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10 questions with UofM journalism grad Taylor Oaks

Taylor Oaks

University of Memphis alum Taylor Oaks exemplifies the diverse training that’s possible at the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media, where in 2013 he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a concentration in public relations. Today he’s a CRM campaign manager at Frontdoor Inc., a leading provider of home service plans.

Question: Why did you choose to study at the UofM?

Answer: I was born and raised in Memphis but never really saw myself attending the University of Memphis. I always kind of wanted to leave and experience another place. But when it was time to choose a college, the University of Memphis was the best fit for me from a convenience and affordability standpoint. Turns out, it was a blessing in disguise. From orientation to Frosh Camp, I quickly found friends and a passion for the school and never looked back.

Q: What is it that led you to choose a career in your field?

A: I always enjoyed writing, which originally led me to journalism. But I also enjoyed business. Public relations seemed like the best of both worlds.

I really liked my coursework in the public relations concentration and learned a lot of useful skills that translated to the real world. When I graduated, I took my writing skills and pivoted to marketing to specialize in content marketing — using content to educate consumers on the benefits of your company’s product offering and why they should purchase.

I’ve since pivoted again to customer relationship management. This marketing function is responsible for educating new customers on the product they bought, helping set them up for customer success. The onboarding and connection points help turn customers into loyal and repeat customers.

This role has helped me keep those fundamental writing, content and relational skills that I learned in college. It has also enabled me to learn a more technical skill set, including testing strategy, reporting, analysis and data flow.

Q: Describe a work day in the life of Taylor Oaks. What are the type of tasks you face?  

A: Most of my days start out with a status meeting. Our team works in campaigns, and these status meetings help keep us on track with what stage we are in for each campaign, what needs to be done for launch and who owns what task.

As a campaign manager, I really own the strategic side of the campaigns. I work with various stakeholders across the company to determine what their campaign needs are. I take those learnings to build campaign briefs which outline the requirements of the campaign. From there, I work with our operations analysts (the really smart and talented people who enable me to do my job) to build and launch the campaign. Then we work together to report on and analyze the campaign performance, creating tests and optimizing along the way.  

Some days are filled with meetings and presenting PowerPoints while other days are filled with sitting at my desk with our team, working to ensure sure we’re meeting our commitments to stakeholders and the business.  

Q: What is your favorite memory of your time at the UofM?

A: I was lucky to find the Sigma Chi Fraternity at the University of Memphis. Not only did this group of men help keep me accountable to the top leadership and academic standards, but we also made a lot of memories along the way. From random hangouts at the house, to all-nighters during final exams, and everything in between, most of my college memories go back to my time as a Sigma Chi at the University of Memphis. It’s where I met my wife and where I met most of the men who were in my wedding.

Q: How did the UofM’s Department of Journalism and Strategic Media prepare you for your career?

A: First, the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media gave me professors who truly cared about me and my success. Dr. Erin Willis and Professor Darrin Devault both come to mind. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the belief and support of these two people.

In the public relations concentration, the capstone courses were the PR research and PR campaigns course. These courses gave us the opportunity to work for a real client, performing real research and building real projects to solve real problems. We were then able to present these real plans to the clients. This is the type of work that prepares college students for real-world success.

Q: What are your career goals?

A: I really like the current track that I’m on, working as part of a big marketing team with smart and talented people. I really enjoy going to work every day and I know that I’m lucky and blessed to be able to say that. I want to continue crafting my skills, learning from my coworkers and being a team player so I can one day lead a marketing team myself.

Q: What was your favorite class at the UofM?

A: The PR research and campaigns classes that I mentioned before were probably my favorites because of the experience they provided me. I sometimes wish, knowing what I know now, that I could go back and retake those classes. Those classes helped me get where I am today.

Q: How often were you late for class because of the train on Southern?

A: I don’t like to think about it. Those were frustrating times. Let’s just say I’m very jealous of the new pedestrian sky bridge.

Q: If you were recruiting a student to attend the UofM, what would you tell them about the university and its JRSM department?

A: I would tell the student to not underestimate the University of Memphis. Attending the UofM was never in my plans, but now I can’t imagine life without it. Get involved and work hard, and you’ll reap the rewards while having a lot of fun in the process.

Q: Favorite place to hang in Memphis?

A: I love the FedExForum. Whether I’m there to see the Tigers or the Grizzlies, it’s hard to not have fun there. Add dinner and drinks downtown with friends and family before a game — what else do you need?

— Phillip Tutor, CCFA media coordinator, potutor@memphis.edu

Published inDepartment of Journalism and Strategic Media

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