Joel Weyrauch has a passion for change in the city he loves. Whether that’s getting in the weeds to talk about better transit options or knocking on doors in support of social causes, he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. His diverse set of skills and interests (film, politics, and biking to name a few), along with his penchant for growing teams and expanding conversations make him a great new addition to the Well Done team.
We sat down with Joel to learn about the path that took him from the east side to our humble Fountain Square locale.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Joel.
I have lived in Indianapolis the vast majority of my life. I grew up on the far east side. I went to Warren Central High School and I stayed in town to go to Butler University, where I studied political science and international relations. I never expected to find myself in communications or in PR at all, but it was kind of a backwards fall from the policy world.
Q: Ok, tell us a little more about your path here, then.
I graduated from college at 20 and didn’t know what I wanted to do. So, I took two years after college to work for Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity as a consultant. Once I returned to Indy, I found an entry-level job at a small public affairs agency called BAR Communications. After a few years, the owner of the agency sold his interest in the firm and I moved our entire book of business under a new banner. This included PR contracts with Walmart, WGU Indiana, and Caregiver Homes of Indiana, among others. With a promotion to director of content development, I got to focus more intently on developing brand voice and seeking new opportunities for clients to exhibit thought leadership. Most recently, I’ve served as a senior PR manager at BLASTmedia, where I worked with national B2B software clients. BLAST provided me with a lot of new opportunities—the broad national focus had me working closely with top-tier editors at TechCrunch, Fortune and Fast Company.
But the things I’ve always been excited to work on have really remained the same throughout my career. If not government, then government-adjacent. I love helping nonprofits and mission-driven companies with public affairs, and I prefer being close to things in the Central Indiana community. I love Indy. I’ve spent pretty much my whole life here. I find it more rewarding when I can point to that story or that event around the community that I’m actively involved with making better.
Q: You like working on things that affect the lives of people in your community, things they relate to.
Yeah, I love being able to connect people to the stories in and around Indy. And, you know, I like seeing clients in person, I like getting my hands dirty. Two of the campaigns I’ve been most proud to work on were focused on making Indiana better. The first was representing AARP Indiana on the Transit Drives Indy campaign, trying to work directly with 50+ voters to recognize that expanded transit capabilities helps a lot of people. The other one is the Indiana Competes initiative organized under the Indy Chamber. Salesforce, Lilly, and Cummins funded our advocacy for affirmative LGBTQ rights in the wake of RFRA. We worked to try to enumerate civil rights in a conservative state in a way that hasn’t been done before. We did not succeed, but it was a noble failure.
Q: So in addition to your passion for Indiana, we hear you bring a second set of skills outside your PR experience to the WDM team: You’ve got experience in setting up a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee.
Yes, I was the chair of DEI Committee at BLASTmedia. There are many different aspects of diversity and inclusion that you have to tackle. PR, for example, is typically a young, white, and female, industry. To combat that, you have to start with recruitment. Recognize that candidates don’t have to have a strategic communications degree from a PR program to be successful in PR. They need to be capable of understanding a little about everything. They need to be intellectually curious. They need to be empathetic. Pulling people from different career trajectories into the agency is a good way to start. It expands the idea of what works for these roles. If you limit yourself to one career course, it’s so easy to keep coming to the same conclusion about who to hire. I think there’s something to be said for assembling an agency with people who are seasoned in different ways and have held various roles across disciplines in their past.
Q: What are you most looking forward to learning or doing here?
In the long term: growing the PR arm of the business. I want to expand the scope of our PR services for existing clients and identify new partners in the community. There’s so much room to grow that side of the business. What Abby’s been able to do with the digital strategy team shows the pathway to make that happen—where you really work on internal business development and marry that with external development, while slowly and carefully opening up the opportunities to grow the team and rounding out the skill sets present. I’m really looking forward to that.
Q: That’s a great look at the professional side of you, but tell us a little about your personal background. What do you love to do around Indy?
Things are actually happening these days, which is the exciting part! I bought a house last year and got married two months ago.
Q: Wow! That’s a lot!
Yeah, we’re living over in Windsor Park. I grew up on the east side, so that’s my part of town. My wife and I like cycling—but not the tight suits kind, just casual biking. We’re both film nerds, and are excited about the Kan-Kan opening. We’re both a part of urbanist Twitter, advocating for more dense housing, better bike lanes, and transportation infrastructure. Though I’ve never worked directly with a candidate or party, I’ve volunteered with campaigns and been a part of the Emerging Leaders Project for the Indiana Democratic Party. I’ve worked on a lot of local races, knocking on doors.
Q: All that activism must have really prepared you for throwing a wedding in the middle of a pandemic.
I guess it did. It was a 96-person wedding and we worked the phones, scheduling appointments and following up with guests so that in the end, only two people were not fully vaccinated—and one was under the age of 12. I even pitched it to the Star and my now wife and I are featured in an article about getting vaccinated. If I’m willing to get myself in the IndyStar, then I’ll get you there too.