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In the Life: Joel Morales
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-04-19

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Joel Morales apparently knows what he wants—and, for a long time, he craved a career in public relations.

"I actually started at a small boutique agency in Chicago," Morales said. "I was able to learn a lot very quickly, and I went to work for W Hotels after that."

However, in college, he studied painting and photography. Another aspect of his creative side—public relations—emerged in graduate school. "As soon as I found marketing and PR, I decided to go back to school and get my MBA in 2003," he said.

Morales is a Southern guy, hailing from Nashville. "My education [going to NYU for undergraduate school] led me out of there. However, it was a really great opportunity to grow up there, although I had that itch to get out of a small town—it was small back then."

It wasn't all roses for Morales in Tennessee, though. "I did feel that minority status," he said. "There were only two or three minority kids in school, [and] I definitely felt that. I think it's different in Nashville now; it's more diverse."

As for the PR agency he leads, ext. 54, Morales came up with the name in an interesting way. "I spent most of my career in-house—in hotels, mainly. I had developed a lot of pet peeves with agencies, and one thing I wanted to do was to address some of those. One of those was that it always seemed to be some sort of disconnect—and I wanted clients to feel that we were some sort of extension of their marketing departments and be as cohesive as possible. The 54 is actually the year my mom was born."

Telling this story actually sparked this writer as being "hard outside with a chewy center"—to which Morales responded, "I like that! I'm going to use that."

Morales added that the best part of his job involves "the people I get to work with—the diversity. We're able to help so many different types of clients. That allows me to be very passionate about those I represent." As for the biggest challenge, he said it involves "the stigmas. People come in with preconceived ideas of what you do, and you have to re-educate them."

As for dream clients, he listed brands such as Target and Audi, "who know how to speak to the consumer. I'd love to work with them."

THE STATS

* Age: 37

* Job title: President of ext. 54 PR agency

* Orientation: Gay

* First concert: Paula Abdul

* Neighborhood: Uptown

* Dream vacation spot: "I want an adventure, like in the Amazon."

* Hobbies: Crossfit and SoulCycle

* Pets: Two labs and a white husky

* Personal mantra: "Keep it simple. Work hard and do good."


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