My Journey to the One Young World Summit Part 3

Posted on November 3, 2011 by Comments Off

Guest Post by Zamafuze Ngcobo – South African delegate and student at the University of Johannesburg. WE was honored to sponsor Zama’s attendance to the annual One Young World (OYW) Summit, Switzerland (Sept. 1-4, 2011). This blog post is the summary and final in the series about Zama’s journey to the OYW summit.

It has been almost five months since WE Johannesburg made the decision to sponsor me to attend the OYW summit held in Zurich a week ago. On August 31st, the big day finally arrived and I flew out to Zurich, Switzerland.

On my first day in Zurich I had to pinch myself several times to remind myself that this was really happening. The calibre of young people and leaders that I found myself amongst was incredible. From all walks of life each of them was passionate and driven, from as young as fifteen years of age to twenty seven. Between the several plenary sessions during the day and the night life the city had to offer, there was just no way that I could afford to waste time on sleep. I wanted to get to know each person, hear their stories and to share in their valuable knowledge and experiences.  It almost felt like I was visiting over 150 countries in three days through the stories of 1200 young leaders from every corner of the world.

Each day was dedicated to at least three of the following resolutions, namely: global health, global business, environment, leadership, interfaith dialogue and media with informative plenary sessions. Counselled by world leaders such as Sir Bob Geldof, James Chau, Fatima Bhutto and HRH Crown Princess of Norway, there was so much to learn and meditate upon.

My personal favourites included Doug Richards on his “School for startups”, Mark Lovell on CSR and Fatima Bhutto who spoke candidly on women and gender issues. There were so many key takeaways from each of these speakers. I was moved to tears when Doug Richards introduced us to some of the people who had changed their lives by starting small businesses. This made me think of the many young people in South Africa who are despondent, unemployed and spend every day kicking the curb. Hearing the real stories that Richards presented made me realise that we cannot change people no matter how hard our efforts – people change themselves only when they want to. I guess the trick is: we need the type of leadership that does not force people to just do things but rather inspires them to WANT to change their lives; a challenge in South Africa, where some still feel entitled and constantly wait for government to save them.

Another session that etched a mark in my heart was centred on global dignity, where we each were posed with this question; “What have you done and what will you do for the next year to strengthen someone’s dignity?” The stories that came out of this question were moving and made me realise that what may not be important to me, may actually mean the world to someone else. Simple things like providing sanitary towels to women in rural communities or even a word of encouragement to a stranger.

A theme that seemed to be threaded throughout the summit was the role of CSR and its relevance and legitimacy in contemporary society. The views that came out of the various discussions throughout the summit were very critical of this term, which caught my attention as my dissertation topic for this year is focused on positively encouraging CSR initiatives by business, particularly in the fight against HIV/Aids in South Africa. This forced me to step back and critically challenge the efficacy and legitimate function of CSR programmes within business. Mark Lovell spoke unequivocally on this topic and shared insights on how the social and commercial purposes of business should not be mutually exclusive but rather be integrated into operations as both a profit and a cost. I have been since making changes to my dissertation after this insightful talk.

On the last day of the summit, my nerves shot through the roof with excitement and anticipation for the speech that I had been nominated to deliver on a resolution for Global Health. In a lot of ways, I was more privileged than most to have a great mentor in attendance:  WE General Manager, Marcus Sorour. When I was overwhelmed and anxious, Marcus was there to put things in to perspective for me. And so by the time I had to deliver my resolution on Global Health, I had the confidence and mind-set that I needed to stand in front of over 1200 young leaders. Frightening indeed!

Extending from the CSR debate and also based on the research that I am currently undertaking at university, the resolution that I proposed was a challenge to corporates to start investing in the health of the people living within the environments where they operate. This includes workers, their families and immediate communities – an initiative that has already been used by companies such as Anglo-American and BHP Billiton; who provide free HIV/Aids treatment to their workers and families in South Africa.

