If there’s anything WE Communications Account Director H. Michael Morse can interest anyone with, it’s his strategic thinking, winning writing, and oral communications power—all skill sets he believes aligned with his natural talent. He was only in high school when he was first introduced to the PR industry at a career event and there’s no denying that all his decisions thereafter were basically embedded in the dream of one day becoming a PR professional.
While studying at Rowan University, he worked for the marketing and public relations director for the School of Fine and Performing Arts. He joined the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) university chapter, became the PR liaison for the Theater department, and interned with Broadway’s preeminent public relations firm, Boneau-Bryan/Brown.
When Morse kick-started his career, getting access to roles was the biggest hurdle for him. He tells Marcom Weekly, “As someone who is part of both the LGBTQ and BIPOC communities, it would be impossible to escape the challenges that are inherent in the PR industry and society in general.”
As discrimination and racism took a toll on most marginalized professionals, Morse saw an opportunity to rise above the societal challenges to work his way up to the executive ladder.
He countered all these obstacles by using the raw tools that were innate in him: socializing, networking, and thought leadership. He also saw the importance of mentorship and considered himself lucky to have worked with senior public relations executives such as Cheryl Overton, with whom he had exposure working on campaigns for brands including Target and Nextdoor. “Finding someone in an executive leadership role that looks like you can be career-boosting. I am also a mentor for other folks, and it’s a wonderful feeling to pay it forward.”
When Morse’s resume went unanswered at agencies, he created opportunities for himself, founding Morse Code PR in 2004. Later as a freelancer at various agencies, he noticed he was often the only person of color in meetings.
Believing that diversity and inclusion is not just a narrative but a course of action and work, Morse says, “We need so much more than lip service, think pieces, and Ads that feature people of color. If the brand itself reflects the audiences they are trying to reach, they cannot help but succeed.”
Morse refuses to believe that the most creative, strategic, and influential minds cannot figure out how to make DEI a priority. “Agencies reveal themselves through their actions,” he says. “Organizations that embrace DEI efforts are smart businesses because they understand today’s consumers will not support a business culture that is not diverse.”
For Morse, being a gay, Black man is twice as challenging trying to navigate the workplace and life in general. As he encourages everyone to “buckle up and enjoy the ride,” he says, “You really have no power over other people and what they think, so there’s great strength in shifting focus inward toward self-love and acceptance.”
Morse also believes that those who acknowledge their fear and do it anyway are the ones who succeed. “Everyone at every level has had to battle fear,” he says.
“No matter what you have achieved, the feeling can creep in to steal your thunder. You must live your life and shine your light brightly, regardless of outside forces that may try to dim that light,” he added.
The beginning of the pandemic was both an exciting and scary time for Morse. He had just landed a new job as an account director at EJ Media Group, but the spread of Covid-19 was rising at alarming rates. At that time, his very good college friend, Jason Friel, offered him a break from New York City to visit Jason and his husband Jim and two kids, Asher and Audrey.
Just last Spring 2020, Morse accepted Jason’s offer to live with them and it was one of the most life-affirming decisions he ever made. During the first few weeks, the necessary adjustments, such as getting used to the family’s morning routine and adapting to the new schedule, took Morse a while before realizing they were already forging healthy rituals in his new, modern family. “There is a healing that happens when you are in a loving, supportive environment,” he says. “It’s magical.”
What began as an invitation to visit turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Morse. He considers being of service as a positive role model to Asher and Audrey to be “rewarding.” He aims to be able to share his motto with them and grow up living by the same belief: “What’s wrong with wanting more? If you can fly, then soar!”
Morse and his family shared their story with Tamron Hall Show:
“The quality time I spend with the children I won’t soon forget,” Morse says of the experience, “and I hope they have some lasting memories. It will be difficult to return to my apartment this September, but life must go on.”
Photo provided courtesy of Andrew Werner.
Karen Gail Javier
Karen is responsible for editorial support and covers agency, digital content, and D&I news.