nglccNY Spotlight: Anthony Hayes, The Hayes Initiative

Anthony Hayes, founder of The Hayes Initiative

“A great group of older gay mentors took me under their wing. They said, ‘You can be going out all night having fun, being young…but you are also going to the Human Rights Campaign Dinner, to the Empire State Pride Agenda,’ and so forth. I quickly became socialized around the idea of community.” So began Anthony Hayes’ journey to the founding of The Hayes Initiative.

When he arrived in New York in 1998 from Oklahoma, Anthony was in his early twenties. He began working in fashion, but by his mid-twenties, Anthony knew that he wanted to work with the LGBTQ community. At the end of a day spent lobbying Congress on behalf of HRC, he asked, “Can someone make a living doing this,” and was assured that the answer was yes. This led to a job at HRC in 2007. Working through the 2008 election cycle, Anthony and HRC focused on both federal and state elections, approaching them through the lens of LGBTQ issues. This was his entryway into the government, electoral, communications space.

From HRC, Anthony moved to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey helping oversee the agency’s response to major crises such as the “Bridgegate” scandal and Superstorm Sandy. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the Port Authority opened the Memorial Pools; Anthony was responsible for the media relating to that opening, as well as several other events at the site including bringing the Today show to broadcast from a crane on top of the building and having President Obama sign the last piece of steel to go into One World Trade. “All of this work, but especially the crises, when you are working simultaneously for two governors, a mayor, and multiple members of Congress, was a real PhD in crisis communications.”

Leaving the Port Authority, Anthony became a member of Secretary Clinton’s Press Advance Team during her 2016 campaign. “It was an incredible education in high stakes press, high stakes stagecraft.” At the end of the campaign, Anthony began to talk with various communications firms in New York City that were eager to bring him on; some offered retainers. “A friend of mine rightly said, ‘You’ve always wanted to start your own business; how many retainers do you need to start a business?’” While this was going on, he was contacted about managing a nation-wide bus tour aimed at countering efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “I said, ‘Oh great. You should hire my company’ and they said, ‘Send us your contract.’ Thus, began the birth of a communications and government relations firm named The Hayes Initiative.”

Over the past four years, Anthony and his team have served numerous verticals including tech, real estate, major league sports, infrastructure, banking, media, philanthropy, and individuals with legal challenges. “It’s been a great experience to take those very specific lessons – from LGBT advocacy, fighting for hate crimes, fighting for marriage equality – articulating these very complicated things to the public quickly has become a skillset for us.” About 50% of The Hayes Initiative work is crisis-based. The rest tends to be supporting communications and government relations around major initiatives.

Anthony was invited to nglccNY by Jonathan Lovitz, Senior Vice President of NGLCC. “What I am loving most about it is the community. Even calling another member to ask for references to a vendor is helpful.” And, given Anthony’s commitment to LGBT advocacy, the fact that neither New York City nor New York State recognizes us as minority vendors is another incentive for his active involvement. “It’s the very same expansion we took with hate crimes. We took the existing laws and expanded them to include LGBTQ. This is more important now, coming out of COVID. I think all minority and women-owned small businesses are going to need this priority, to be supported.”

With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Anthony realized that The Hayes Initiative’s knowledge of crisis communication is needed throughout the business community; as a result, they are now offering short pro bono consultations to small businesses and nonprofits. “2020 and 2021 are going to be about crisis communication. When you add on the pandemic and recovery and the righteous anger in the streets on #BlackLivesMatter it’s a complicated landscape to be communicating, to find the right way to be authentic. If you are a small business about to launch something new, how do you launch, do you launch?”

“The Hayes Initiative is thrilled to be working with companies, lifting up the voices of their Black employees. Leadership positions are largely filled with white straight men. For them to be in this moment, and for some – not all – to hear their Black employees saying, ‘you aren’t doing enough.’ We’ve been involved with several clients, listening to those voices. We’re not going to tell them how to respond, other than to push them to be more anti-racist than they otherwise probably would.” As a result, Anthony and his team are involved with several internal diversity groups helping them to work through how to execute what the employees are lifting up. “This is a moment to put the “b” in subtle,” Anthony said, reflecting on how much of corporate communications is “gobbledygook.” As a result, they are pushing hard for exceptionally clear messaging from the C-suite on down.
“My encouragement to leaders, regardless of the size of your business, is don’t be overconfident that you know how to communicate. In the case of government relations, don’t wait until you need to ask for something; build relationships. And understand the business of media.”

To learn more about The Hayes Initiative, follow Founder @anthonyjhayes and @hayesinitiative on Twitter and Instagram, and visit their website. 

Written by Brian Gorman, an NGLCC member and an International Coach Federation (ICF) certified professional coach. He brings five decades of change experience and study into every coaching conversation. He has served clients as large as Merck Manufacturing, as well as startups and individual leaders. Brian taps into the core of the matter, helping each person maximize their professional and personal potential. Brian works both one-on-one and with teams. In addition to his writing for nglccNY, Brian is a frequent contributor to Forbes online ( and serves as Managing Editor of Change Management Review. Website: www.TransformingLives.Coach Brian@TransformingLives.Coach

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