July 1, 2013
Since 1964, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores has been part of the Oklahoma community. The company, which was revolutionary for combining a convenience store with self-service gasoline, now operates more than 300 stores in 39 states with almost 10,000 employees. Family-owned and operated, Love’s still stands by its guiding principle 40 years later: “Clean Places, Friendly Faces.”
Jenny Love Meyer, daughter of founder Tom Love, is the vice president of communications for Love’s Travel Stops. She oversees public and media relations, internal communications, community relations and charitable giving for the Love’s family of companies. She has worked for Love’s since 1991.
Love’s Travel Stops recently announced a $3 million donation to support the immediate and long-term relief efforts in Oklahoma following the devastating tornadoes that impacted the communities of Moore, Shawnee and surrounding areas. Love’s Travel Stops operates 63 stores in its home state, including several in close proximity to the destruction path.
Meyer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Colorado College. She lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and daughter.
What does your job entail at Love’s?
I have worked at Love’s for 22 years — it doesn’t seem that long though! My department manages internal communications, media relations (traditional and social), and community relations. I have a wonderful team who takes care of most of these day-to-day projects, which enables me to travel to our store locations.
Why did you decide to go into communications and how did you get your start?
I’d like to have a good story, but the truth is that my path into communications was very circumspect. After college, I worked in the restaurant industry in Washington, D.C. Then, I moved back to Oklahoma City when an opportunity happened at Love’s with a new project. I started with Love’s in the early 1990s and worked in a couple of different areas before my current role.
Talk about the relationship between the communications department and the C-suite at this family-owned and operated company.
It is convenient that I am a member of the family, but we earn everything here through hard work, innovation and common sense. We are able to align communications initiatives with company priorities, both informally and formally. It’s important for me as a family member to talk with our store teams and find out their concerns, plus what is going well for them at Love’s.
Love’s was recently named one of the Top 10 largest private companies in the U.S. by Forbes. Describe the corporate culture.
We are results-focused with a premium placed on work ethic and customer service. It’s important for our teams to understand that our customers keep us in business. Obviously, part of our customer segment is our internal customer — our employees.
Talk about your philanthropy arm and the Children’s Miracle Network. Why are being socially conscious and community involvement so important to Love’s?
Our involvement in Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals began 15 years ago and is an important part of our community relations nationwide. All of our field employees participate in fundraising and they are good at it! We are proud of what they do: enabling Love’s to help thousands of sick children every year. This complements the money we give in Oklahoma and communities across the nation. Three percent of our net profits are donated to nonprofit organizations in central Oklahoma and national nonprofits. Oklahoma City is our home so it makes sense that we give back here.
How does Love’s use social media to engage with its fan base and the community?
Social media is a wonderful tool for us to interact with our customers and others in the communities where we are located. We think of social media as an outgrowth of our traditional media. Any news releases that we send through traditional media channels are also sent on social media.
We guide social media through an editorial calendar so messages are balanced through the year. When we have a gap without “hard news” to talk about, then we include lighter posts. Frequently, it’s the entertaining posts that garner the most interaction.
What role does public relations play in building the Love’s brand?
Externally, communications provides focus on what Love’s is, what we provide and what makes us different. Internally, we give clarity to these company identifiers while conveying the benefits to our employees when they become engaged. The latter is critical because our workforce is growing rapidly. Also, we recognize and appreciate our team members as much as possible. They are the conduits to our external customers.
What challenges does Love’s face in reaching employees in a non-traditional office setting, with a workforce spread out throughout many regional stores?
With a nationwide footprint of locations in 39 states, the challenges of reaching employees are legion. It may sound antiquated; however, we rely on a hard-copy monthly newsletter and bulletin boards in the stores to convey messages to our team members. It’s important to note that this works because we also talk frequently with store managers and district managers about the need for them to help in this process. They distribute the newsletters and post important messages on the bulletin boards.
How many stores does Love’s operate and what are the challenges of expanding into new markets?
We have 300 locations now and will open another 20 by the end of the year. Our growth over the past several years has been rapid. The challenge that we have in growing into new markets, especially if they are in new states, is in educating the communities about Love’s. We let people know about the nice appearance of the facilities — that we have aesthetically pleasing and modern stops. Besides the look of our locations, we bring a lot of jobs to the area.
What’s the best part of your job?
Working with talented, fun and dedicated people. Whether I’m in the office or the stores, our people inspire me.
Favorite item to buy at a travel stop?
That’s easy: coffee!
Any three dinner guests, past or present?
John F. Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan
Best place to go on a road trip?
Colorado — it’s a beautiful state.
Managing Editor Amy Jacques interviewed Jenny Love Meyer for this month’s member profile.