In between the summit sessions, there was never a dull moment; I had the opportunity to meet and connect with so many young bright minds. However, one of the biggest actions that I took from this experience came from the Grameen Creative Lab Founder Hans Reitz who spoke on social innovation. His key points that I have now made a part of my own personal manifesto were; “plan for financial sustainability, be excellent, be innovative, don’t do it alone, measure your results and do it with joy”.  

Although it only lasted three days, my experience at One Young World has been a tipping point in my life.  It has inspired me to come back home and answer two questions; how can we motivate our people to WANT to change their lives for the better and what business model can I work on that will solve community problems. It’s a work in progress. I am thankful to WE Johannesburg for influencing and enabling me with the invaluable tools and knowledge that I need to get up, start something and impact my community.

WE joins Net Impact’s Global Gathering in Portland

Posted on October 27, 2011 by Comments Off

This week, 10 Waggener Edstrom Worldwide employees are gearing up for a one-of-a-kind volunteer opportunity to support Net Impact, an amazing, international nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire, educate and equip individuals to use the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world. This topic is at the heart of WE’s sweet spot and is a passion for many employees at our company. This year’s Net Impact Conference will be in Portland, Ore., home to one of our largest offices. WE is donating time and in-kind services to the organization. The enthusiastic team of volunteers will be gathering content and reporting on behalf of Net Impact from the conference sessions.

I’m particularly excited about the Portland Impact sessions. These are workshops in which attendees will serve as business consultants to a group of Portland-area nonprofits and social innovators. I envision this as a scenario that brings out the best of speed dating and crowd sourcing in a spirit of open innovation. Organizations under the spotlight include The Bus Project, Focus the Nation and GO Box, a new service providing reusable to-go containers for food carts and their customers. In Portland, food carts are monumental symbols of the city’s cuisine culture.

Portland will welcome more than 2,500 Net Impact visitors from across the U.S. and overseas. The conference will feature more than 300 leading speakers, 100 sessions and four keynote speakers including Sally Jewell, president and CEO of REI, and  Hannah Jones, vice president of Sustainable Business & Innovation at Nike. The program covers a wide variety of topics, including corporate impact, energy and clean tech, environment and natural resources, social innovation, international development, finance and investing, and career and professional development.

Follow and engage in lively conversations via Twitter #NI11, and follow the Waggener Edstrom team @WE_Citizen. Let us know if you’re planning to attend!

A little birdie told me… (How I landed my position at WE through Twitter!)

Posted on July 21, 2011 by 1 Comment

A little birdie told me….

How I landed my position at WE through Twitter

 Guest Blog Post written by Heather Fernandez, Account Executive

I remember being a senior in college and sitting through course after course and seminar after seminar listening to alumni and local professionals talk about their “big break” and “recipes for success”. I recall repeatedly hearing the cliché “it’s all about who you know”. It seemed the otherwise obvious tactic of marketing yourself and networking with others was a surefire way to get to the next step in your career.

Then in walks social media. Like a gift from above, social media took networking to a completely new level. What could have been an awkward first introduction juggling free appetizers and a crooked nametag is now a first impression over LinkedIn or Twitter and Facebook (among other social platforms).

When I had made the decision to start looking for the next step in my career, I turned to word of mouth inquiries, pinged fellow industry mates and reviewed online job postings. Most of what I discovered was not exactly what I was looking for, but I remained patient. Then I remembered that I had been on Twitter following several PR agencies and colleagues who worked at firms of all shapes and sizes. Twitter is what gave me MY next big break…

One lovely day I stumbled upon a tweet from an AE at WE who had been retweeted by a fellow follower, citing that there was a position available on her team. I quickly responded that I was interested in learning more and within 5 minutes time she and I were connecting over email and I was on my way to learning more about the Trustworthy Computing team here at WE. By the end of that week, my resume was in the hands of the leadership team and I had my first phone interview. Nearly 6 weeks after that initial “twitterduction”, I was hired as the newest Account Executive on the TWC team here at Waggener Edstrom.


Social media, for me, has proven to be an incredible resource to learn about new and emerging trends in PR, scope out the competition and best practices in the industry, and truly make real life connections with peers in my line of work that I might not have otherwise met. Branching out, making connections, and using resources available to you can really help make that next step in your career an informative and easy one!

