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Member Spotlight: Linda Walton, The Walton Group

She started her own PR agency. She told her embezzling boss to “stuff it.” She was one of the first five professionals in Utah to be accredited by PRSA. Her name is Linda Walton, and she’s got some advice for up-and-coming PR professionals.

While a PR director for UVU, “Somebody there in the administration asked me to cover up an embezzlement. I told him to stuff it,” said Walton emphatically.

Walton’s membership in PRSA was a great resource to her when she closed that door. “That’s why it’s good to be in PRSA because you know people and that provides for other opportunities,” she said.

Her no-nonsense attitude and refusal to bend to unethical pressures eventually pushed Walton to blaze her own trail in the industry. She started the Walton Group—a marketing and public relations agency located in Provo—33 years ago.

“It’s kind of hard to be in the business here, but we keep plugging away,” remarked Walton. Commenting on the lack of PR and marketing agencies in Utah Valley she added, “That’s the way Utah Valley is—they’re a do-it-yourself crowd.”

The ever-changing face of PR provides challenges as well. With more voices than ever competing for the eyes and ears of consumers, Walton has looked to “old school” methods to stand out—like open-houses.

“It’s kind of like when you watch the 4th of July parade, and all of the sudden, after all the floats you’ve seen, there’s a group of horses and everybody goes bananas over that one thing because they’re the only live animal in there,” said Walton. “It stands out and people remember that—it’s way different than all the other stuff.”

One might think that all the challenges she faces would intimidate her, but on the contrary—she thrives in problematic situations. “I like solving problems. Most businesses and organizations have a problem,” said Walton.

For example, Walton has worked with a local charity that struggles because many people in the area don’t think there is a homelessness problem. “I like to get into that kind of a situation and cause all kinds of problems for people,” Walton said with a laugh. As a self-described “handful,” she advocates passionately for the causes of her clients.

In business situations and personal situations alike, Walton recommends using the public relations RACE acronym (research, analysis, communication, evaluation). “If you’re going to marry somebody, you have to do your research—and you can play with what that means,” Walton said. Next, she said you analyze the research and see how well you match up. Then you decide to marry, which is the communication. “Then after 10 years you evaluate and say, ‘Should I kill myself, or kill her?’ Or, ‘We’re happy and we’re going to stick this out.’”

Since joining PRSA in 1986, Walton has used RACE to ensure she is getting the most out of her membership. “If you aren’t going to use it, if you’re not going to attend and participate on the board or in a committee, then it’s really not worth it,” Walton stated. “You have to keep trying to make it a good organization. We should be doing charitable things, we should be helping students, and we should be improving what we do here locally.”

The public relations industry has been viewed unfavorably lately for various reasons, and Walton believes it is the duty of PRSA members to right those wrongs and improve the profession. For prospective PR professionals, the responsibility is even greater. As new professionals enter the field, they pave the way for the future of the profession, and Walton implores, “You’ve got to know what your values are.”

Written by Jake Gulisane

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