. What made you choose WNC as your base of operations and what keeps you here

Great question, and maybe the best one for our founder, Coral, to answer. 

CORAL: It was 2003 and my husband and I were living in the greater Denver area after almost a decade in Montana. We quickly realized that city life was not for us, and we yearned for a part of the country where we could have access to the mountains and rivers with a touch of urban culture while being closer to our New England roots. Asheville kept popping up in our research as an up-and-coming community with everything we needed to build our careers, raise our family, and enjoy the outdoors. On a whim, we sold our house in Broomfield, CO, and found ourselves renting a farmhouse on five acres in Candler. We were young and willing to take chances. If it didn’t work out, we’d simply move again. 

Shortly after arriving here, I came to realize that WNC was an emerging outdoor community with very few marketing / PR firms, and certainly none with an emphasis on the outdoors. It appeared to me that I hit the jackpot. Asheville was ripe for entrepreneurship and the timing was ideal to launch a communications business with an emphasis on representing outdoor and mountain lifestyle brands. As a successful freelancer, I arrived with PR accounts and quickly secured a local outdoor brand, Highgear. Asheville-based, Darby Communications and Associates, LLC was officially born in 2007 and I hired my first employee in 2008.

I am proud to share that as of January 1, 2023, our agency is now co-owned by myself, Angie Robinson, and Cory Van Auken. We have 13 full-time employees and serve leading regional companies such as Appalachian Gear Company, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Around the Crown 10K, Astral, Blue Ridge Chair Works, Devil’s Foot, Green River Preserve, Farm to Feet, Let Me Run, Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn, PubCorps, Nine Mile, The Railyard, SylvanSport, and Wildwater, amongst many other national and international companies.

3. Tell us about how you work with other members of the Outdoor Business Alliance

Many of our PR and digital marketing clients are OBA members. However, from a volunteer side and as a service-oriented company, we have presented at Lunch and Learns on PR and digital marketing tactics and topics such as employee retention and company culture. As OBA members, we’ve been Waypoint Accelerator mentors for every cohort since the first one in 2019, providing guidance on best marketing practices for small businesses. When members have questions about earned, owned, and paid media tactics, we hope they know they can reach out to us. We are always happy to share insights in our area of expertise.

4. What’s next for Darby Communications?  

Similar to the OBA’s mission of supporting outdoor industry-related brands here in Western North Carolina, we continue to help the many outdoor brands in this area meet their business goals and growth milestones by collaborating to implement strategic marketing plans. We are expanding our craft food and beverage portfolio, as we find that these industries share similar values with the outdoor industry of being healthy and getting the most enjoyment out of life. At Darby, we believe that if we can help companies flourish here in Western NC, then it will lift the local economy, resulting in a better place to live for all of us.