Hand-selected from the worlds of public affairs, nonprofit and association management, community and public engagement, and corporate branding, the Influence Opinions team offers a broad spectrum of experience, expertise, and wins.
Additionally, we have access to a deep pool of talented consultants, freelancers, and vendors we can call upon to fulfill each client’s distinctive needs.
Elyse Yates is the founder and CEO of Influence Opinions. Elyse offers more than two decades of experience and expertise in arenas as diverse as politics, high-tech, public affairs, nonprofits, and entertainment – not to mention amazing big-picture vision, incredible insight, and strategies that work – all delivered with a zest for life that you wish you could bottle and sell.
Prior to launching IO, Elyse was a managing director for Public Strategies, Inc., the recognized leader in public perception management for Fortune 500 companies. During her tenure there, Elyse built an interactive business unit and a media relations division, managed the firm’s marketing and branding, and led teams consulting for a broad spectrum of clients, including Perot Systems, the San Antonio Spurs, Seton Healthcare Family and Bank of America. Previously, Elyse was a media relations specialist at IBM, where she worked with broadcast media nationwide, specializing in the use of technology to distribute content. Among her earlier political credentials, Yates served as deputy spokesperson for then-Governor Ann Richards.
At IO, Elyse has worked with clients coast-to-coast – from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [ASPCA] to the Seton Healthcare Family to the Arbor Day Foundation. Her vast experience in how technology changes communication has evolved into her current expertise – creating campaigns and research methodology in the political/public-policy arena.
Elyse currently serves as a board member for The University of Texas’ School of Natural Science and is an often-sought speaker for panels and events across the country and around the world.
Communicators solve problems, and Steve Scheibal has been solving communications problems in Austin and Central Texas for more than a decade. As a Principal of Influence Opinions, he specializes in media and messaging strategy, crisis communications, and alignment of a wide variety of tools and tactics to help clients achieve their goals.
Before coming to Influence Opinions, Steve served as the Director of Media Relations and Community Engagement for the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin where he directed media and community relations for the first new medical school in decades to be built on a Tier 1 research university campus. There, he served as a primary conduit between the medical school and the public, working with journalists, industry experts, and community leaders to raise awareness of the school, increase understanding of its mission, and execute communications and public relations strategies designed to help make Austin a model healthy city.
Before joining inaugural Dean Clay Johnston’s staff, Steve was Policy and Communications Director for Texas State Senator Kirk Watson. There he managed external communications for the Senate Democratic Caucus leader, oversaw crisis communications, and coordinated strategy and messaging with other groups and partners. He also managed communications efforts for the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus and served (in a volunteer capacity) as communications director for the campaign to pass Proposition 1, a wide-ranging — and successful — 2012 ballot initiative to support a UT Austin medical school and other health care initiatives in Travis County.
Steve also was a staff writer at the Austin American-Statesman for six years. There, he grew the City Hall beat into a wide-ranging platform detailing issues such as growth and development, infrastructure, demographics, the environment, and local and state politics. He graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1997.
Chris Tarango is an account manager with Influence Opinions, helping cultivate communities and foster collaborations between policymakers, communities, and business. Chris specializes in using peer-to-peer engagement, community outreach, and social media to move public opinion and mobilize stakeholders.
As a communications professional, Chris has worked with numerous Fortune 40 clients and municipal government initiatives on a wide variety of issue-based campaigns. He managed community engagement for many projects within City of Austin departments, including the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Health and Human Services Department, and the Parks and Recreation Department. Previously, Chris served as regional field director and state digital lead with the Texas branch of President Obama’s 2012 grassroots re-election campaign.
Chris currently serves as a member of Austin ISD’s Hispanic Advisory Committee and as chair of its Early Childhood Literacy Subcommittee. He has completed both Leadership Austin – Emerge program and Austin ISD’s UpClose Leadership Class, and graduated with honors from The University of Texas at El Paso.
DIGITAL & RESEARCH
Julia Schulze is the Senior Research Manager at Influence Opinions where she oversees all research products, including in-depth interviews, message testing, surveys, and the development of a client Digital Advance™.
Possessing an insatiable sense of curiosity, Julia enjoys working with the research team to determine awareness, sentiment, frame, and perception around client issues in order to develop recommendations for a comprehensive communications strategy. Her creative approach to problem-solving and ability to understand complex topics enable her to think about a client’s issue in a unique way – often providing new insight that informs overall strategy.