In the name of paying it forward, I urge you to connect with me too! Who knows? I might be your next big break!

Connect with me on Twitter and Linked In!



Community Experiences In New Orleans – Part 2

Posted on June 21, 2011 by Comments Off

Silvia Ashmore, Community Relations Program Specialist, WE-Portland

As I wrote in Part 1 of this Blog post, I had the privilege to learn, connect and be inspired at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS) in New Orleans; the world’s largest annual gathering of 4,500+ service leaders from the nonprofit, corporate and government sectors. This is the second part my NCVS experiences and  insights learned. 

I was being wowed by the stories, content, speakers and entertainment at NCVS; especially world-renowned saxophonist  Branford Marsalis’ testimony of the many, many volunteers from across the country who helped/continue to help rebuild New Orleans after hurricane Katrina including a special shout-out AmeriCorps volunteers! The stories about dedication, patience and courage were limitless.

My favorites included the story about Chad Pregracke’s love for the Mississippi river which lead him to establish the Living Lands and Waters nonprofit, and Ruby Bridges’ story about making history in 1960 when she crossed the threshold of all-white William Frantz Elementary School in the Ninth Ward neighborhood (Ruby Bridges Foundation empowers children to advance social justice & racial harmony) – all are true Champions of Service!

Three key takeaways from these stories to inspire everyone to make a difference: 

  • find out what your local nonprofits are doing to help with national disasters and sign-up for training,
  • you don’t have to be rich (in monetary terms) to make a big impact,
  • listen to that still voice inside of you, empowering you to live out your unique purpose in this world.

I attended ten workshops over three days, including: a Peace Corps’ session on promoting volunteering and service through partnerships at home and abroad, “win win” corporate volunteer programs best practices, and millennial volunteers insights (e.g. key findings from 2011 Millennial Donor Report and Deloitte’s Volunteer Impact Survey). I used the conference to get another perspective on volunteering and particularly enjoyed the nonprofit workshop about planning volunteer project such as using MLK Day of Service and how to make an impact all year-round (e.g. “Semester of Service” strategy guide from Youth Service America).

Too many meaningful events and not enough time to attend them all! So thank you NCVS for posting the workshops and available handouts on your website here. The inspiring Closing Session included an upbeat musical performance by Percy Sledge and was sparkled with stellar Champions of Service Award winners. Adieu Mississippi River, you are radiant just like the city of New Orleans and its people. I hope to attend the 2012 NCVS in Chicago.


P.S.:   Curious about more from the conference? Follow @NCVS and the #NCVS twitter hashtag.

Community Experiences In New Orleans – Part 1

Posted on June 21, 2011 by Comments Off

Silvia Ashmore, Community Relations Program Specialist, WE-Portland

At Waggener Edstrom Worldwide (WE), I am part of a workplace culture that encourages meaningful community outreach and a generous benefits program (at least I think so). As a member of the WE Citizenship team, I help employees make a difference in communities by managing relationships with nonprofit organizations and planning volunteer experiences.

Earlier this month I had the privilege to learn, connect and be inspired at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS) in New Orleans; the world’s largest annual gathering of 4,500+ service leaders from the nonprofit, corporate and government sectors. This is the first of two-part series about the experience, conference and insights I learned. 

This was my first visit to New Orleans (NOLA). Greeted by warm weather and friendly people, it was quite emotional to explore the city especially seeing the Superdome; a “shelter of last resort” for those unable to evacuate in August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit. The memories are still so fresh in people’s mind and I understand how it felt appropriate to hold a conference about community service in a city that is being rebuilt by the hands of many.  

NCVS was a conference with a twist; it wasn’t all about talking, it was about doing as well! On day 1, I joined 60+ NCVS attendees at 7 a.m. to board a bus for the Evans Park Service Project. In 95 degrees weather with a 90% humidity rating (= big and fuzzy hair) the group beautified the park with signage/cutouts, building benches, a canopy, and a new playground structure. In addition to feeling good about restoring this public space in the Uptown New Orleans neighborhood of 3,000 households as part of the Road to the Gulf campaign, I took three things away about how to plan large service events for employees:

  • it takes a “village” to build a playground,
  • background music is a nice touch and great motivation,
  • pre-assigning tasks is essential (check out Kaboom! for project ideas and more tips).

