White House, to Jackson Hole, to the California coast, PR career and outdoor adventures - Lora
Hot yoga class has just ended in Encinitas. An equal proportion of men and women exit the yoga studio into the southern California sunshine, wearing little clothing and very large amounts of sweat.
Lora Bodmer walks out looking refreshed, her sun streaked dark blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail, and strolls down the block towards a cafe with outdoor tables surrounding a large, calming, water fountain. She orders an omelette with potatoes, and says with a laugh, “I’m never on this side of the mic! My place is usually behind the scenes, lining up people for interviews, helping someone else tell their story. I connect the pieces, but you never see me.” She requests butter and jam with her toast, and explains her journey. “My path started in DC, and shifted to Jackson and California. Recently I’ve been able to blend those worlds, which feels right.” Lora, what is your job? I started my company, Deep Communications, about 15 years ago. I am a communications and PR professional. My job is to help people tell stories in meaningful ways, that make an impact. Do you enjoy your work?
Yes! At this point, I only work on things I really love. My work is really focused. Rather than have many clients, which I’ve done in the past, I have only a few clients that I really dive into. Who are some of your clients?
I’ve worked with Red Bull Media House since 2007. They do everything in a big way, and it shows in the quality of their films and events. I handle communications for a program called Turnaround Arts that is run by the Kennedy Center. They infuse high-need schools with arts and music education, it’s a proven strategy to lift success. The last year or so I’ve started working with Protect Our Winters (POW). They’re addressing climate change, through the outdoor community’s voice. Climate change IS the defining issue of our time. What Jeremy Jones has created with POW is extraordinary. Tell me about the path that led you to this career. I was in the Walter Cronkite School at Arizona State, studying to be a TV journalist, or a writer or producer for TV political news. Katie Couric was my idol as a kid. I interned at the ABC station in Phoenix, and then got a job as the political unit intern at the CNN bureau in DC. I was also studying at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington. At CNN, I saw in the newsroom what my future would look like, and it wasn’t for me. I went to a professor at George Washington, to talk ideas through, and he picked up the phone on the spot and called the White House! Within 2 days I was the TV intern for the White House. It was during the final years of the Clinton administration. Oh my goodness! You were still in school, right? I was 19. I had been at Arizona State for a couple years and suddenly I was in the White House! It was an incredible experience. You light up mentioning this! So you went from TV news, to PR at the White House… what came next? In 2000, I skipped graduation and joined a congressional campaign. I was the communication director/deputy campaign manager, for a really close national race, and I worked my tail off. Working a political campaign, you’re on 16 hours a day 7 days a week… no project can compare. You’re on a timeline, and there’s this drop dead date. When the clock stops, you cross the line in front or you don’t. After that, I took a job in DC at a public affairs firm. We did some great work, but also had clients that my values don’t align with, like coal burning power plants. When they wanted me to work on more of those accounts, I knew I had to leave. I went to DC to make a difference for the better, and this wasn’t it. Then September 11 happened. My office window looked out toward the Pentagon. That morning I turned on CNN, and the towers had been hit. I looked behind me, and saw smoke coming up from the Pentagon, before the news reported it. It was confusing, frightening, and sad. I rode my bike home, thinking, ‘what am I doing here?’ I sold my things, broke my lease, quit my job, and moved to Jackson Hole, planning to stay the winter. But your plans changed and we got lucky and you stayed in Jackson! Yes! By spring, there was an opening at Stanwood and partners, a PR agency in Jackson. Carson (Stanwood) basically invented the model for outdoor PR companies, and is still a mentor today. That’s when I switched from political, to outdoor and action sports PR work. That was a huge turning point. How did you end up in California? With Deep, I had a lot of clients in southern California, and worked on the ASR show for nearly a decade. I was working on PR for Reef, the sandal company, and they held a sales meeting in December in Carlsbad. You know how Jackson is in December… it can be wonderful, or negative 20 and not snowing! One morning, I went for a run along the ocean. There were dolphins jumping in the water! Before going to the airport, I drove along the lagoon in Cardiff-by-the-sea, and I thought this is incredible! I came home, and looked at Tate, who was my boyfriend then, and said I’m going to buy a condo in Cardiff! Tate looked at me and said, we live in Jackson. And I don’t wear flip flops, I don’t surf, and I hate southern California! hahahaha! He was at TGR making movies and tv shows, and was like, ‘good luck out there’! But I talked him into going back and forth, and after a few years we moved to the beach full-time. Does Tate like flip flops now?! Tate wears flip flops! He’s a fixture at the beach down at Seaside and Barneys (surf break in Cardiff). Our garage is full of surf boards. And he’ll tell anyone who will listen how much he loves living here, and how wonderful it is in California! Do you surf too? Any time I can. It’s really fun. Our son Wilson surfs too, he’s a natural athlete like his dad. He was four when he caught his first wave down the line here in Cardiff. We’re so proud of him. When you met your husband, he was working for TGR - he was recently the subject of a TGR film, ‘The Mountain in the Hallway’. It’s about climbing the Grand Teton, but also about something big in your life, do you want to talk about it? Tate started having symptoms of what turned out to be rectal cancer when he was 25, although he wasn’t diagnosed until 35. He was diagnosed stage two in July 2016, and in July 2017 he was restaged to four. It is surreal and heartbreaking. It was world changing for us in every way. Tate and I try to talk about his cancer, in ways that can help other people. The main thing we try to communicate is, if somethings not feeling right, get it checked. Don’t let your symptoms be dismissed. If caught early, colorectal cancer can have a high cure rate. Tate’s attitude has been inspiring. We live very much in the moment. How do you approach this with your son? He was two and a half when Tate’s cancer was diagnosed. We talk about cancer around him, he meets doctors, he understands that Dad is sick, but doing everything he can to get better. If you hide things from kids, they’re never going to trust you. Wilson’s a bright kid, and we’re honest with him. He deserves to understand what is happening in our family. It sounds like the two of you have a great, united, parenting front. We’re definitely a team. We each have our strengths and our roles in our partnership. Tate is a really beautiful person; calm, kind, and creative. It’s nice to be around him. What’s really important to you with regard to your family these days? Keeping Tate healthy, and any second he’s not in treatments, doing something really fun. We try to get outside a lot! Any favorite work projects or moments? I have many, but I’ll never forget the Turnaround Arts talent shows in the Obama White House. Children from around the country, many of whom had never flown or left their community before, found themselves in DC, at the White House, as Michelle Obama’s special guests! Seeing those kids perform onstage for the President was so powerful. The First Lady hosted the kids for an after-party, where they started a dance circle, in the middle of the White House! I looked over at the Chief Usher, who had been there since I interned, he was standing back smiling. He’s a serious guy and runs a tight ship, and even he stepped back and soaked in the joy. Those kids… the White House was their house. As it should be. That sounds absolutely wonderful. Another highlight was working on ‘The Art of Flight’, a Red Bull film directed by Curt Morgan starring Travis Rice. That film changed the genre of action sports filmmaking. It was the best snowboarders of our time, filmed in a stunning way, with an awesome score. It was amazing. It absolutely changed the genre. They also had a whole lot of helicopters. Haha they did! A lot of helicopters. We did a premiere at the Beacon Theater in New York, and the red carpet was out of this world, it was such a memorable experience. Do you ever think about doing something different? There are moments where I have inclinations to do something completely different, like teaching high school government, or becoming a lawyer. I’ve been working in media for 20 years now, and I love it, love it, love it! Still, I’m always asking myself, ‘what else would be interesting? What else can you learn, how else can you change, or maybe make more of a difference?’
Find Lora @loraatdeep
Photo by Justin Bishop, for Vanity Fair.
Lora on a glacier in Alaska during filming of 'The Fourth Phase', a Red Bull Media House film starring Travis Rice.