PROFILE: Matthews finds company loyalty can take her places

Megan Matthews has lived in Finland and the US during her PR career with Nokia. Now she moves into new territory as the global communications head of its new division.

Megan Matthews has lived in Finland and the US during her PR career with Nokia. Now she moves into new territory as the global communications head of its new division.

Megan Matthews belongs to that ever-shrinking tribe called company loyalists. She's spent her entire PR career with one corporation, but she hardly sits still. In fact, Matthews' employer, Nokia, sells mobility, which she enjoys geographically and professionally. In her latest move, she became global communications director for Nokia's Enterprise Solutions. The new division was formed last fall as a precursor to a company reorganization. "Megan is the complete package," says Ritch Blasi, media relations director for AT&T Wireless. "When you combine her knowledge of the wireless industry, her PR acumen, and her ability to quickly conceptualize and execute a PR or marketing initiative, it doesn't surprise me that she consistently delivers for her business." Other colleagues describe Matthews as professional and poised, traits she began honing before high school. Matthews' mother signed up the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native for Toastmasters, an international nonprofit organization that essentially helps improve people's communications skills, at age 11. At first, she felt intimidated in a club full of adults. "The first public speech I gave was entitled 'Women in the Media.' That particular week, I won the competition," she recalls. Soon Matthews was modeling, training as a TV-commercial actress, and appearing in Canadian ads. Matthews finished her senior year of high school via correspondence so she could help commercial modeling agency McDonald Richards set up a scouting operation in Toronto. Matthews' stylish background would later help her position cell phones as fashion accessories, not just handy communication devices. "I was pounding the pavement with fashion and consumer editors before the competitors were," she recalls. She has also helped with internal videos and still does voice-overs for Nokia on occasion. "I was a lot cheaper than hiring talent," she laughs. After recruiting models for a couple of years, Matthews was set for college at the University of Saskatchewan. She worked as a display stylist and nonprofit PR consultant while earning her degree. "I wanted to work for the NHL or Entertainment Tonight," she recalls. Instead, a foreign student-exchange program sent her to Helsinki, Finland, where a three-month internship quickly turned into a permanent job. Nokia sought interns from English-speaking countries, and it soon became apparent Matthews was being groomed to return to North America, where the company wasn't yet a household name. Originally a pulp and paper company, Nokia grew into a conglomerate with diverse holdings. The fall of the Iron Curtain hit it hard because 60% of the its sales had been to Soviet bloc countries. So, Nokia reinvented itself by focusing on telecommunication and cable holdings, and by looking beyond its traditional geographic markets. In Finland, Matthews had a ringside seat to watch the creation of the modern Nokia brand, from logo design to choosing its distinctive ring tone from composer Francisk Tarrega's Grand Valse. Matthews declined the first invitation to move back to North America, feeling she needed to learn more about Nokia. By the time her bosses asked again, she was heavily involved with the company's American PR. Nokia had established a large manufacturing facility in Fort Worth, TX, through a deal with RadioShack, so Matthews went to the Lone Star State, which proved quite a culture shock. "It was a lot easier for me to move to Finland than to move to Texas," she says, noting that the Scandinavian landscape, climate, and hockey passion reminded her of home. She found Irving less technologically advanced than Helsinki, and at first felt out of place in supermarkets stocked with family-sized products. Matthews had her work cut out for her in a country where "Motorola" was synonymous with "mobile phone." "My first call was to one of the wireless trade magazines," Matthews recalls. "The person who answered said, 'This is who? From where?'" By 1998, Nokia surpassed Motorola as the world's largest manufacturer of cell phones. Nokia's Texas workforce has more than quadrupled since Matthews moved west in 1996, and the company is in the midst of reorganizing itself along product lines. The mobile-phone division remains the company's "cash cow," she says, while the networks division supports all services with cell towers and equipment. Nokia is also emphasizing multimedia applications, particularly mobile gaming, as Matthews' new division works on melding wireless mobility with information technology in secure environments for business customers. "We've told the market that in 2005, we will break even with Enterprise Solutions," Matthews says. "This year will be about setting the stage and building the tools." Another move might be in her future, as well, because parts of the division will be based in New York. Matthews is also in the final stages of putting together her communications team for the new division. She thinks some of the best PR people come from outside the traditional ranks. "To me, [PR] is a business of common sense and nothing more," Matthews says. "I think today having that business acumen, that understanding of why decisions are made, makes you better." She also believes in dancing with the agency that brought her. Nokia worked with Crescent Communications in Atlanta and continued with Ketchum after it bought the smaller agency. "I believe a long-term agency relationship is key in building the business," Matthews says, praising her Ketchum colleagues. "We are only as successful as that relationship." "She's a great client," says Teresa Henderson, SVP and director of Ketchum's Dallas office. "I admire her in-depth knowledge of the industry. That's not easy. It's a moving target." While Matthews loves Texas' wide-open spaces, she still enjoys cooler climates. She and her Coloradan husband, Mike Carnahan, enjoy backpacking, skiing, wine collecting, and mobility. "I thank Nokia for letting me travel the world," Matthews says. ----- Megan Matthews October 2003 Global comms director for Nokia's new Enterprise Solutions division 2001 Corporate comms director for the Americas 1999 Promoted to director of media relations 1996 Transfers to Irving, TX, as Nokia's comms manager for the Americas 1993 Graduates from the Univ. of Saskatchewan with bachelor's degree in corporate finance and marketing. Goes to work as a comms specialist for Nokia in Helsinki, Finland, through a student-exchange program

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