February 13, 2014
By Lindsey Wilson, Public Relations student
"To be the voice for those who have no voice" was the dream of Sherry Matthews, CEO of Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing, a Texas-based global agency that advocates for positive change in our world. Likewise, Laura Beth Moore, a public relations student, shares that same passion as a intern for a nonprofit organization helping widows and orphans in Kenya.
While Matthews, who divides her time between New York City and Austin, Texas, fights passionately for change, she has not always been involved in this line of the public relations Industry. Like most in the public relations field, it took Matthews walking through several doors of opportunity to get to where she is today.
Starting at Baylor University in 1963, Matthews started chasing her dreams by pursuing her degree in journalism. She then left Baylor in 1965 and moved to Kentucky and finished studying journalism in Memphis. After graduation, Matthews moved backed to Texas where she acquired a job at a home building firm. Not long after, she became the director of marketing at the building firm and then moved on to GSD&M where she became the vice president and PR director for 10 years. While employed at GSD&M, Matthews was recruited by a major client whom she had helped grow from a 3 percent market share to an 85 percent market share.
"Why are you working for them? You are incredibly talented, work for yourself," said her client at the time. Matthews decided to pursue this idea and start her own company doing real estate marketing in 1983. In 1989, she resigned all of her clients in one day and decided to do only public service and advocacy work. "I had always wanted to be a journalist and be the voice for those who had no voice, that was my dream and that's what I wanted but I gave it all up when I got married, this was my chance to finally do just that," says Matthews.
Not long later, Matthews received a call from John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods and she was hired on the spot to grow Whole Foods. She got involved in issues campaigns, such as saving the dolphin and fighting pesticides, and helped move Whole Foods to where it is today. She continued the campaigns with Whole Foods, despite constant threats of lawsuits from pesticide and food additive companies, until the natural foods grocery went public. She then directed her focus more on state and national government contracts and global humanitarian issues.
"Be honest with your clients. Tell your clients the truth," says Matthews. In a world where digital media is transforming the public relations field, Matthews stressed the importance of honesty with clients. Society is constantly changing and in order to advocate change that lasts, transparency is key.
"The idea is to become the client, to be honest and to stand on principle. Yes, that position has turned away several people but that is okay because the people who come to us come because of our integrity and there is worth in what we do," says Matthews. The foundation for her company today is to believe in what you are fighting for and to not be afraid of opposition.
Seeing as the public relations field can be very challenging, Matthews gives two helpful pieces of advice to help make a career the best that it can be. She advises getting as much job experience as possible because anything helps. When she was young, Matthews had a job picking berries for 15 cents a gallon. This may seem small to some but she claims that it gave her the satisfaction of making her money, which in younger generations can seem to be a foreign concept. "No job is worthless; you make the most of whatever it is and figure out what you can learn," says Matthews. Following that bit of advice, Matthews says that to succeed, one must know everything he or she can about a company along with seeking good connections. "Any connection is good and personal letters are so important, too."
Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing celebrated its 30th anniversary this past fall. "There were many people who were helpful in getting me to where I am today," says Matthews. The success of Matthew's company proves that if connections are made well and a desire to stand for what you believe in is present, it becomes harder to fail.
Though in a different phase of her career, Laura Beth Moore challenges some views on the world of public relations as well. Moore is a current student in the Baylor University Journalism department and is doing exceedingly well.
Involved in the local PRSSA chapter, Moore is constantly seeking to be the very best that she can be in her field of study. Despite being a member of Chi Omega, being involved in Baylor Spirit Squads for two years and being an active member of First Baptist Woodway, it is Moore's constant desire to place school above her social obligations and it shows in the work that she produces. Not only does Moore seek to be the best, she does so while standing for what she believes in.
"It's challenging to balance it with school but I love it so much," says Moore.
From her own personal experience in public relations work, Moore understands first-hand that experience is key to a successful career.
"I would say start interning as early a you can. The experience and networking benefits are priceless," says Moore.
While at home in Arkansas, Moore is the intern for the James 127 foundation. The mission of the James 127 foundation is "to be an organization that brings God's hope to widows and orphans by providing free sewing training and fellowship to vulnerable women in Kenya." Not only does Moore seek to be the best, she does so while standing for what she believes in.
The example that Moore sets challenges other young public relations practitioners to pursue their careers as passionately as she does. With big dreams and a desire to be the best, Moore will likely go far in her career.