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ProTech’s Own Oakley Weddle Named Student Communicator of the Year


The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Memphis Chapter hosted its annual Communicators of the Year Awards on February 1, 2024. ProTech Services Marketing Manager Oakley Weddle was honored as the 2023 Student Communicator of the Year!

University of Memphis professor and sought-after local PR expert Kim Marks Malone presented Oakley with his award. As she’s taught Oakley in several classes, she was the perfect person! Kim described Oakley as a life-long learner and a great steward of all things Memphis.

Accepting his award, Oakley gave a speech that combined humor, humility, and gratitude. He built his narrative around what ignites him: his love of communicating, being passionate, helping people, storytelling, achieving, and adventure and healthier balance.

Even as a young child, his love of communicating led him to create many ventures in his free time. As a homeschooled entrepreneur, he forwent traditional lemonade stands in favor of more lucrative seasonal opportunities. “I started a Christmas Wrapping Paper business at age eight,” he said. “Then, I started a wickedly successful haunted house that, some say, boosted the economy of my small suburban neighborhood. I guess we’ll never know.”

Oakley’s love of being passionate ignited an interest in community theater, where he learned how to direct, lead, and tell a story. In these roles, he took part in community engagement for the first time, ensuring theater and storytelling remained accessible for those who either couldn’t afford it or didn’t see themselves represented.

Walking through a journey of grief awakened his love of helping others. Oakley and his family established The PEYitforward Foundation, an organization established to honor his brother Peyton’s legacy of helping others and encouraging random acts of kindness. “I believe this experience that my family and I live with everyday has made me a more empathetic, compassionate, and a driven storyteller and leader,” he said.

His love of storytelling ignited his interest in PR, a drive to graduate in three years with both an undergraduate AND a master’s degree, an interest in photography, his passion for writing, and the start of his own business!

Oakley admitted that his love of achieving had its downside: “What I thought was my defining quality became my only quality. ‘Look at Oakley, he’s so well achieved for his age.’ Don’t get me wrong, I eat it up. I love it. But when I found myself at the mountaintop, I missed the valley. I didn’t have the drive to make memories and travel. I didn’t have the drive to have friends or a community to lean on. I hiked it alone; bummer.”

Eventually, however, he did find community, especially within PRSSA. He made memories outside of his professional life, which led nicely into his next love of adventure and healthier balance. “A year ago, I practically had my life mapped out,” he said. “Today if you asked me, I know what I’m doing right after this event. And that’s enough.”

Wrapping up, Oakley thanked his family, friends, and mentors for their unwavering support. He concluded with sage advice for both the professionals and the students in the audience:

  • “Professionals, please do all you can to engage with students. They are your lifeline to our generation and the next era of PR pros. Give them support, give them advice, give them mentorship, give them financial support, perhaps. What you do for students literally changes their life.”
  • “Students in the room: one word…engage. This award took a LOT of late nights wondering if somehow after college I’d be on a consistent sleep schedule. But each win started with an email, a LinkedIn message, a door knock, a supportive Instagram comment. We’re in the relationship business, after all. Show up, give it everything you’ve got, and know who you are. You can’t fail when your story is worth being told.”

Congratulations, Oakley, on this very well-deserved honor!