TULSA — Tulsa's largest public relations firm, Schnake Turnbo Frank | PR, opened an Oklahoma City office in 2008. The president and one of three partners in the firm will be moving to that downtown office later this year.
Russ Florence, who also is chief operating officer for Schnake Turnbo Frank, is returning to the city where he lived in the late 1980s upon his graduation from college. During that period, Florence published a music tabloid produced in his spare bedroom before going bust after four issues, which included a cover story on a local band called The Flaming Lips.
“I lost everything I had, which fortunately wasn't very much to begin with,” Florence said. “I'm so glad I did it. Having lost everything I had is a very valuable lesson to me still in how I look at monetary things. It's helped keep me grounded throughout my career.”
Florence, 49, is on a very different career footing now, and has big plans for the firm's Oklahoma City operation, which already has grown in each of the four-plus years it has been open.
“There is so much enthusiasm and confidence in Oklahoma City right now that frankly we just see the need to have more people and specifically someone more senior-level down there pursuing those opportunities,” he said. “We're big believers in Oklahoma City. We're happy with the growth, but we just think there's a lot more that we can obtain.”
Florence, who travels to Oklahoma City frequently, said he will focus on signing new clients and community engagement.
“I've become a big admirer for the city as a whole and its leaders and the confidence its citizens have. It's almost like you can just sense that Oklahoma City residents and leaders feel like they can do anything,” he said. “I just think that's very inspiring.”
Florence recently sat down with The Oklahoman in his Tulsa office to discuss the move, the firm and his career. This is an edited version of that conversation:
Q: Do you see a lot of differences between Oklahoma City and Tulsa?
A: There are some differences, and there are some similarities as well. I bet that if you looked at the education ranks, the school systems, per capita income, education attainment, a lot of those factors are going to be comparable. One thing that Tulsa is known for is its aesthetics, and I'll really miss that about Tulsa — the architecture, the river, the hills. What I really like about Oklahoma City — they call Chicago the city with broad shoulders and I can almost see that about Oklahoma City a little bit. There's just a real kind of street-level work ethic that seems apparent. That has really been the key to Oklahoma City rebounding and transforming itself. I think Tulsa has that as well, but I think Oklahoma City may have discovered that in themselves a little bit sooner in the process. I think that's what resulted in MAPS and all the other development of the last 15 to 20 years. I just think it's willpower by the people.
Q: Your firm doesn't have the same profile in Oklahoma City as it does in Tulsa, does it?