Name: Lauren Leist
Graduation Year(s): B.A. 2012, M.M.C 2015
Major: Political Communication
Current Employer: Governor John Bel Edwards
Current Title: Speechwriter
Hometown: Laurel, MS
Current Home: Baton Rouge, LA
Why did you choose to study at the Manship School of Mass Communication with a concentration in political communication, both as an undergraduate and graduate student?
I worked at my hometown newspaper when I was in high school and knew I wanted to attend a school with a strong mass communication program. It was my tour of Manship that sold me on LSU. The political communication emphasis was one of the main draws. In fact, it’s this unique program that caused me to stay at Manship for my master’s.
How did your education at the Manship School prepare you for what you’re doing today?
Manship requires you to take a wide range of courses, so I graduated with the skills for multiple kinds of communication careers. Above all, the professors at Manship became some of my greatest mentors. I probably wouldn’t have landed my upcoming job as a speechwriter for Governor-Elect Edwards if not for Bob Mann’s political communication writing courses.
What led you to this job/career choice?
There’s no doubt that working for my hometown newspaper initiated my career in journalism. However, many factors led to my goal of eventually becoming a speechwriter (a dream I had no idea would come true so soon). Competitive speech and debate has been an important part of my life since high school. As a student at Manship, I realized I could combine my political communication background with my passion for public speaking.
What are some of your career highlights/accomplishments/achievements thus far?
I’m personally honored to begin working for Governor-Elect Edwards, but I hope that over the coming years I will be part of many victories for the state of Louisiana. Those are the achievements I look forward to.
What do you do on a “typical day” at your job?
A typical day at the magazine is a balancing act of conducting interviews, writing the weekly newsletter, covering events and answering emails. Currently, we are on deadline for next month’s edition, so my days are filled with writing and proofing. As this job position ends and the next one begins, I know my response will drastically change.
My first major task as speechwriter was playing a key role in crafting Governor Edwards’ inaugural address. While working on the inaugural is certainly my greatest accomplishment to date, big speeches like that are rare. On a typical day, I’m usually working on talking points for keynote speeches or other addresses. Identifying what is important to the audience is always my first step. From there, I research the relevant issues and determine the most effective way to convey problems, causes, and solutions for each message. I also attend any press conferences we have and brief Governor Edwards on talking points I have prepared for him. We hit the ground running from day one. My days are long and busy, but I couldn’t ask for a more rewarding job.
What advice do you have for Manship alumni and students interested in pursuing your profession or industry?
Learn to be flexible. My degree may be in political communication, but the experience I’ve gained from working in journalism is indispensable. Continue to build connections wherever you go. You never know who will open the door to your next opportunity.
Anything else you would like to say to prospective and current students?
Never underestimate the importance of good writing skills. The ability to formulate your thoughts in a cohesive way is valuable in any profession.
How are you preparing for the speech writing job with Gov. elect John Bel Edwards?
Accurate research is a vital foundation for any speech. Therefore, my first step has been collecting as much information as possible on issues important to Louisiana. With inauguration day just weeks away, I’m looking forward to working with the rest of Governor-Elect Edwards’ communications team as we begin this incredible journey.