Two longtime Grand Rapids-area communications professionals are on the move.
In announcements just a day apart, both John Helmholdt, executive director of communications and external affairs for Grand Rapids Public Schools, and Chris Knape, founder of public relations firm K-Corner Consulting, announced job changes.
Helmholdt was tapped to serve as the new president of Grand Rapids-based firm SeyferthPR while Knape accepted a role as Grand Valley State University’s director of university communications.
Helmholdt transitions to his post at SeyferthPR after nearly 15 years serving in his current capacity at GRPS. Before that, he co-owned a political consulting firm called Strategic Communication Group.
Helmholdt told MiBiz that he was not necessarily looking for a job change, but was sought out by SeyferthPR founder and CEO Ginny Seyferth.
“I’ve worked with Ginny the better part of my career. Coming out of college, and working for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, I got to know Ginny then,” Helmholdt said. “She actually worked with my dad a little bit when my dad was mayor of Grand Rapids. We have a long history. … Really, a major factor for me in this decision was Ginny Seyferth and the role she and her firm has played to strengthen our city, the region, the state and beyond.”
Following two long and arduous academic years grappling with COVID-19 and the changing public health policies that accompanied it, both higher education and intermediate school systems encountered considerable turnover in leadership. Helmholdt said the pandemic did factor into his decision-making process, but not in a major way.
However, he did say that he will draw on this experience when working with clients at SeyferthPR, where he is slated to begin on July 7.
“My crisis communications are probably as sharp as they can be having lived through every changing dynamic of COVID and the other socioeconomic unrest we’re seeing in our society,” Helmholdt said. “All of that combined made me a stronger PR professional and, at the same point, all of that pressure, it has taken its toll but it wasn’t a major factor in my decision.”
Meanwhile, Knape is already on the job at GVSU, leaving behind K-Corner Consulting, the Grand Rapids-based public relations firm that he founded and spent three years steering. Before starting K-Corner, Knape spent five years as marketing director and vice president of marketing and communications for BarFly Ventures LLC, the parent company of brewpub brand HopCat.
Knape started in the role when HopCat stood as just a single location in Grand Rapids before BarFly brought the concept to additional locations in and around Michigan.
Before his time with BarFly, Knape spent two years at SeyferthPR after exiting a 17-year career as a journalist, where he once served as business editor of the Grand Rapids Press.
“It was an opportunity to work with a great team at an incredibly vibrant and growing institution,” Knape told MiBiz about his decision. “I have been working from home for the past three years and it was also an opportunity to get more engaged in working in a team environment again, which I had missed.”