You were recently promoted to vice president of the Tulsa office. What is your role in that new position?

My first priority was to find a new balance. I’ve spent more than five years solely focused on clients, and I am now officially leading the Tulsa team. Ensuring I didn’t fail either of them during the transition was a top priority. Now that I’m six months in, the rhythm is right.

In the long term, I hope to engage more clients in our spectrum of services. One of the best parts of working in both PR (public relations) and leadership consulting is the level of impact we can have with a client. We can help with organizational change and the LinkedIn strategy to promote it. We can conduct an inclusion audit and provide leadership coaching to correct it.

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When did you realize you wanted a career in public relations, and what led you in that direction?

My first introduction to public relations was my dad telling me that a “chatterbox” should go into the communications field. His parental guidance led me to UCO and later OSU-Tulsa, where I studied journalism and strategic communications.

Early on in my career, I enjoyed the variety in what I did every day, but I had not fully comprehended the impact.

I didn’t truly fall in love with PR until about 10 years ago, when I started to see the true impact of community relations, solid messaging and a good communications strategy.

With a motivating message, you can help a nonprofit raise more money; with the right television media placement, you can help feed more kids at free summer meal sites; with effective presentation skills, an entrepreneur can successfully communicate a big idea to his funders; and with good research on a target audience, you can get a school bond passed.

What is the most rewarding project you’ve worked on over the years?

I named a building once. I am inappropriately delighted every time I pass it.

But building-naming aside, I’ve had some amazing opportunities to help organizations. I have helped nonprofits hire CEOs and ensure the continued success of their mission; I have helped banks communicate brand changes in a way that both millennials and retirees can comprehend; I have helped energy companies launch social media and connect with their global employees in a way they haven’t in decades.

The PR field requires lifelong learning. I’ve learned about a range of topics thanks to this profession: manufacturing, fundraising, chemistry, education, Medicaid expansion, apartment management, employee recruitment and nutrition policy. And I combine it with our unique skill set to develop relationships with the right people, build understanding among stakeholders and, ultimately, create incremental positive changes.

All that to say — It’s hard to pick one rewarding project. But it’s somewhere between helping bring Trader Joe’s to Tulsa, helping connect homeless Tulsans to housing, protecting a grieving family, announcing Tulsa’s Mental Health Plan, giving someone the skills to speak on camera and … yes, also naming a building.

You have worked a lot with area nonprofits in your professional life. Are there any groups you are involved with outside of work?

I am thrilled that Tulsa now has an Advisory Council for Planned Parenthood of the Great Plains (which is the affiliate serving four states, including the Tulsa area). Health care access is a huge priority for me. Whether you’re homeless, without insurance or in need of birth control, access to care is a basic human right.

I also serve on the board for Global Gardens, an amazing Tulsa-based program that teaches kids about science and peace through inquiry-based learning. Students learn to grow and cook beets while also learning to communicate sadness or frustration. Their educators and student outcomes are incomparable, and I wish every child in Tulsa could participate.

On a lighter note: Last spring, my friend Terah and I also partnered with the Equality Center to launch a monthly meetup called the LGBT Women’s Network. There’s no formal programming, just an easy way to meet queer women in a safe space while highlighting LGBT-friendly Tulsa bars and restaurants.

What is something about you that people would be surprised to find out?

I was the kicker and wide receiver for a semi-pro women’s football team during college.


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Mike Averill

918-581-8489

mike.averill@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @Mike_Averill

Staff Writer

Mike covers business topics for the Work & Money section. Phone: 918-581-8489