In 2018, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, Inc. (WE Communications) established a new academic award to honor one of its founders, Pam Edstrom. A public relations industry pioneer, “Pam was passionate in everything she did,” explains Dawn Beauparlant, WE Communications’ Chief Client Officer and a contemporary of Edstrom’s. “She had this amazing energy. When faced with a challenge or opportunity, she would bring all of herself into it.”
The Pam Edstrom, WE Communications Student Support Fund celebrates Edstrom’s legacy in our community and aids those with the passion to grow, learn, and find their own place in the industry. “Pam thought of communications as a way to translate often complex ideas, innovations, and inventions in a way that ultimately solved business challenges,” says Beauparlant.
WE Communications proudly displays Edstrom’s personal mantras for success on its office walls. Fondly known as “Pam-isms,” these encourage employees to “always ask: what is the business problem we are trying to solve” or to “listen deeply” to the customer and immerse themselves in their experiences. “Pam liked getting inside the minds of her clients and their customers in order to find ideas that were fresh and new,” recalls Beauparlant. “Storytelling is at the heart of everything, and public relations is about digging to find something unique that will spark that really personal investment in an organization.”
Awarded for the first time last spring, this public relations scholarship supports undergraduate Communication majors. The inaugural recipients of the award, Hannah Gavin and Marleny Monterrozo, both expressed their delight and gratitude during a recent visit to WE Communications’ Seattle offices. “Through visiting WE, I got to experience the genuine passion and drive that lives within all of their employees, which is absolutely contagious,” Gavin enthuses. “The most exciting part was having lunch with CEO Melissa Waggener; her knowledge transcends all industries and professions.” Gavin says that this scholastic opportunity particularly resonated with her due to the “unconventional pairing of degrees” she has decided to pursue as an undergraduate. “My double degree in informatics and communications explores the importance of the relationship between society and technology from a variety of angles,” Gavin explains. “I believe this relationship cannot be underestimated in a society that is proliferated with technology and data.”
Gavin’s co-awardee, Marleny Monterrozo, also praised WE Communications’ willingness to mentor and support students as they navigate their early careers. “One of the most exciting parts was going around and meeting everyone, and learning about each of their projects and partners including Microsoft, McDonald’s, etc. This was an amazing experience! It motivated me to follow my dreams, and believe I can one day work for an organization like WE Communications.” Monterrozo says that being able to create meaningful and ethical relationships is the key to successful public relations, and that “cultural competency is not the end, but rather the beginning of being more inclusive in all our approaches.” This personal philosophy, she says, is what has guided her academic journey, and is something she feels echoes Edstrom’s vision and legacy. Moreover, Monterrozo advises her peers to seek out opportunities like the WE Communications scholarship in order to connect with professionals working the field. “It will certainly raise your confidence,” she notes.
Beauparlant agrees that connecting with others in the industry is one of the most important steps one can take when embarking upon a public relations or communications career. “You have to know and embrace who you are and your individual strengths,” she muses. She credits Pam Edstrom’s thoughtful nature and interest in her colleagues’ “passion points” for creating a culture at WE Communications where employees engage with “all of who you are” and never lose sight of the people at the heart of their business relationships.
“Everyone at WE is very accessible, and they all seem to share the same sense of curiosity about the world,” Beauparlant says. “We hope that this scholarship will provide the means to foster even more curiosity within its recipients. Curiosity is what propels you forward as a communicator. It’s what drives you to seek out more knowledge, uncover the insights, and learn what’s behind the story.”
Beauparlant reveals that the student applicants impressed WE’s leadership through their broad thinking about communications and how it intersects with other areas, including public policy, technology, and community engagement. “WE encourages students to not limit themselves. This industry is the biggest, broadest playground to explore, so storytellers need to be big, broad, and bold in everything they do.” She also hopes that the students’ direct experiences with WE provide them with that sense of “communications invincibility,” whether it’s through mentorships, asking questions of WE’s experienced professionals, or by drawing inspiration from Pam’s story. “The world needs communicators and storytellers more than ever,” insists Beauparlant. “So please, go out and do your thing.”
Interested in learning more? Watch below for a WE Communications – produced video featuring Pam Edstrom, Dawn Beauparlant, Hannah Gavin, and Marleny Monterrozo: