There’s a line in the song “Iowa Stubborn” from the classic musical The Music Man that says “There’s nothing halfway about the Iowa way to treat you when we treat you, which we may not do at all”. Josh Wilson, former Capitol Hill Communications Director and now PR professional at OtterPR, seems poised to be the native son to smash pre-conceived, Broadway-borne notions of Iowa.
“When working on the East Coast I was routinely told I was “too nice” for Washington, D.C.” says Josh. Contrary to what the folks in Washington thought of his demeanor, he has found success making “Iowa Nice” his credo.
Josh was born and raised in Iowa, in the shadow of a political monolith. Iowa is the site of the first caucus during the Presidential election season and therefore is consistently visited by all manner of folks looking to become the next leader of the free world.
“I was exposed to politics at a very young age and got to see many of the nation’s high profile politicians and national media personalities right in my own backyard.” he remembers.
Josh took this early exposure to politics and ran with it, studying Political Communications in college. Directly out of college, Bachelor’s degree fresh in hand, Josh went directly to the office of longtime Iowa governor Terry Branstad. Josh served as Public Liaison for Branstad, participating in not only public relations and communications, but speech writing as well.
Firmly rooted in the political atmosphere almost immediately, Josh then went to work for several state and federal campaigns and political action committees in various communication-centered roles. He became a trusted advisor to many hopefuls and those already serving in government roles.
Josh’s signature affable way of approaching what can often be a tumultuous landscape led him to the Capitol in Washington D.C., where he became a Communications Director for the U.S. House of Representatives. He was in this role when the world turned upside down and COVID-19 hit.
For any communications professional, navigating the public relations world during a crisis that is the size of COVID-19, it may seem like “the big show”, a chance to sharpen your skills and show off your chops. On the contrary, it can also expose major cracks in the facade of the industry to which you’ve devoted your time and energy.
It was the sharp divide driven between the two major political parties during the COVID-19 crisis that led Josh to have a bit of a “come to Jesus” moment with himself.
“The decision to move back to PR after a career mostly in political communication was made for the same reason many politicos are fleeing the profession: the deep divide in American politics,” he says.
Josh decided his brand of “Midwest Nice ” communications strategizing and public relations would be far better applied in a non-political role. He packed up and returned to Iowa. He is now a publicist at OtterPR.
“I had spent time doing PR work in the past for small businesses and especially nonprofits and enjoyed that work. I was drawn to Otter’s diverse clientele and rapid growth, a sign of its success,” said Josh.
With his wit and obvious wisdom, Josh has taken on his new role in PR with aplomb. After being thrown in the veritable gauntlet of Covid-era communications, taking on PR clients who work in a variety of interesting industries is a welcomed breath of fresh air.
As COVID-19 wears on and talking-heads battle it out in every corner of the political arena, Josh Wilson has settled back into a less noisy life in Cedar Fall, Iowa. He spends his days telling client stories and helping OtterPR clients get noticed by the media outlets that matter.
In a world where “nice” has become less than commonplace, Josh is happy to bring his version of “Midwest hospitality” to the table.