In this month’s Insider Interview, we speak with Jennifer Wayman, president and CEO of Hager Sharp. Jennifer has been working in public relations, social marketing and behavior change communications for many years. She is an agency veteran, having spent 24 years at Ogilvy before joining Hager Sharp in 2015 as president and CEO.
PRSA-NCC: Jennifer, thank you for taking the time to join us today. We understand that there are many facets to your role at Hager Sharp. Please describe a typical workday.
JW: No two days are ever identical. Most of my time is focused on supporting client teams with strategic planning, training staff in various aspects of our business, bringing in new businesses, and celebrating our agency’s culture of volunteerism and giving back to the community.
PRSA-NCC: What are the best features of your position as president and CEO?
JW: Three things come to mind. First, I am driven each day by our mission to support clients who are seeking to make a positive difference in people’s lives. On a daily basis, we strive to create and bring to life “ideas that make a difference” by fighting for equity in education and improving public health. It’s extremely rewarding work. Second, I’m fortunate to be working with extremely talented, driven, and genuinely nice colleagues who provide our clients with top-notch support. Third, the Hager Sharp culture is special. We make it a priority to honor birthdays, work anniversaries, and other personal milestones, to volunteer together, and to celebrate our company’s history and success with our annual Hager Sharp Day of fun, holiday celebrations, potlucks, and happy hours.
PRSA-NCC: How has your past experience at PR agencies such as Ogilvy impacted your leadership today?
JW: This experience has provided me with a solid foundation of understanding how agencies work. More importantly, however, it ignited my passion for marketing social causes and social change, and hooked me on the benefits of working in an agency setting. Agencies offer tremendous opportunities to learn about different topics, audiences, and the various aspects of the communications and marketing business. It’s hard to get such varied experiences in other work environments.
PRSA-NCC: What types of campaigns does Hager Sharp work on mostly? Which campaigns excite you and your team the most?
JW: Primarily, we work with non-profits, foundations, associations and government clients in the health and education sectors. We have worked on many campaigns and initiatives with the Department of Education, Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CDC Foundation, Lumina Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration. Opportunities to provide comprehensive and integrated communications and marketing campaigns excite us the most—those where we are engaged at the early stages for research and strategic planning all the way through implementation and evaluation.
PRSA-NCC: Speaking of campaigns, your team recently won “Best of Show” at the 49th Annual Thoth Awards. Can you tell us more about this experience working with the CDC? What are the key areas you believe led to the campaign’s success?
JW: It’s great to be recognized by PRSA. We are very proud of this accomplishment and our work with CDC to improve HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccination. It’s a great example of what can be accomplished when an agency and client work together as one team. We collaborated and pushed each other with a lot of “what if we…” questions that drove creativity and innovation in our work. The team was passionate about the topic and dug deep to understand all we could about the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of health care providers and parents regarding the HPV vaccine. This research uncovered important insights that informed our strategic decisions—like targeting providers first, before parents, and shifting the message to focus on the benefit of the vaccine: cancer prevention. CDC recently reported that HPV vaccination rates have increased, and we are thrilled to have contributed to achieving that goal.
PRSA-NCC: What would you say to new professionals who are considering entering into Health PR and communications with no prior health experience?
JW: This is an extremely rewarding sector with many opportunities. While some prior health communications experience is helpful, professionals with strong general communications skills and experience, such as through internships, make strong candidates. Making the case for how your personal experience can translate to health communications is key.
PRSA-NCC: With a busy schedule such as yours, what are some of the things you enjoy doing the most?
JW: I enjoy cheering on my four kids at their activities—theater, baseball, soccer, cross country, basketball games—and we’re all HUGE fans of the Washington Nationals. I also love to read and watch great TV shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones to escape from reality for a short time.