By Myat Min Soe
After a pandemic-caused hiatus, Chicago’s public relations and advertising community returned to DePaul University last week for the Portfolio Showcase event featuring class and professional work completed by grad students over the past two years.
Keynote speaker this year was Lewis Williams, EVP of Brand Impact at Weber Shandwick. Williams, one of Adweek’s past Creative 100 who also served on the 2021 Cannes Lions PR jury. He is a member of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, as well as the Chicago Advertising Federation and co-runs The One Club’s ONE School, a portfolio program for Black creatives. Before joining Weber Shandwick, Williams held top creative roles at Burrell Communications and Leo Burnett.
Agency veteran Williams opened his remarks by mentioning his long career in the industry: “I’ve been doing this a long time, so I’ve got OG status.” He said he was there to share a couple of “old school traits” for the students to help navigate their careers. Among them:
Always embrace your uniqueness. “You got the competition, how are you gonna break through?” he asked. “When you got something unique, use it.”
Keep up with current trends. “You gotta know what’s happening,” he said. “You gotta stay relevant.”
Be Fundamentally Sound
Make sure you have a great set of fundamental skills. “Technology is great, but it is only a tool,” he said. “If you don’t have your fundamentals, if you don’t have that foundation, it’s not gonna help you.”
Be a Great Storyteller
Always communicate with intention. “It’s always about the story,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s TikTok, I don’t care if it’s a Super Bowl commercial, you must be a storyteller.”
Keep track of your achievements and showcase them. “Numbers don’t lie,” he said. “You can’t just be cute and good all along. You have to be effective.”
Be Committed to a Cause
Always advocate for what you believe in. “It could be your community. It could be about special needs. Whatever it is, find a cause that you believe in,” he said. “And you let people know, you wear it like a badge of honor.”
Williams quoted a 1977 Nike poster, “beating the competition is relatively easy, beating yourself is a never ending commitment.” He then concluded his speech Wednesday with a quote from Kobe Bryant, “I make my goals. No negotiations with myself. That’s the mamba mentality.”
After Williams’ speech, the more than 100 guests networked with graduate students — looking at the portfolios, voting for their favorites and getting to know the next generation of PR and advertising leaders. The evening ended with Yvonne Munoz winning the best portfolio, and Amudalat Kasumu and Angela Anderson as runners-up.
The official publication for the 2022 PR and Advertising Portfolio Showcase Event with all of the graduates’ portfolios is available here.
Photos by Sofia Leal