Alumna Deb Haynes Swider Wears Many Hats at Purple Strategies

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

In the late 1980s Deb Haynes Swider came to West Virginia Wesleyan as a shy girl fresh out of high school. Now, she’s part of a team that plays a role in the political scene of the nation.

“For some reason, though, Wesleyan opened a world to me,” she said. ”I often say Wesleyan was one of the best choices I ever made in life.”

The 1991 alumna earned degrees in international studies and government from Wesleyan, then eventually achieved a master’s in political science from West Virginia University and juris doctorate from American University’s Washington College of Law.

She is currently working for the recently-formed public affairs company Purple Strategies, which was created when Republican firm National Media and Democratic firm Issue and Image merged. Before the companies joined, she had been with National Media since 2002.

Haynes Swider said “every bit” of her education prepared her for a fast-paced, inside-the-Beltway career.  Wesleyan professors, including Dr. Herb Coston, Dr. Bill Mahoney and Dr. Vijago Rao, taught her to think critically about various issues that arise frequently in her business.

“Even my music classes with Dr. Linda Sabak and Dr. Larry Parsons come into play when it comes to setting the mood in radio and TV spots,” she added. “You may not realize it, but there’s a good bit of thought that goes into the background track that plays in a 30-or 60-second spot.”

“Because many of us come from political backgrounds, it gives us a unique view when approaching brand and reputation management of corporations and trade associations,” Haynes Swider said. “Politics forces you to get to the heart of the issue and respond quickly. We’ve taken that agility out of the political realm and put it into the corporate realm.”

Haynes Swider stays busy at Purple Strategies in various capacities.

“There is no typical day in our field,” she said. “Because we work for companies that are often facing challenges, you may have a plan for what you’ll do in the morning, but that often changes by the end of the day.”

In her account role, she is often communicating with the client to discuss needs and deadlines, talking strategy for communications efforts or working to create advertising campaigns by writing copy, or sometimes finding the right visuals with members of the Art Department.

“Some days I may work on print or online ads, more rarely I’m writing radio spots and recording voice talent. And, if I’m really lucky, I’ll have a TV spot to write and get produced.”

She also acts as counsel for Purple, which means she’s coordinating with the Director of New Business and account managers preparing or editing contracts for new business.

Finally, in her human resources role, she assists with the hiring and coordinating of new employees and internships.

“Generally, I also keep an eye on how people are interacting within the company and work to make sure they feel Purple Strategies is a good place to have a career,” she says. ”Because of the fast pace of our work, teamwork is crucial.”

Teamwork and friendship go back to Haynes Swider’s Wesleyan days, too, when she quickly became a part of the college community.

Her Alpha Gamma Delta sorority sisters were so welcoming and encouraging from her first weekend at college, and, soon after, Dr. Parsons accepted her into Concert Chorale.

“My Chorale friends were a huge part of my Wesleyan experience – they were, and are, amazing, wonderful people,” she commented. “One of my greatest honors was the opportunity to join their voices with the accompaniment of that magnificent pipe organ. How many people get to premiere music with the WV Symphony? And we had such a great time on our ‘tours’ across the country.”

In addition to being an Alpha Gamma Delta sister and member of the Chorale, she was also involved with the Special Activities Committee of Community Council, and assisted with planning Homecoming and Spring Sing.

“One of my best friends today, Heather Willis Perry ’92, can tell you crazy stories of staying up all night working on decorations for the Chapel for our Centennial Spring Sing celebration,” she said. “There are hundreds of memories of the other organizations I was involved in. Including the year I started a Model UN club and led a team to a competition in Washington with the newly hired Dr. Rob Rupp.”

Although Haynes Swider doesn’t make it back to campus as often as she would like, she has made it back for Spring Sing celebrations. In April, she returned to campus to sing with the Concert Chorale and Dr. Parsons, and spoke to students in one of Dr. Rupp’s classes.

“I loved catching up with that family – hearing where lives went and how families have grown. I also loved recapturing that sense of accomplishment that comes with learning a difficult piece of music. I can’t say I mastered it this time, but I got through it!”

Also, in 2008, she celebrated her wedding at Wesleyan.

“People from across the country came and experienced the beauty of our campus and particularly the Chapel,” she added. “I’ve heard so many compliments as a result.”

Swider Haynes is originally from Fairmont, WV. She currently lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband, Jason, and their corgi, Sophie. The two welcomed their first child, Samuel, in August.