I connected – face to face and heart to heart, with a variety of amazing service champions throughout the week. For example, I struck up some nice conversations with Campus Crusade representatives from Missouri while volunteering; ran into our local Hands On Greater Portland’s Dwight Adkins; and met the University Of Arizona’s Professor Georgia Ehlers, Office of Fellowships (Peace Corps Alumni), Internships and Community Engagement. I asked her how she started her journey of service; her answer was simple: “I was asked as a youth to get involved in a local community center.” These words have stayed with me. It shows the importance and power of inviting someone to be a part of a community volunteer project. 

The highlight of the NCVS experience was being “adopted” as “Ms. Sylvie” by three lovely AmeriCorps ladies from Mississippi’s America Reads program. These three unsung heroes are part of a movement committed to helping improve the reading skills of students and encouraging public support of literacy. Waggener Edstrom (WE) partnered with AmeriCorps City Year Seattle program in the past, and as I experienced the passion that these three champions have for making a difference, I am inspired to look into more ways for WE to partner with AmeriCorps; especially since education is one of our corporate cause and WE employees care so deeply about it.

You can read more about my NOLA community experiences in Part 2 of this NCVS recap Blog…


Companies That Care: Building the Case for Social Responsibility

Posted on May 19, 2011 by Comments Off

Wendy Carhart, Vice President, MS Corporate and WE Pro Bono Strategy, WE-Portland

Last week in Portland I moderated a panel at the Companies That Care conference, an annual event designed to provide a forum for sharing best practices in sustainable strategies in engagement. I was reminded how many companies are doing such really interesting work in engaging their customers and employees to make a difference in their communities. I was also reminded how important both listening and communicating are to ensure your story rises above the rest!

Over two days, I heard from industry leaders such as Nike, Keen, Starbucks and KPMG on how to use engagement to make a difference in their workplaces and communities. Several up and coming Oregon-based companies were featured as well, including Umpqua Bank, Columbia Sportswear and animation studio Laika.

Many of the conference attendees were responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) within their organizations but the audience was much broader. Michelle Van Allen of Umpqua Bank had the most creative job title: Senior Vice President of Culture Development.

My panel, which included leaders from KPMG, the Portland Trailblazers and Frank Creative, focused on how to build and establish a CSR program. Each of these organizations has done this very differently; some top down, others bottom up. We also talked about challenges that have been overcome, the need for continuous improvement, and how we measure success. All the speakers felt that while measurement is important, sometimes CSR benefits are somewhat intangible or unable to be measured specifically. All agreed that because of this the buy-in of senior leadership is necessary to be successful.

During the conference a few things stood out for me.

  • Doing But Not Telling – A Missed Opportunity: So many organizations are doing really interesting things that we don’t hear about – which reminds me how many opportunities there are for communicators. Many companies that were built on the principles of sustainability take a lot of their work and stories for granted.
  • Post-Consumer Waste Spells Opportunity:  I was inspired by the CEO of Looptworks, a year-old Portland company that has come up with a really innovative business model. Did you know that there is 70% more pre-consumer waste than post-consumer waste? Pre-consumer is the stuff that gets left over at the factory and nobody sees. Seventy percent more. I had no idea! Looptworks is making interesting clothes out of this – so using materials that would otherwise go to landfills. And, the more they grow the BETTER it is for the environment.
  • Ingredients of a Successful Sustainable Story: The attendees and speakers were from diverse groups within their organizations (product development for Nike, HR, Citizenship, PR) – they all shared a common theme. They all focus on listening, communicating and engaging with their audiences.

It was great to spend a few days meeting and hearing about the innovative and inspiring work that many are doing, and helping to promote the power of communications to share these stories.

Walking The Walk

Posted on April 28, 2011 by Comments Off

Guest Post by Colby Reade, Account Executive

Since I started at Waggener Edstrom, countless family, friends and former co-workers have asked about my new gig.  And, invariably, we walk through this scene:

 Them:  So . . . what do you think of Wagg Ed?

