On Communications and Strategy
U of M alumna Pam Edstrom recently returned to campus to deliver a talk on the importance of communications in business—part of the Carlson School of Management’s 1st Tuesday Speaker Series. Edstrom is partner and cofounder of WE Communications, one of the largest independent strategic communications agencies in the world.
On the heels of her talk, Edstrom shared her thoughts on her time at the U, her path toward a communications career, and the incredible value of internships.
What are your lasting memories of your time at the University of Minnesota?
Anything that you were interested in, you could find others that had that same interest. I would just say the diversity of experience, and the professors were really quite excellent.”
At what point did you sense a calling for your particular career choice?
I would certainly say that my major (sociology) and minor (theater) reflected my deep passion and interest; [at that point] it really wasn’t directed toward communications. That happened when I attended graduate school.”
The theater minor gave me the ability to present. Any presentation is 50 percent content and 50 percent theater. It’s all about telling the story and bringing people in and getting them to follow you. That was exceedingly helpful.
Did you have any notable internships or experiential learning opportunities as an undergrad?
No, and I don’t think internships were as necessary as they are today. We, at WE, have a very aggressive internship program. I love it because you have a steady stream of people who have incredible energy, incredible ideas.
I met with some students yesterday, and all of them talked about their internships. The thing that so impressed me was that all of them articulated, in different words, that [their internship] was like being dropped in the end of the pool and they had to figure out how to dog paddle out. It required persistence and hard work and asking lots of questions, but they all were successful in completing the internship and walking away with greater self-confidence, a lot of experience in the real world, and a much richer view of that world and where they wanted to go in it.
What advice would you have for current or prospective students in trying to figure out their own collegiate path?
I would advise in the first year to try a bunch of things and figure out what you’re really passionate about. Work is work. But if you’re excited when you get up in the morning to go do whatever you’re doing —well, you won’t get excited five days a week (she laughs), but let’s say three out of five—you will be successful.
We spend so much time working that it should bring you energy and satisfaction, maybe even joy, and that all has to do with believing in what you’re doing and that you can make a difference in your chosen field.