Julia earned her B.A. in Business Management from Texas State University.
Angi Menell, a bastion of Austin’s tech ecosystem, contributes her deep knowledge of finance, business development and operations. Because of her leadership, the IO team has the solid foundation needed to deliver our best to our partners.
Laurie Felker Jones has spent the last 15 years winning really hard things. She’s designed and implemented non-profit, for-profit and political campaigns which incorporate strategic partnerships, fundraising, communications, community engagement, organizational development and compliance. She’s particularly proud to have furthered campaigns for women and families on the local, statewide and national levels — including campaigns to elect more than 25 progressive women in Texas.
In 2017, she created JuiceBox Hero — a startup which leverages technology and public affairs to help working parents, providers and major employers navigate a significant civic engineering challenge of the modern business world: access to child care.
A native Austinite, Laurie earned her B.A. in Government with a minor in Women’s Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to her professional experience, she’s sought out opportunities to experience life in 24 countries on five continents, as well as on the high seas (sailing 4,000 miles of the Western Caribbean from 2010-2013). She’s now based in Austin, Texas where she lives with her husband, two great kiddos, and often-times a foster dog.
Seth Oldmixon is a public affairs consultant who provides expertly crafted messaging and strategic advising for businesses, political campaigns, and advocacy organizations.
Whether he’s working with a high-profile political campaign to get out the vote or helping a small grassroots advocacy organization leverage technology to amplify their impact, Seth is well-known for his ability to help clients identify key audiences, hone their messages, and develop and execute communications programs that engage and persuade.
A native Texan and a lifelong political junkie, Seth volunteered for his first campaign as a teenager in 1992 and went on to spend over a decade working in Washington, DC. His work has been recognized with multiple Reed Awards and American Association of Political Consultants’ Pollie Awards.
Seth is a member of the American Association of Political Consultants, the Public Relations Society of America, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.
Emily Torgerson is a senior communications strategist that offers extensive experience in public affairs and comprehensive marketing campaigns and is especially adroit at navigating complex issues in the areas of energy, water, waste, economic development, and education.
Prior to joining the firm in 2008, Emily served as director of marketing for Periscope Holdings, Inc., a venture-backed software company specializing in government procurement solutions. During her tenure there, Emily created Periscope’s media relations program, designed and developed a national users’ conference, and led a full-scale company rebranding. Previously, Emily worked as an account manager at TateAustin (now Hahn Public Communications), where she developed an expertise in high-profile, high-demand projects such as AISD’s Apple At Work and the Mueller Redevelopment.
At IO, Emily led the Austin-based consumer launch of car2go, managing a $350K budget, developing and implementing a paid media plan and social media strategy, and producing a full-scale public event that included business partnerships, food vendors, and live music. She also helped launch PlastiPure; Emily built the company’s communications program from scratch, including messaging, collateral, media relations, and tradeshow strategy. Emily managed local media outreach and onsite media coordination for the SXSW Film Festival from 2009 to 2015.
Emily is certified in Systematic Development and Informed Consent, and is currently getting certified to moderate focus groups. She is a graduate of Leadership Austin’s essential class, and she helped found The Creative Fund, a local nonprofit. Emily earned her B.A. in Public Relations at Texas State University.
Jeff Tieszen is a senior strategist at Influence Opinions. With two decades of experience in corporate communications and media relations in the high-tech industry, Jeff delivers an extraordinary ability to grasp complex issues, shape powerful messages, and create engaging storylines that resonate.
Prior to joining IO, Jeff coordinated external communications for IBM across Texas and much of the Western U.S. He worked closely with state and local governments to highlight public-private initiatives around important issues such as healthcare, public safety, smart energy, STEM education, and transportation. Tasked with promoting IBM’s vision of a “Smarter Planet” in his region, Jeff spearheaded a variety of tactics and campaigns that helped establish IBM as a thought leader on the intersection of government and technology.
Previously, Jeff held several other external and internal communications positions across IBM’s businesses and spent four years as public relations manager at software development tools company Metrowerks, a former subsidiary of Motorola and Freescale Semiconductor.
Jeff earned his Bachelor of Journalism at The University of Texas at Austin.