Me (with a small smile):  They walk the walk.

Them:  Oh yeah?  So they’re as good as advertised?

Me:  Nope.  They’re better. *bigger smile*

 See, anytime you make a dramatic change on your professional path, there is a certain amount of invigorating anxiety that comes along with it.  We’ve all been there.  That new job that’s all sparkly and shiny.  You’ve done your research on the place and you’ve been clear and up front about your goals and interests in your interviews.  It SEEMS like the perfect spot.  But you know that until you walk in the door, sit down at a desk and actually get your hands dirty you can’t REALLY know what you’re getting into.

 Plenty of companies Talk The Talk in the interview / recruitment process. But when you actually show up, you discover their organizational practices may be lacking (it takes days, if not weeks to get your e-mail or phone set up).  You may discover that “amazing leader” at the helm of your office is less a leader and more a dictator to rival Ghengis Khan.  Or you may discover that promises of managerial or team support during your transition actually consist of being handed a phonebook-thick manual and left alone to read in your cube and “figure it out.”  In short . . . they don’t exactly Walk The Walk.  It still may be a GREAT gig, just not as good as advertised.

 So when I walked into 3CP on Day 1, I braced myself for hiccups or hurdles.  But what I discovered was a team and an opportunity that was actually BETTER than advertised.  Examples:

            Preparation: When I walked in the door at 3 CP for my first day, all the basic tools (e-mail, phone, supplies, etc.) for my success were in place with clear instruction on how to access everything and there was an open line for requests if I needed other tools.

            Direction: There were no moments of staring blankly at my desk wondering “OK, now what the hell am I supposed to do” thanks to my manager, Bonnie.  She had a list of readings, online courses and conversations to have with co-workers to fill those dead pockets as I got up to speed.  Increasing my chances for success and keeping me productively moving forward without having to micromanage me.

            Team Support: Nothing worse than walking into a new job, only to discover your co-workers are already locked into a tight-knit clique.  Not the case at Waggener Edstrom.  The people on my team (Windows) clearly get along quite well, but they ALL went out of their way to make introductions, include me in conversations and offer themselves as a resource should I have any questions (and yes I had questions . . . many, MANY questions).

            Expectations:  From the first day, my manager(s) have been crystal clear on their expectations moving forward, providing a clear road map so I can self-monitor my progress.  But, perhaps more important, they’ve constantly reminded me that ramping up at Waggener Edstrom is unlike any other professional environment.  You’re learning your client, the agency and your team.  It’s not easy and it takes time.  Those little reminders that “it’s only Day Eight” go a long way to calming the new guy nerves.

 There are plenty of people and organizations who talk about helping those in the organization succeed in order for the company to succeed . . . . but in practice it doesn’t always work that way.  Clearly, Waggener Edstrom has figured out a successful formula for just that.  And I am THRILLED that I am on board.

The Intersection of Patton Place and Springer Street

Posted on February 8, 2011 by 1 Comment

 Guest post by: Will Springer, Content Editor, Studio D

David Patton never interviewed me for the Content Manager position that I now hold at Studio D. Good thing!

David and I go back a couple of decades. We worked together for about five years at I was one of his editors during part of that span, producing The Wall Street Journal for the web.

On my first day at Waggener Edstrom, Jen Houston jokingly asked me to share some dirt on David. I couldn’t with good conscience do that to anyone – especially to a nice guy like David.

Oh, alright. If you insist.

If anything can be said about him, David is never short of energy. He’s wired – in a good way.

The early years at were like many dot-com start-ups – young, eager, creative individuals working in uncharted waters (and unproven business models) toward a common goal. The established print newsroom was in a different area of the office – grizzled journalists working shoulder to shoulder in an uncharacteristically quiet atmosphere with purpose and poise.

Not so at

We liked to have fun, and nobody captured the personality of our newsroom better than David. One memory of him back then was that he brought into the office a Razor scooter to get around our ever-growing space. It was cool, creative … and energy-efficient. It was David.

