Behind the Headlines With Jocelyn Webster
Jocelyn Webster, vice president at WE Communications, says sharing your brand’s story will encourage your audience to engage with you.
In this interview, Jocelyn discusses how to move your audience to action, what she learned from working in a governor’s office and why brands need to always look at the big picture.
What are you most excited about in your new role as vice president at WE Communications?
The work. I am passionate about helping leaders and organizations find and tell their best stories. Whether you are communicating to customers, employees or policymakers, your best advocate and your best defense is your story. People want to interact with and feel a connection to the products they use and the companies for which they work.
You’ve worked for government officials, nonprofits and other brands. What are some of the differences in how you develop a communication strategy for various types of organizations?
Actually, it is more similar than one might think. Whether for governments, nonprofits or large brands, I tell big stories about bold ideas to move people to action.
What those bold ideas are might be different. The action you want to encourage is very different. You may want someone to vote a certain way or you may want to develop a sustained relationship with your product.
Ultimately, the tools in the toolbox are still the same. What moves people is still the same: authenticity, connection, disruption, change, engagement, value. These elements are pretty universal.
What was it like to work in the office of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker? What did you learn from that experience?
Working in Governor Walker’s office was one of the hardest and best things I’ve ever done. The pace in a governor’s office is unrelenting, and for the communicator, it is a life of continual crisis management.
Governor Walker is a skilled strategist and communicator, so you have to stay on your toes to stay ahead of him. Working with him made me sharper, and working in his office made me a better manager.
It was crucial for me to create the space in a fast-paced environment for my team to learn, grow, and succeed collectively and as individuals. A space where we could tune out the noise to focus on the work, have fun with each other and appreciate how special and rare opportunities like that are.
My time in the Governor’s office also highlighted the importance of listening while planning and before acting. People want to be heard and understood. Working together means bringing everyone to the table, listening well and collaborating on a solution with clear and consistent communication throughout that process. Then you take people along for the ride. And it makes the ride so much better.
What has been the proudest moment of your career?
Watching people who are on my teams flourish as strategic communicators and thoughtful individuals. Winning the Governor’s recall election was a pretty good moment, too.
What do you see as the biggest communication challenge facing organizations today? How can they overcome it?
Unnecessary complexity and unforced errors from playing the short game. Our collective attention span is so short. It’s important to remember to take a breath and take a step back to focus on priorities—to make sure you are seeing the whole field.
What role does social media play in your job?
Social media is how people consume news and connect to their family, friends and the world. And a huge part of my job is meeting people where they are. Everything is so fluid now between social media and other communication mediums that it’s not so much what role does it play, but what role doesn’t it play.
What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in communication?
Just start. Communication is a trade. If you’re a good writer and a strategic thinker, you can learn the functional skills of communication. Be willing to grind and be bold. The best communicators are perpetual students by nature, so you have to be willing to do the hard work of continual growth and development.
Rapid Fire Round
1. My daily newspaper of choice is…the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Mail. My daily juxtaposition.
2. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…a stunning view of Puget Sound. My morning commute may be long, but there isn’t a minute of it that isn’t beautiful. Big mountains and big water are buried deep in the soul of this Seattle girl.
3. If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be…President George W. Bush. Working for his administration early in my career, he continually reminded us that to whom much is given, much is required, and he is a powerful example of faith and service. People underestimate his skill as a communicator. President Bush’s principles are deeply held, authentic and clearly articulated, and that still holds true in the advocacy work he continues to do around the globe.
4. My biggest pet peeve is…unkindness.
5. One thing most people don’t know about me is…I’m a classically trained singer. A coloratura to be precise.
6. My dream vacation would be…Israel.
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