For American University Alumni Board member Amy Weiss, SOC/BA '87, each and every day running Weiss Public Affairs is an exciting and unpredictable challenge. With a focus on crisis, strategic, and litigation communications, as well as issues management, Weiss, who co-founded a predecessor firm in 2006, opened her own D.C.-based firm in 2013 and now handles the strategic, communications, and messaging needs of a wide range of constituents, including Fortune 50 companies, nonprofit organizations, foundations, and individuals.
"Due to the nature of my client base, it is hard to predict what any given day might look like, as news breaks and needs to be responded to quickly," says Weiss. She meets regularly in person with D.C.-area clients, and hosts conference calls with those not in the area to ensure that she is on top of what is - or might soon be - going on. She even sometimes attends clients' staff meetings. "Keeping lines of communication open with clients is critical so that I can hear what they are working on and what might be a potential opportunity or situation that needs handling before it hits the press."
Keeping on top of things is nothing new for Weiss, who served as White House deputy press secretary for President Clinton. While a senior at AU, she interned at the Democratic National Committee and was soon after hired as the receptionist. Maximizing the opportunity to learn, Weiss asked around the different divisions, offering to help when she had downtime, and found she enjoyed working in the press office, handling calls for then-DNC Press Secretary Mike McCurry. Ten years later, McCurry, then White House press secretary, hired Weiss as deputy assistant to the President/deputy press secretary. "Just goes to show you the power of an internship!" Weiss exclaims.
Although she began her time at AU as a print journalism major with hopes of becoming a reporter, just one class, "PR in American Politics," sparked an interest in her current career field. "While I enjoyed journalism, I realized quickly that I was too judgemental to be effective as a neutral reporter," recalls Weiss. "I knew I wanted to work in communications - in politics or government - the moment I saw the syllabus. I have never regretted the decision - quite the opposite. I recently emailed the professor, Vic Kamber, and thanked him for being such an inspiring teacher."
Indeed, Weiss has had little to regret in a career she describes as a "ringside seat to history." She has handled the press for some pretty impressive names: President Bill Clinton, Secretary Madeleine K. Albright, Ted Turner, and T. Boone Pickens, just to name a few. And she has no intentions of quitting any time soon. Weiss plans to continue running her firm and working directly with clients for the foreseeable future. "I enjoy the hunt of finding and landing new business, and I also love spending time with and working directly with my clients," notes Weiss. "My motto is, when you hire me, you get me. And I love that."
While her business is more than a full time job, Weiss, who is married, has a teenage son, four stepchildren, and a grandson, spends a great deal of time volunteering as well. In addition to her service on the AU Alumni Board, she sits on the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and on the advisory board of Project Avary, a nonprofit which helps kids whose parents are incarcerated. Weiss notes that it was, in fact, her experience at AU, which taught her the importance of giving back to the community, that has motivated her volunteerism. In particular, she applied for the AU Alumni Board to "give back to an institution that gave me so much as a student."
Whether it's professional or personal, Weiss is deliberate and careful about where she chooses to dedicate her time. "I only take on a handful of clients and only take on business I want to do, which is a great luxury and one I wouldn't trade for anything," she says. "What's the use of building a business and choosing clients if you aren't completely passionate about what you do? I wake up every day very excited for what challenges lie ahead."