Meet Newhouse Alumnus, Jim Weiss
Jim Weiss ’87 is helping create “the future of communications with the leaders of tomorrow” with the W2O Group – Newhouse Center for Social Commerce. Weiss went from studying at Newhouse to becoming chairman, CEO and founder of W2O Group, parent company for WCG, Twist Marketing, Brewlife and W2O Ventures. Weiss has roughly 25 years of experience in strategic media, investor relations and marketing communications focused in the healthcare, medical device, biotechnology, pharmaceutical and life sciences industries, and was named to PRWeek’s Power List for 2010.
Q: Why did you choose Newhouse?
A: When I graduated high school in ’83, Newhouse was considered the Harvard of communications schools. It attracted me because of a combination of the alumni I was aware of that did well and the variety of potential communications careers you could train for. From news to magazine to broadcast journalism, it was a big opportunity with a lot of different options. Newhouse also enabled you to explore other parts of the school, and it still does. Syracuse, in addition to Newhouse, offered a diverse student experience with sports, Greek life, and a pretty robust campus of a good size. I also liked that the classes were small and concentrated.
A: I wasn’t 100% sure public relations, as an industry, was for me. I was really interested in writing and communications but did not really know how I was going to do that. I was very active in my high school as president of student council, and I was good with promoting things we did in the school. I was already naturally living the PR life. My personality matched the profession, and it didn’t take long once I was in Newhouse to concentrate in public relations.
Q: How did Newhouse help to get you where you are now?
A: I think of Newhouse as a true professional school. It is a combination of theory and practice. There is an emphasis on practical. Students are encouraged to get an internship every summer. Newhouse fully prepares you to go out and get a job in the real world. The things Newhouse teaches and the guest speakers they bring in make what students learn highly relevant to going out and getting a job. I was very prepared when I graduated.
Q: What is your favorite part about working at W2O Group?
A: Getting to interact with all the people. I’ve always enjoyed that the most. Every day is a learning experience. I love doing so many different types of things for clients as we expand and grow every day. The most interesting part of the job is interacting with people internally, as well as on the client side.
Q: In your own words, what is social commerce?
A: Since everything pretty much happens online or via telephone today, businesses that have not already adapted, need to adapt, and businesses that have, need to re-adapt and stay current with how their customers are accessing information about their products, brands and so on. The bottom line is that we have to know where media is going, and it is hard to argue it isn’t going in the social direction. We know traditional media outlets have given way to a completely different set of media where people are getting their information. It’s really important we understand specifically how to reach customers online. Social commerce becomes how you drive future commerce through the online channel on a global scale.
Q: What is your favorite Newhouse memory?
A: My internship at the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce. It helped me see how a community and university work together in a way that is probably unique to college towns. It was great to see how they can help one another be successful. I think Syracuse is one of those examples. Working there got me exposed to the business world in a way I had not been exposed to before.
Q: Do you have any advice for Newhouse students?
A: You are only as good as the internships you’ve done. Also, start educating yourself about the new and modern approach to communications as soon as possible. Challenge the professors and the people coming in to talk about what and where things are really going so you are ready for the modern world and come out innovating.