Fort Worth public relations firm channels new course

Betty Dillard

When Tonya Veasey founded her Fort Worth-based public relations agency in July 2005, she intended to take on just a client or two. Today, her list of clients is in the hundreds and it continues to grow. Open Channels Group, recognized as a leader in public participation and digital and multicultural communications, is the largest African-American-owned, full-service public relations firm in Texas based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The national PR publication O’Dwyer’s has ranked OCG the sixth-largest independently owned PR agency in the Lone Star State. In 2009, the company expanded into new office space in downtown Fort Worth, where it received a makeover to meet the growing demand for its services. Upgrades included a redesigned emphasis on business development, implementation of a new integrated strategic communications department, updated technology and additions to the professional staff. Two years ago, the firm established a digital practice, offering its clients an integrated PR approach including social media, Web design, and development and video production. Those additions quickly paid off. In 2012, OCG received the MVP Award from ADCOLOR, a nonprofit organization that celebrates and champions diversity in the advertising, marketing, media and public relations industries. OCG was recognized for its collaborative efforts on AT&T’s diversity marketing initiatives. OCG also received the 2012 Vision Fort Worth 20/20 Award in the small business category from the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals organization. The award was based on the company’s ability to prepare young professionals for career development and community leadership. “Every opportunity we have to invest in young professionals is an opportunity to prepare that person to make great contributions to our community and our industry,” Veasey said. “Developing future leaders is something I am truly passionate about, so receiving this award tells me that we are on the right track at Open Channels Group.” Veasey, 41, is no stranger in the political and public arenas. A graduate of Paul Quinn College with a degree in organizational management, she began her career as the district aide for then-State Sen. Mike Moncrief, who later became mayor of Fort Worth. Veasey said her work with Moncrief sparked her desire to pursue a career in public policy. In 2004, she married Marc Veasey, who won the Democratic nomination to a second term representing Fort Worth’s 33rd Congressional District in the March 4 primary. He is unopposed in the November general election. Tonya Veasey honed her skills at the AIDS Outreach Center and the American Heart Association, where she had the opportunity to influence local, state and federal policies and to increase public funding. She also was a registered lobbyist for The Eppstein Group and was director of public affairs for Cash America International Inc. While running her agency, she also received an MBA in global leadership from Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business. Veasey’s volunteerism in the community is extensive. She has served on the boards of several organizations, including the Neeley School of Business-Entrepreneurship Center, BBVA Compass Bank, Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. Now her once-solo practice is experiencing another growth spurt. Within the last year, the firm has changed its name to OCG PR, revamped its website, expanded its capabilities, earned new clients and upped its team of professionals to almost 20 employees. And there’s room to grow even more. In January, OCG PR moved into new office space in the University Centre II building located at University Drive and Interstate 30 just west of downtown. “I’d like to look at this year as more of a brand refresh. Same name, same company,” Veasey said. “We’re just being clearer about who we are, what we do and how we do it.”

How has the firm rebranded and revamped its services? We actually rebranded in 2013, when we changed our name from Open Channels Group to OCG PR. With that, we reintroduced ourselves as conversation starters. One thing that our agency does exceptionally well is connecting our clients with their targeted audience and creating positive conversations around their brands. This remains a huge part of who we are in 2014 and is ultimately what sets us apart from others in the industry. We’ve revamped our website to reflect new capabilities that we currently offer in our scope of work, like marketing and creative. We have a team of experts that are well versed with these skills, including a new and very talented creative director that allows us to be even more innovative and bring ideas to life for clients like never before. As a full-service agency, we want to make sure that we are delivering a one-stop shop for all of our clients’ needs. Creative and digital are avenues in which we can truly make this happen for them. We recognize that the communications industry is heading in a digital direction, and while we currently have a solid group of professionals in these departments, we’re focused on growing this part of our business with even more experts, including Web developers.

What obstacles have you faced as a minority woman business owner and how have you overcome them? What challenges do women and minorities still face today? Women already face difficulty in reaching business leadership, but if you’re a minority woman, the obstacles can be even more challenging. Whether it’s self-doubt, or the common issue of opportunity, money and access – minority women face it that much harder. Still, after so many years, the playing field is not completely leveled. This is why I’m a part of change-making organizations like Women Presidents’ Organization, to lobby and champion for women who have the potential to be in my shoes or greater than me, but don’t have the opportunity to.

- FWBP Digital Partners -

How are you preparing young, emerging talent for career development and community leadership? Career development is something that is very important to me, and it is highly encouraged for employees of all ages at OCG PR to invest in their future. Our agency has become a great place for professionals to truly learn and grow beyond what they imagined, and I’m extremely proud of that. I encourage and sponsor my employees to go through leadership programs such as Paths Forward and Vision Fort Worth – which are very competitive community leadership programs in the city. Every year, I also host some sort of professional team building where our team not only has fun, but we learn and grow professionally. We have a lot of fun at OCG because we’re a youthful group – not young – but we work even harder. I think that’s what makes OCG PR such a great place to work for people of all ages.

Describe your leadership style. I would describe my leadership style as personable and collaborative. I consider myself a team player. To give you an example, if there’s a new business pursuit, I bring my team together to discuss the best option. While I could make the decision, because I am the CEO, I’d rather get my team of bright pros together and work it out as a team.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? My mom once told me that hard work pays off – and she was definitely right.