Communications executive finds sports language a useful tool in bonding with clients
by Mary Denny
Allison Hawk "thrives on variety and being busy." Happily, she has plenty of both.
Growing up in Overland Park, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City, Allison always enjoyed sports and current events. She briefly considered a career in law simply because she wasn't aware of a lot of career options. That changed when she came to St. Louis through a graduate program called the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs. "What was incredible about Coro was that it was 25 years of experience in nine months—with assignments in business, government, media, elected politics, community, and labor, plus group and individual projects. It truly set me on a new path."
Following that "game changer" experience, Allison discovered a way to bring together her love of current events, sports, and writing. She joined Fleishman-Hillard, the national public relations firm that was founded in St. Louis, where her first client was the St. Louis NFL Partnership, a group of local leaders, including luminaries like Hall of Famer Walter Payton, to attract an NFL expansion team. "Being a young female in business and sports put me in a number of interesting situations where you had to learn what to speak up about and what to just let go," she recalls.
During a fortuitous, work-related outing with Georgia Frontiere, owner of the Los Angeles Rams, Allison suspended her "type A work style" for a day and established a strong bond with Frontiere. Pleased with Allison's handling of public relations when the Rams eventually moved to St. Louis, Frontiere convinced Allison to serve as executive director of the Rams Foundation, a position she held for 12 years. She also handled the team's off-field public relations. After the Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV, dubbed "The Greatest Show on Turf," Allison and all full-time staff received Super Bowl rings. Her job for two Super Bowls was handling VIP relations and planning the post game party in one week.
Ready for something new in 2007, Allison founded AHC Consulting, LLC, a full-service firm that provides strategic communications, planning, training, and facilitation services. She often works with clients involved with a major change, a transition, or embroiled in sensitive issues such as the Ferguson Commission. Recently, she had the opportunity to open Stryker-Munley Group St. Louis, which combined with AHC Consulting, expands their geographic reach, and brings more value to her clients.
Several years ago, based on their experiences in the workplace, Allison and a colleague co-authored Talking A Good Game, described as a primer for foreign nationals and busy American professionals who want to boost their fluency in sports talk, a language often spoken at the office. "If you don't know a little about American sports and sports culture, you didn't have an opportunity to create a quick bond in the workplace," says Allison. Practicing what she preaches, Allison says "I have been amazed at how my ability to have some brief conversation about sports has helped me hold court—especially with men in the business world. It doesn't hurt to have a Super Bowl ring to flash, too," she laughs.
No doubt that Super Bowl ring is a great icebreaker with her sports philanthropy students at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she is on the adjunct faculty. Last semester she taught a class at Trinity and connected her students with Loretta Kerner, a Trinity alumna, who is the community manager for Silver and Black Give Back (SBGB,.) the charitable arm of Spurs Sports and Entertainment. As a result of her visit , Trinity students created two "real-life" projects with SBGB,
Despite her considerable success, Allison says she considers raising her children— Benjamin '19, 20; Elizabeth, 17; and Sydney, 11— to be her greatest accomplishment. "I'm proud to have my son at Trinity taking advantage of all that it has to offer. A small liberal arts school education will take you places that you never dreamed possible if you are open to the possibilities. I never knew the career I had or business that I created existed. I owe a lot to Trinity professors for their support and sometimes a little push here and there."
Outside of work, Allison is fond of outdoor activities, travel, and "anything new— food, places, etc." She helped start Diversity Awareness Partnership in St. Louis and has served on a variety of community boards. She is also active in Trinity's St. Louis Alumni Chapter and recently joined the National Alumni Board, noting, "It's been great to stay connected to Trinity. It's been an important part of my life in ways I could not have imagined as an 18-year old."
You can contact Allison at allison [at] ahcconsulting.com