Public Relations Tactics

Meeting Warren Buffett: One PR student’s story

November 1, 2011

Business Wire recently named 21-year-old Jenna Marie James — a senior studying telecommunications at Muncie, Ind.’s Ball State University — as the winner of its 50th Anniversary student video contest.

Her video used stop-motion animation techniques to answer the question: “What is the future of public relations and communications?”

James’ thoughtful and carefully executed project describes what she thinks professionals will encounter on the road ahead — from smaller PDAs with more phone applications to augmented reality and 3-D holographic images — which she brings to life with hand-drawn images and a voiceover.

“By giving users more control, the future will be a collaborative effort to build something,” she says in her video. “The possibilities are endless as long as we continue to go beyond the obvious and use our imaginations. Digital innovations are making the gap between each of us smaller and smaller.  These new ways of communicating and relating to the world around us prove that it truly is a small world after all.”

As a reward for her hard work and creativity, James won a trip to New York City to meet Cathy Baron Tamraz, Business Wire CEO and chairman, and Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Business Wire’s parent company, Berkshire Hathaway.

James watched Tamraz and Buffett ring the New York Stock Exchange opening bell from the trading floor on Sept. 30 and dined with them afterward at a luncheon in celebration of Business Wire’s 50th anniversary. Tactics caught up with James to talk about the video contest, her plans for the future and what it was like to meet Buffett.

Talk about the concept of the video that you created for the Business Wire contest.

From the beginning, I knew I wanted the video to be visually appealing. I decided to use sped-up illustrations to help explain my vision on the future of communication. I pulled ideas from classes I’ve taken at Ball State, outside speakers and various research to tie together the narrative of the piece.  The most difficult part of the process was figuring out what I wanted to draw. Most of it was made up off-the-cuff, and the entire project took about two days to complete.

What device or social media platform do you think will be most important for your generation as you begin your careers?

It’s important for our generation to utilize Facebook,  Twitter and LinkedIn to help jump-start our professional endeavors.  Another key platform is a personal website. By creating a personal site with your own domain name, you’re giving yourself an extra leg up on the competition. Employers will look at your website and get a good sense of your personality and professionalism.

After you graduate in May, what do you plan to do?

I’m going to apply for a spring media internship with the U.S. Olympic Committee and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” My dream is to get over to London for the summer Olympics and hopefully live there some day.  Wherever I end up, I want to work in an environment where I’m able to fully use my creativity.

How do you and your classmates feel about the current state of the job search? Are you optimistic?
At this point, I feel like we’re all still pretty optimistic.  We’re finishing up our senior year and feel like we can take on the world, but we might be thinking differently next year at this time. I believe that we just have to be persistent.  We’re going to get knocked down, but the real test is if we get back up and try again.

What was the most memorable part of your meeting with Warren Buffett? Were you able to play the ukulele together? What did you learn from him?

Unfortunately, we did not get the chance to play the ukulele together. [Buffett is a ukulele aficionado.] The day was a whirlwind and we were never [in a] place where it was quiet enough.  At one point, he started strumming the ukulele on the stock market floor, but then said it was too loud. I did have my ukulele signed by him though. It reads:  “To Jenna:  Who is terrific on YouTube and even better in person — Warren E. Buffett.”
My time with Mr. Buffett was short, but I was most impressed by his composure in the midst of chaos.  The entire day, he had people and the press asking questions, taking pictures and ushering him from one place to the next, yet he kept such a positive attitude.

He was extremely easy to talk to and kept the conversation light and humorous. He told me that I was in a great major and that my video about the future of communication was terrific. I learned that his favorite Dairy Queen Blizzard is Oreo, he attributes some of his youthfulness to Cherry Coke and eating what he likes, and he said that he’s never felt better and that this is the best year of his life.

He was very sweet and full of  life. When I met him for the first time on the stock market floor, he got down on one knee and took my hand for a picture.

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.


Edward M. Bury, APR says:

Hello: This is a tremendous piece of work. Creative. Informative. Provocative. One underlying take away for me: As human beings we have to communicate. Technology gives us more options.

Nov. 2, 2011

Post a Comment

Editor’s Note: Please limit your comments to the specific post. We reserve the right to omit any response that is not related to the article or that may be considered objectionable.


To help us ensure that you are a real human, please type the total number of circles that appear in the following images in the box below.

(image of seven circles) + (image of three circles) =