Leadership Series: Waller & Company Public Relations
Posted At: October 11, 2013 1:30 p.m.
by Ashley Jones
Barrett and Mary Waller are a devoted married couple going hand-in-hand in life and in their careers. As co-owners of Waller & Company Public Relations, a Tulsa-based, full-service public relations firm, the Wallers know what it takes to run a successful business with your spouse.
Founded in 1996, Waller & Company partners with local, regional and national clients looking for creative solutions to meet their communication needs. Through marketing, media relations and social media, Waller & Company focuses on providing innovative approaches to help its clients tell their stories in a unique way.
The award-winning firm offers strategic PR consulting and marketing expertise to a wide variety of industries — from professional services, health care, hotels and restaurants to technology, manufacturing and nonprofit. In addition, the firm also specializes in crisis communication, grassroots marketing and managing local political campaigns.
President and CEO Barrett Waller has more than 25 years of experience in the public relations industry. From starting his career as a reporter for the Tulsa World, then transitioning to a medical writer for St. John Medical Center, serving as a public relations coordinator for Oklahoma Special Olympics and working as an account manager for an advertising firm, Waller has covered nearly every aspect of the field.
Since opening in 1996, Waller & Company has grown from only having a few clients to serving 12 to 15 clients per month in several different industries on both the national and local levels. The firm has expanded its number of employees, adding a director of marketing and several account managers. And in 1999, Waller added an important part to the Waller & Company team – his wife, Mary.
Mary Waller, chief operating officer and co-owner, has more than 18 years of public relations experience. Prior to joining Waller & Company, she worked in the marketing department at the University of Tulsa and at St. John Medical Center as the manager of community relations. Mary’s background in account management helped create Waller & Company’s Restaurant and Hotel Division, which was responsible for launching six restaurants in Oklahoma. In addition to her career as a PR professional, Mary also serves as an adjunct faculty member of Oral Roberts University, teaching PR management to students in the communication program.
Barrett and Mary aren’t the only couple running a business together. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are roughly 4 million family-owned businesses in the U.S., with more than 1.4 million of those being run by a husband-and-wife team.
“When deciding whether or not to go into business with your spouse, be sure you two are a complement to one another in skill sets,” Mary said. “Divide and conquer.”
Mary and Barrett both agreed that setting ground rules at the beginning was crucial to keep their business from overwhelming their personal lives.
“Decide when you are going to ‘talk shop’ and set financial goals and benchmarks for your own salaries and stick to them,” said Barrett. “Only go into business together if you know well and respect the work ethics and skills of your other half.”
Mary noted the biggest struggle she’s faced as co-owner of Waller & Company is managing the firm’s short-term and long-term goals.
“As a PR professional, I work in the firm both as the head of operations and as an account executive. With clients, we set goals, develop strategy, determine timetables, create tools, execute tactics and measure results. As a business owner, I have to be very diligent to make the same time to invest the same process on our company,” she said.
With the evolution of the Internet and social media channels, the Wallers have transitioned their practice in order to keep up with the ever-changing world of communication.
“Social media is no longer a mystery to customers. When we started 17 years ago, some of our clients did not have websites; now they have Facebook, micro sites and even Twitter pages for their mascots!” Barrett said. “What has changed the most for the industry is how traditional media has ‘blown up,’ and almost every news outlet now has the capacity to share copy, video and photos and the ability to break news instantly.”
In addition to successfully running a PR firm together, the Wallers have significant individual accomplishments. Barrett is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and, in 2003, received the “PR Professional of the Year” award from the Tulsa PRSA chapter. He is also a published author and was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award in children’s fiction. Mary is a contributing writer for several area magazines and was honored in 2007 by the Association for Parenting Publications for her multigenerational travel story that appeared in Tulsa Kids Magazine. Like Barrett, she is also a recipient of the “PR Professional of the Year” award from the Tulsa PRSA chapter.
Through dedication and compromise, the Wallers have mastered the art of running a successful business together while maintaining their marriage. Waller & Company Public Relations is the perfect example of PR professionals balancing their careers and personal lives.