FOX Sports refers to Laura Okmin as a 'reporter and beyond'- and that she is. Laura has spent over two decades in the television production business. As a reporter, she has covered Olympics, Super Bowls, NBA Finals and any other main stage sporting event you can think of. As an entrepreneur, she has 'PROfiled' major sports figure under her production company, LO Productions for Fox Sports Networks. And as a woman who has seen it all, she uplifts with invaluable insight for other women via GALVanize- a progressive platform for young women pursuing sports journalism.
We caught up with Laura as she prepares for the upcoming NFL Draft and the daily grind of the hustle at FOX Sports for a glimpse into her journey and her passion for outreach to women in the business.
You began your broadcasting career in Montgomery, Alabama. From there, you made various stops in other markets before debuting for a major network. Today, there is much pressure to go straight to the top after college. Can you talk about the importance of the process that got you to FOX Sports Network?
I try to always explain to the young women I work with - who are in such a hurry to get to a big market - how valuable and invaluable paying your dues are. Every path is different - they’re not wrong, not right, but YOURS - so my path isn't for everyone-but I'm just such a huge fan of starting in smaller markets. You want to make your mistakes (and there WILL be mistakes) small and you want to start somewhere with bosses who accept and embrace your growth. My most important lessons as a young reporter and a young woman were in Montgomery, Alabama and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Like everyone, I was in such a hurry to get to the “big time” but I look back at those two years with such appreciation. They really are some of my favorite lessons and memories - not to mention my foundation. I always tell my young reporters to stop focusing on “there”...I need you HERE. Those first years are where the growth is at, so stay present, patient and be kind to yourself. You're learning. Don't rush the journey, sister. You'll miss some beautiful stuff.
You have also developed your own production company, LO Productions. What has been your favorite/ most memorable special interest story or sport figure to PROfile?
I loved every single episode
I produced and hosted - because I booked the people I found interesting and wanted to tell their story but honest answer? My favorite story about my production company...is that I created it. It’s the first time I realized how smart I was. After almost 20 years in the business, the other side of my brain turned on. Suddenly I was negotiating commercials, time slots, creating budgets, hiring a team, developing a partnership with a corporate partner, creating a show from scratch- I was so out of my comfort zone and growing every minute of it. It was the first time I truly ventured out of my comfort zone. So when people ask me about who my favorite story was in those two seasons PROfiles aired….my real answer is….mine. For the first time in my career, I was into MY story as much as everyone else’s. It completely changed my world.
Can you tell us about Galvanize and what inspired you to connect with young and aspiring women sports broadcaster?
The genesis of GALvanize was watching so many young women getting thrown into opportunities they weren't ready for - professionally and personally. Navigating this business isn't easy especially if you don't have your confidence down. And that’s not easy when you're just starting out. At a younger age, I would've been resentful of women who didn't pay their dues, but at this older age, I started getting protective. It goes back to your first question - so many young women get big opportunities early on now-and I really wanted to help them be prepared on camera and ESPECIALLY off camera. Being on camera is such a tiny part of GALvanize. It's about finding the confidence in yourself and in other women. Especially other women.
I'm like so many women in sports - I’ve been a “guy’s girl” my whole life. And then suddenly I realized I'm a total woman’s woman - and again, my world completely shifted. I didn't have any women mentors or even many women friends in this business - and all I want to do is give that to these women. I say this all the time but I mean it: I get more than I give. My world is so much more amazing now that I have an army of women.
How receptive have the NFL teams been to providing insider access to the GALVanize program for the 2-Day Bootcamp?
Amazingly so. I can't say enough how terrific these teams have been but here's the biggest lesson I love my girls to see: I don't just call a team and ask if I can bring 25 women to a facility. These are relationships I've built for over 20 years. These are men who know me as a professional and a person...they know who I am and what I'm about... and that relationship which takes years to cultivate-opens the door. We spend so much time in GALvanize talking about building relationships - not sources - and this hopefully shows them that. I've been so blessed to work with some tremendous people in the NFL -they've given me so much - so to now get to give some of that to these young women is pretty awesome. Grateful.
Your quote is, “Build Relationships, Not Contacts” What does that mean to you? And how does one apply it when navigating their career in the sport world today?.
My favorite compliment a player once gave me is that I reach out 10 times...but I ask for something once. That tells me I'm doing it right. I’m constantly reaching out to people with no agenda and when I DO have an agenda, I tell them what it is. We’re so unconnected these days and I think it makes a true connection more meaningful. Whoever you are. I don't rush relationships. I take my time when I get to know someone. Building trust takes time and it’s so worth it - in business and in life. I can't preach it enough to young men and women...build relationships, not contacts. They last a lifetime. A lot longer than a job title.