Pam Wickham : PRWeek Hall of Femme 2017

Pam Wickham VP of corporate affairs and communications and CCO, Raytheon

What would you do if you were not in PR?
It’s a three-way tie. I started my career as a teacher, but a PR job in Manhattan lured me away, so teaching is definitely one option. However, my family thinks I missed my calling as an interior decorator, because I’ve helped redecorate and remodel all of their homes. However, my passion is politics. I would love to get into politics. Not to run for office, but to serve the communications needs of those in office.

Talk about the last time you experienced a fist-pumping victory moment?
At this point in my career, all of my true fist-pumping moments come when someone on my team knocks it out of the park. I recently held my global communications forum, where we have an awards night to recognize the best work of the year. The biggest award of the evening is our leadership award, and when I announced the name, the recipient joined me on stage to a standing ovation. That was truly a fist-pumping moment because I was able to recognize and celebrate the team’s success.

What I care about most now is not "winning" any program or particular event. It’s all about my team and recognizing the amazing work they are doing.  

When was the last time you endured a real "agony of defeat" moment, a total wipe out? What did you learn from that moment?
I don’t take any professional setbacks as defeats anymore. Earlier in my career, I couldn’t say that. If I had been told no on something, I definitely would have considered it a defeat.

But with experience comes a sense of pragmatism. The concept of a professional defeat sounds too personal to me. Work is not personal: it’s business. So, if I have a great idea that’s not resonating with leadership, that’s not a defeat, it just means I didn’t quite get it right. Those setbacks are just yield signs on the strategic highway. If you believe in your idea or program, go back and figure out what’s missing. Tweak the approach, but don’t give up.  Sometimes no is the best answer to get you to refine and improve a strategy. 

How long ago was the last time you truly took the time to recharge your batteries? What did you do?
Last weekend. I’m a firm believer in recharging your batteries each and every chance you get. Communications is 24/7/365. So, if you don’t know how to compartmentalize and decompress, you won’t survive.

Whenever work is not consuming me, I’m focused on spending time with family and friends. I hold frequent wine tastings at my house, go out to lunch with girlfriends, go to art museums, see a play, travel, and read. I use every day of my vacation time and try to put as much time and energy into my personal life as I do my professional life. It rarely works out equal, but it’s nice to try.

What is it about this industry that frustrates the hell out of you sometimes?
The one sure way to get my blood pressure up is to listen to someone who doesn’t know communications try and tell us how to do our jobs. It’s been a personal frustration for more than 30 years. I never would walk up to an engineer at a CAD machine and ask them to step aside so I could show them how it’s done. Yet there seems to be no end to the list of executives who like to say, "go do," instead of, "what do you think." The strongest value of any communications organization is their ability to consult and strategize, not just do.

I’m also personally frustrated with the lack of diversity in the leadership ranks of our profession. The industry writ large is heavily skewed toward women, yet an inordinate number of leadership roles are held by men. I’d like to see a better representation of women at the top, and that includes both CEO-level roles and board roles.

When have you really seen this industry or your organization really shine?
I talk to my team and tell them they are communications professionals first and Raytheon communicators second. In order to be an effective, successful communications professional, you must first embrace and embody the ethics of the profession. You have to be honest, forthright, and committed, and you must stay out of the spin zone.

There are thousands of examples of communicators owning their chairs every day, doing good work behind the scenes – not just for their companies or their clients, but also for their profession and their own personal integrity. When I see examples of that kind of work, it always stands out to me.

Words to live by?
Do what you love and love what you do. This is not a dress rehearsal.

Favorite drink?
Chilled Cakebread Chardonnay on a hot summer day or Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon on a cold winter’s night.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
You are going to achieve every dream you ever dreamed – so dream bigger!

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say to you as you enter?
Oh, thank goodness you’re here. We could really use your help.

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