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Cohort Model is Weekend Program's Core Strength, Says Wendt

SOC Doug Wendt

W. Douglas Wendt, SOC/MA '08, is the founder and president of Wendt Partners.

W. Douglas Wendt, SOC /MA’08, came into the weekend Public Communication MA program with a resume many would envy.  His successful career already spanned the business, nonprofit and public sectors, and he knew what he wanted out of an MA program.  “First, I wanted to explore certain areas of the industry in greater depth and take the opportunity to examine them from a rigorous academic perspective. Second, I saw the Weekend M.A. program as an opportunity to further develop my leadership skills and expand my horizons as a practitioner. And third, I recognized it as a unique opportunity to meet and work closely with colleagues from a diverse range of backgrounds. The program delivered on all three of these, thanks to a collegial faculty and dynamic, engaged classmates among other factors.”

While enrolled in the MA program at AU, Wendt established his new communications firm, Wendt Partners.  The firm is unique in that it brings together the skills of a management consultancy with the services of a communications agency.  According to Wendt, “This is an essential differentiator because it means that when we complete an engagement, we've helped ensure that our client can fully deliver on the brand promise that we’ve helped them devise.”

He says the decision to found Wendt Partners was based on his own experience. “I consistently observed a growing disconnect between the needs of executive leaders and the actions taken by their organizations to communicate effectively. In essence, many organizations proceed with communication strategies that don't properly capture the voice or vision of their leaders. I founded Wendt Partners to close that gap – to ensure that the strategy that is in the mind of the CEO or Executive Director is fully developed, designed and deployed in the communications that the organization or business delivers to the marketplace.”

He clearly touched a nerve, because Wendt Partners has thrived, continuing to expand even in the recent tough economic climate.  Wendt says that the secret to success has been to be “unabashedly committed to what makes us different, and to aggressively pursue new markets as opportunities dictate. The firm has primary offices in New York and Washington, D.C. as well as a field office in Pennsylvania, and to a large degree we've done this to tailor our services to the markets we serve. This allows us to apply industry expertise logically from one sector to another. “

Wendt singles out the cohort model of the Weekend MA program as one of its core strengths.  “You have the opportunity to develop lasting friendships and deep professional relationships with your colleagues, most of whom are mid-career professionals or senior practitioners themselves. The key to making this work is to commit to growing and supporting those relationships, which is a valuable life lesson: the more you commit to developing others, the more that you will find success in developing your own career path.” 

He has continued to be involved with the School, particularly by sponsoring and judging an award for outstanding student work for the annual SOC Public Communication Awards for the past three years, while also serving in the student-alumni mentoring program, guest speaking at SOC events, and teaching on the adjunct faculty.  He attributes this to a sense of commitment that was reinforced during his time at SOC.  “It is up to us to keep our industry vibrant and valuable to our clients. The best way to do that is to stay closely involved with the institutions that are shaping the future of public communication, and SOC is a global leader in that effort. By actively participating, I know that I am making my contribution to the future of what we do. And what we do drives positive change in the world. “

Advice

On entering SOC’s Weekend MA in Public Communication program

“The weekend program is a dynamic and distinct experience. You'll spend your time with a small cohort of fellow professionals and faculty, examining our profession in-depth. As a result, you'll gain the most out of this experience if you come to the program with a clear sense of your academic and professional objectives, a keen desire to master your understanding of the field, and a willingness to develop new, lasting relationships with fellow professionals. In short, if you're ready to invest your time and energy in the overall experience as well as the academics, you'll benefit immeasurably from the Weekend M.A. program.”

On starting your own firm

“First, develop a broad business background and core knowledge about how organizations work – from funding to operations, and from human resources to communications. If you don't possess an essential understanding of the issues that executives face – whether they be business, nonprofit or government leaders – you can't really solve their problems. Second, practice the art of developing relationships at all times, not just when you need a job. Most people can engage in networking when they really need to, but few can master the art of relationship building as a daily discipline. And third, think of yourself as a consultant from the first day of your career – and practice identifying and solving problems that cross boundaries inside the organizations you work for. Do these three things consistently, and the chance to start your own practice will present itself naturally when the right opportunity arises.