We actually first met in the early 1990s in South Brunswick, N.J. He came in for a job interview at Dow Jones News/Retrieval, an information service that was a forerunner to the current method of digital news publishing.

David was seeking a full-time editorial position and I was sitting in on the interview. At the time, his experience was limited to working for a couple of weekly papers in northern New Jersey. We went with someone else for the job.

Who would have foreseen the guy I thought then didn’t have enough experience for a job would end up being my boss 15-plus years later?

He would join Dow Jones a year or so later. We would work together about five years after that. And we’ve kept in touch ever since.

I couldn’t be happier to be here working for David (and Jen and Kiersten Lawson). David’s energy level is still there and, for me, it’s a sure sign that I’m with a hard-working, creative group of people.

Waggener Edstrom at Howard University

Posted on November 3, 2010 by Comments Off

Written by: Nikole Hunt, Talent Acquisition Partner

On October 21, Howard University School of Communications Program hosted their 8th annual Communications Job Fair in partnership with the Council of PR Firms.  I had the pleasure of attending, as well as participating as an exhibitor and in one of the panel discussions.

This fair has students coming from over 20 colleges to meet with companies to learn about their business and career opportunities.  Exhibitors ranged from broadcast to communications agencies to print and online publications.

The panel discussion that I participated in primarily consisted of PR agencies, and the objective was to inform the students of the types of job opportunities we have available, and how they can get noticed and get ahead of the business.  The panelists echoed that having and being able to articulate a point of view, showcase creativity, research the organizations of interest, and build a network of professionals will only help you propel your budding career.

This trip was especially exciting, as we debuted some of our new marketing materials.  We received great feedback from the students and from other exhibitors who ere interested in finding out what WE is all about.

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This is the second time I’ve attended the event, but the fifth time WE has participated.  WE has made a few great hires from participating in this career fair, and we value our partnerships with both the university and the Council. 

The following day, I had the opportunity to work out of the new WE DC office with colleagues from our Public Affairs, Studio D and Microsoft teams. It’s a beautiful space!

It was great chatting with students,  and meeting and reconnecting with colleagues—I mean, who wouldn’t love spending a little time in our nation’s capitol?  I even got to give a shout out to Honest Abe; he says “hello” by the way.

With a Little Help From My Friends

Posted on September 30, 2010 by 7 Comments

Guest post by: Grady Locklear, Studio D

Every few weeks I open this Word doc and try to finish my blog post about joining Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. However, each time I feel like starting over because I have so many new things I want to write about. Now, after four months, it’s time to publish something. I’m going to focus on how I got here.

First, my position: I am the first-ever Editorial Assistant at WE. I help coordinate writing team projects, edit press materials, write the occasional story, conduct some financial analysis and sometimes counsel clients on press coverage strategies.

Getting here required some work, though, and it took help from my friends. When I learned about the position, I set up informational interviews with everyone I knew at WE, and with every PR professional I crossed paths with. I wanted to better understand the company and its place in the PR world. Next, I fine-tuned my resumé with help from a graphic designer friend. As a result, I felt well-prepared and enthusiastic during my series of interviews with the Content team. The light-hearted attention of recruiters Tori, Darcy and Jodi helped make the whole interview process rather fun.

In May, after months of interviews and tests, it all paid off. Here I am, doing work for one of the finest PR agencies in the world. I am part of Studio D, which is helping lead the industry in the way PR agencies interact with clients and the public. It feels really good to be here. When I was handed my diploma from Whitworth University I did not expect to join a global PR agency within two years of graduation.

The best part of work is co-workers. My teammates, especially the ones I interact with on a daily basis — Kiersten, David, Luigi, Mike, Erik and Katia — are exceptionally (often humblingly) smart people. I want to play Scrabble with them mostly because I’m sure they’d beat me. Before the end of my first two weeks I understood why Studio D has been making waves in the PR world: It is propelled by the remarkable minds, insatiable work ethics and down-to-earth attitudes of the people on this team.

If my friends and professional contacts hadn’t taken the time to help me out, though, I’m not sure I’d be here. I am even more enthusiastic about my work than I was on my first day, and I owe a lot of people thanks.

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