Chronicling the highs, lows, quips, quotes, comings and goings of Washington, D.C. spokesguys and spokesgals

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Flack Profile: Nu Wexler, Wal-Mart Watch

Our profile series continues with Wal-Mart Watch Communications Director Nu Wexler. Wal-Mart Watch is a non-profit that’s pressing the company to make changes to its business practices.

Hometown: Highlands, N.C., pop. 909

How long have you been in your current position? Almost a year and a half.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grow up? Either center fielder for the Atlanta Braves or quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. I thought Dale Murphy and Dan Marino walked on water.

Where did you fall in your family’s birth order (i.e., eldest child, middle child)? I’m the oldest of three kids. My brother Seth is one year younger and my sister Elizabeth is five years younger.

What college did you go to and what was your major? I majored in Government at the University of South Carolina. Go Gamecocks!

Did you ever work on the Hill? If so, for whom? I was Sen. Landrieu’s scheduler (1999-2000) and Sen. Hollings’ press secretary (2001-2003).

The nerdiest thing you ever did as a kid was… Stayed up way past my bedtime to watch the 1980 election results. My mom cried when Carter lost.

What was your very first job? Grocery bagger at Mountain Fresh Fine Foods. We had wiffle ball tournaments in the parking lot every night after work.

Biggest vice (PG-rated): The Apple Store

When did you first think you might want to get into PR? My college advisor, former DNC Chair Don Fowler, thought communications work would be a good fit for my interests and abilities. Best advice I ever received from a professor.

Which print publications do you subscribe to at home? Probably too many: Wash Post, Sports Illustrated, The New Republic, Esquire and The Oxford American, among others.

Who taught you what you know about doing PR? I’ve learned a lot about PR and political communications from a number of folks I’ve worked with over the years. Among them: former Hollings colleagues Andy Davis and Robert Gibbs, Rich Masters at Qorvis, fellow South Carolinian Bill Carrick, Geoff Garin, Fred Yang, Jason Linde at Ogilvy, the inestimable Jen Palmieri, Andy Grossman, Jim Jordan, Terry Holt, Kara Delahunt, Tracy Sefl at Glover Park, Anne Dickerson and (of course) Adam Kovacevich at Dittus. [Ed. - I was not compliment-fishing here, I swear.]

Who is the wittiest reporter you know? Lauren Markoe, who covered the South Carolina congressional delegation for Knight Ridder and The State, understands the funny peculiarities of southern politics as well as any non-native I’ve known. And Dana Milbank and Mark Leibovich are laugh-out-loud funny.

What’s the best attention-getting gimmick you’ve ever pulled off? It’s not really a gimmick, but we held the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary in February 2004, when a lot of reporters (and even some candidates) said it wasn’t going to happen.

Over your career, what are the most obscure policy issues that you’ve had to beef up on in order to field media inquiries? My first day in Sen. Hollings’ press office was 9/11/01. Hollings chaired the Senate Commerce Committee at the time, and our staff learned more about transportation security than we ever imagined. My current position has been a crash course in health care policy and wage violations.

What’s the biggest on-the-job screwup you’ve had that you can laugh about now? Accidentally sending a client’s poll results to The Hotline, before they were public. Six years later, I’m barely able to laugh about it.

What advice would you give to people wanting to advance in PR? Practice humility. Don’t upstage your boss. Never lie to a reporter. Stop talking after you’ve answered a question. Nothing is truly off the record. Always return phone calls, especially press calls. Any good communications strategy is grounded in solid research. Stay on message, but not to the point of absurdity. And don’t be afraid to show a personal, human side of yourself.

On the weekends you can be found… Either biking in Rock Creek Park or watching football, depending on my level of motivation.

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere in Vietnam.

If you weren’t in PR, you’d probably be… Working in another capacity for immigrant and refugee rights.


Anonymous Zeke Stokes said...

This is a great interview, and I learned from things I didn't know about my friend, Nu Wexler. You both keep rocking DC.

9/29/2006 05:46:00 PM


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