‘No Better Time to Practice PR’

Andy Polansky at ASU2

Students eager for good news about the prospects of landing jobs upon graduation got what they wanted to hear last night from the head of one of the world’s largest agencies.

Speaking at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School, Weber Shandwick CEO Andy Polansky said he is bullish about our industry, adding: “There is no better time to practice PR.”

Noting that PR is a growing field, Andy said Weber Shandwick last year hired more than 360 new U.S. employees, about 10% of its 3,600 global workforce. But he said students and the profession need to be prepared for the sea changes that are radically transforming the communications industry.

During his remarks and Q&A session, Andy discussed three key trends and offered some job search advice:

1. Lanes Are Blurring

All agencies are becoming more integrated and broadening their reach. Digital, social and content now drive 40% of Weber Shandwick business, Andy said. Plus, consumers are expecting more from the brands they purchase, including how they respond to crises.

2. Rise in Stakeholder Activism

Noting the rise in shareholder activism, Andy said “85% of people form opinions about companies based on how they respond in a crisis.” And 50% of Millenials say they expect CEOs to speak up about social issues. “We are navigators in complex times,” is how he described the role of PR pros.

3. It’s A Prove-It-Works World

“The biggest change in PR is the use of data and analytics,” Andy explained. It’s now baked into the creation of strategic communications programs, not just at the end to prove what was delivered.

“Use data on the front end to determine how the campaign will do rather than analyze results afterwards. In other words, prove it works. This requires a deeper understanding of data an analytics.

What makes you interesting?

When asked about how to differentiate youself from fellow job seekers, Andy urged students to take charge of their careers. “You have to be proactive,” he advised. “Don’t wait for a company to recruit you. You have to understand the value you bring to the firm.

“What’s interesting about your story, not just about what you did here,” he advised students. “What makes you interesting?”

“The skill set you develop here is a powerful one not everyone has, so deploy it to set yourself on a great trajectory,” he said.

As his closing comment, Andy urged students to put their skillsets to good use by helping nonprofits. “These organizations need your help, and there is a lot of compelling work to be done.” 

Weber Shandwick CEO responds to questions from Mark Hass and students at Arizona State University's Cronkite School.
Weber Shandwick CEO responds to questions from Mark Hass and students at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School.

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