Second-generation leader Kate Lilja Lohnes sees sustainability communications as the key to future growth at Lilja Communications, the boutique public relations firm her mother launched three decades ago.

Lohnes assumed the role of president and owner of the Eden Prairie-based firm at the start of the year. Founder Mary Lilja now serves as senior PR consultant.

Revenue has grown 50% since Lohnes joined the firm in 2016 and introduced sustainability communications as a new specialty. She also added social media services to the lineup of content creation, design and video production offerings.

The firm runs on renewable energy and the staff of six observes “Meatless Mondays,” Lohnes said.

“Our key differentiator is our vast expertise in the world of sustainability communications,” Lohnes said. “We practice what we preach. Because of that we are uniquely positioned to share their stories with the right audience at the right time.”

Lohnes grew up with her mother’s company, attending a Take Your Daughter to Work Day when she was 9 and serving as an intern while completing her communications degree at St. Catherine University.

“I have every confidence in Kate’s abilities,” Lilja, who founded the firm in 1988, said in a release. “I look forward to partnering with Kate as she pursues new avenues of growth and development for the company.”

Lohnes developed social media programs and communications campaigns largely centered on environmental issues such as encouraging public-transportation use while working in local government agencies in Salt Lake City during the decade before she joined Lilja Communications.

“I’ve always wanted to do something that would have meaning,” Lohnes said. “Most millennials will relate to that.”

The leadership transition at Lilja Communications took place over the last year with Lohnes serving as acting president while her mother underwent successful treatment for breast cancer.

Clients include Tetra Pak, George Family Foundation, We Share Solar and United Properties.

Q: What is Lilja Communications known for?

A: We are known for our quality, concise communications and being strategic. We craft a strategic plan to meet our clients’ objectives, always tying back to their goals, and then develop the right communications to meet their needs. We’re really strategic communications counsel.


Q: How do you and your mother manage working together?

A: Mary and I were really thoughtful about putting parameters around our work relationship. We decided not to have work conversations over the weekend; I have two kids, a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old, running around. A family business consultant helped inform us on how to have a healthy work and personal relationship in a family business context. It’s one of the privileges of my life working closely with Mary, learning from her and being mentored by her.


Q: What’s next for Lilja Communications?

A: The area that I’m excited about and look to grow is the field of social impact public relations — creating communications campaigns or sharing stories around the community-oriented and impact-driven work of our clients. Creating space around that and carving out more of that work is where I hope to go.


Q: What is a trend you are seeing in public relations?

A: There’s this old-fashioned concept of spin, which I push strongly against because integrity and authenticity matter. People are savvy, the media is savvy, employees are savvy and they can smell when someone is not being honest with them.


Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is