After serving as Oklahoma City regional president for Schnake Turnbo Frank PR and more than 10 years as director of external affairs for the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, Karen Wicker knows a thing or two about public relations.
She has led numerous award-winning teams honored by the Public Relations Society of America, the International Association of Business Communicators and the American Women in Communications.
She received four honors for outstanding print publications from the American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Association and earned the association’s highest honor, the Award of Merit for Communications.
In the 1990s, she was awarded multiple honors for television reporting, including the top award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews for a documentary about Oklahoma prison moms. The Beth Macklin Award for Journalism Excellence was presented to her by attorney and TV commentator Star Jones.
But the decision to open her own public relations firm may be her bravest achievement yet.
“After nearly 25 years in the communications profession, I took a leap of faith in 2012 and left a highly successful executive position to launch my own public relations firm, Candor PR,” she said. “I opened the firm with not one client, yet today – just one year later – we have more than 40 clients and four full-time employees.”
Wicker’s inspiration for remaining authentic comes from her grandmother, Ollie Chandler, who was deaf since age 9.
“One of my professional goals is to create a business that will maintain its authenticity even after I retire. I want to pass down a company culture that embraces unique imperfections,” Wicker said. “For example, I was recently diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder that impacts my hearing and spelling. What a curse for a PR lady! In a funny way, I think grandmother Ollie is smiling down on me saying ‘you go girl!’ Be true to who you are.”
Jane Jenkins, president and CEO of Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., said Wicker’s skills helped to boost the city during a crisis.
“As usual, she went above and beyond and successfully helped the Bricktown Association craft a message and maintain a positive image after the unfortunate shooting incident during the NBA playoffs. Her involvement made the difference in what was a potentially damaging situation,” Jenkins said.
Starting a small business is like giving birth, she said, and is the most rewarding thing she’s ever accomplished.
“If you had asked me five years ago, I would not have dreamed I would have had the courage to leave a steady job to reinvent myself as an entrepreneur, and develop even
more as a professional, mother, wife, daughter and business owner,” she said.