Jim Weiss, CEO of W2O Group, $62 million firm in healthcare, tech and consumer, told 200 students at San Jose State University Nov. 5 that his firm is looking for grads that have passion, computer and social skills and who “play to win vs. playing not to lose.”

He wants recruits “who are ready to step on some toes, tick some people off.”

Jim Weiss
Weiss at San Jose State
Ability to work fast is a requisite at his firm.

Successful applicants will have developed a “positive personal brand.” A “service-oriented” personality is much desired, he said.

“Real world experience” is preferred and especially experience as an entrepreneur.

Traditional skills such as writing ability are still at the top of the list of desired qualities, he said.

Weiss, who gave the keynote address that was followed by a panel discussion conducted by four counselor executives, said rapidly developing new ways of getting and transferring information are stealing the thunder of traditional media.

Most of what we now learn comes through friends and our own expanding networks rather than mainstream media, he said.

This includes blogs, Twitter, Facebook and video.

Survey show that 65% of people say they are visual learners, he said. “Visual trumps copy” was one of the lines in a slide show that Weiss presented.

The audience was about 75% female.

CPRF Seeks Top Students

Kathy Cripps, president of the Council of PR Firms, which is staging a series of career forums at colleges, said the purpose of the series is to encourage talented students to enter the PR counseling industry.

L-R: Christine Disalvo, lecturer in PR at San Jose State; Lou Hoffman, CEO, The Hoffman Agency; Tracey Parry, senior VP and partner, Airfoil Group, and Jason Mandell, co-founder and partner, LaunchSquad.
“I’ve enjoyed my career in PR and I want to share that enthusiasm with students,” she said.

She conceded that snaring a job right out of college can be tough but said those who are good writers and understand how to help clients solve problems will have the best chances.

Serving in internships is “incredibly important” as well as “making as many connections as you can,” she said. “Keep in touch with people. This is a shortfall of many students. They’ll meet someone but they won’t keep in touch with them.”

The career series got its start when a CPRF survey found that “young people really don’t know what PR was or what it was like to work at a PR firm.”

Next step was setting up career forums at colleges that have strong PR programs.

There are PR opportunities in big cities but students should not neglect the smaller markets where breaking in might be easier, Cripps advised.

“You have to be clever and have an entrepreneurial spirit and take control of your career. Talk to a lot of people. Each agency has a different culture and speakers love to talk about their agencies.”

Rucker Introduced Cripps

Bob Rucker, director, School of Journalism & Mass Communications, introduced Cripps. A presentation was made by Michael Brito, group director of WCG which is part of W2O Group.

san jose state event

Student speaks at the event.

Brito said he spends a lot of time with students at UC Berkeley and Santa Clara University as well as those at San Jose and is eager to answer their questions. Students need a “mentor” to guide them, Brito noting that he still has one.

One reason for the preponderance of women in PR currently is that they tend to have “more empathy and you need empathy in this business,” he said. Being able to empathize with your customers is crucial, he added.

michael brito
Brito talks with students.
Christine Disalvo, lecturer in PR at SJSU, moderated a panel whose members were Lou Hoffman, CEO, The Hoffman Agency; Jason Mandell, co-founder and partner, LaunchSquad; Bill Orr, executive VP, Burson-Marsteller, and Tracey Parry, senior VP and partner, Airfoil Group.

Students said they wished there had been more time for questions and answers at the end of the formal program.
Cripps, asked whether the Council should change its name after 15 years to reflect the expanded duties of “PR” firms, said she would not take up that topic since it was not of concern to the attendees.

A buffet offering roast beef, ham, turkey and vegetarian sliders was made available by Spartan Catering at the end of the program. Iced tea, water, chips and dip were included.

Seven copies of O'Dwyer's Directory of PR Firms were raffled off at the close of the event.