February 19, 2014By Michael Incavo, public relations student
The career Baylor Public Relations students spend four years preparing for may turn out to be completely different than what they expected in college. Baylor alumni now at work in real world PR jobs have a distinct perspective, and they're sharing their experience with current students. J.D. Whittenburg is working at Ketchum in Dallas, and Kate Williams is working at Lingraphica in New Jersey.
Whittenburg graduated from Baylor in 1998 with a bachelor's and a master's degree in communications. He began his career at a regional utility corporation, and eventually accrued 14 years of corporate communications experience with energy and utility companies.
Whittenburg's extensive energy background made him a prime candidate for his current V.P. position at Ketchum Inc., one of the largest PR firms in the world. Ketchum is one of many firms owned by conglomerate Omnicom Media Group.
"PR doesn't really do Ketchum justice," he adds. Whittenburg sees the firm instead as a one-stop shop, offering services from research and creative to public affairs and change management.
Companies often use Ketchum to get the best of internal and agency PR. They keep their own communications departments lean and close-to-home, and for peak periods, they utilize Ketchum's "deep bench."
"There's never a dull moment," Whittenburg says as he signs a contract that just arrived from New York. Whittenburg loves agency work at Ketchum and recommends Baylor students apply for internships in February.
Williams took the opposite approach to Whittenburg's corporate ladder climb. When she graduated Baylor with a double major in political science and public relations,
Google spotted her distinctive talents. Though she ended up at a PR firm in Dallas, Williams learned how to interview from her experience with Google.
"An agency is the best place to start... Every day at the job I do now, I reference something I did at the agency," says Williams.
Agency days are longer, but Williams said she feels working with so many clients is invaluable experience.
Williams now has found herself at work in New Jersey with a company called Lingraphica. She uses her skills to do daily what many private sector communicators will never get to do at work: help people.
Lingraphica assists sufferers of aphasia, a disease hindering speech, reading and/or writing skills of one in four stroke victims.
"I wanted to go to work for a company that had a mission and a heart," Williams said. Now, she uses her own communication skills to help people who have lost theirs. And that's something you can't put a price on.