Edelman partners with Harvard behavioral science researchers

Harvard Business School's Ashley Whillans and Walmart alum Jason Hreha will serve as part-time senior advisers to the agency.

Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

CAMBRIDGE, MA: Edelman is partnering with behavioral science researchers from Harvard Business School and Walmart’s former head of behavioral science, the firm said on Monday morning. 

Harvard Business School’s Ashley Whillans and Walmart alum Jason Hreha, now the CEO of Psychometric, will serve as part-time advisers to Edelman. They will draw on their own experience to develop client programs and analyze findings, according to a statement. 

SVP Felicia Joy, who leads Edelman’s behavioral science offering, said the partnership will help the agency and clients unlock the field’s untapped potential in the private sector as an applied science. 

Bringing on Whillans and Hreha will also allow Edelman’s work to be peer reviewed, Joy added.

Jim O’Leary, corporate affairs and advisory services practice chair at Edelman, said research has shown that about 90% of corporations are going through some kind of transformation, and of these, 75% fail.

"We believe with this capability and our broader business transformation offering, we can help companies focus on the human factor and that will help the people [through whom] we’re trying to drive change," O’Leary said.

Leveraging behavioral science will also help Edelman redesign PR programs and products for a "better human experience," he added.

While behavioral science is increasingly recognized in policymaking as a way to help people live "happier and healthier lives," its adoption in the private sector has been slower, but it is picking up, Whillans said. 

"I’m excited to be on the forefront of an important and emerging trend," she added.

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