February 12, 2012
Innerviews: Hands-on PR chief marks milestone year
Kenny Kemp
In her office at NorthGate, MotionMasters CEO Diana Sole Walko cuddles her beloved sidekick, Toby. In Washington to conduct interviews for a documentary on U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, she discovered that Sen. Bob Dole brought his dog to work. "I thought, if Sen. Dole can take his dog to work in Washington, I can take a dog to work in the woods at NorthGate."
Kenny Kemp
"For a Walker Machinery commercial ...

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- She started with a one-room, one-phone third floor office on the boulevard.

Today, spacious upscale headquarters nestled in the woods of NorthGate reflect the company's remarkable success. Walls lined with awards, photos of VIPs and souvenir shots of her world travels attest to the firm's expertise and broad reach.

MotionMasters, makers of documentaries, commercials and educational videos, celebrates its silver anniversary this month.

Diana Sole Walko, the multitasking hands-on CEO, looks back with wonder on her climb to the PR pinnacle. An imaginative mind, a thirst for learning and an eye for innovation kept her consistently ahead of the curve.

 Documentaries she produced on the Rev. Leon Sullivan took her to Africa five times. In India, watching a sunset reflected across the Indian Ocean, she marveled at the places her work has taken her.

A woman who promotes the art of commercial storytelling has quite a story to tell herself.

She's 52.


"I grew up on a small farm outside Weirton. My dad was a steelworker. Everybody's dad was a steelworker. The only question was the role they played. My dad was a master machinist.

"I didn't know what I wanted to be. That's odd now, because I have journals from the time I was a kid, and I would pour out my thoughts and write all these interesting stories. I didn't realize then that writing would become my passion.

"I went to Salem College first. My first week there, I was really confused about why they were calling the professors doctors. I came from such a blue-collar background that I didn't know there was a doctor of anything except medicine. I was the first in my family to go to college.

"I started in political science. I was fascinated by government. I thought I might want to be a lawyer. I transferred to Marshall and spent my sophomore year taking liberal arts classes and trying to figure out the right thing to do.

"I volunteered at Big Brothers and Big Sisters. They needed someone to plan activities and promote the organization and recruit people to be big brothers and big sisters. I took that on as a volunteer and loved it. It helped me find what I was looking to do professionally.

"My junior year, I majored in journalism and public relations. They recruited some professionals to guide me. One was Ed Knight with Ashland Oil. He said I needed to look at public relations as a career path.

"I worked at Channel 13 as a news producer and reporter and took classes in public relations and broadcast news. I worked at 13 back when Matt Lauer was there. He was a nice guy, very talented. Joe Johns and I went to Marshall together. He worked at WSAZ. I knew neither one of them would be here long.

"I went to work for an advertising agency in Norfolk, Va., but I was gone less than a year before the mountains called me back.

"In junior high, I was a delegate in the Hi-Y Youth and Government program, and I was fascinated with it. So Charleston was where I wanted to be when I came back, and that's where I built this business.

"I looked for the first thing I could get back here. I worked in marketing at Camden Park one summer. They're still one of my clients. I worked as promotions director for WVAH-TV when they were just signing on the air.

"In 1984, I went to Charles Ryan Associates. I was pregnant with my first child, the first pregnant woman to work there. After my first son was born, I went to work in what was the audio-visual department of Charles Ryan.

"This was back when we produced slideshows for clients. There was no such thing as doing video. We grew the department to where it became a separate subsidiary. I led the subsidiary and bought it, and it has been a 25-year run now.

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