Business & Entrepreneurship

Speaking for the Stars

Dave Arnold ’08 oversees communications for business and political legends.

Dave Arnold

Arnold has helped the likes of Tesla’s Elon Musk and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg tell their stories. Brian Buckland

Few journalism graduates have worked closely with as many legends as Dave Arnold ’08.

He’s done it not as a reporter but as a communications professional, helping Virgin America’s Richard Branson, Tesla’s Elon Musk, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg tell their company stories.

Arnold was present, too, at one of the decade’s great political meltdowns, when he simultaneously fielded phone calls from NBC’s Matt Lauer and ABC’s Barbara Walters and an email from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

It was spring 2011, and Arnold was director of communications for New York City congressman Anthony Weiner, whose sexting had triggered a scandal.

“I’ve always wanted to be at places where there’s interesting work to be done and [the boss or organization] is in the spotlight,” Arnold says. “There are challenges to be dealt with. That’s where I think I thrive.”

Arnold, 36, says his current job — executive communications director at Facebook — “checks all those boxes.”

Arnold grew up in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, and wrote for the Daily Cardinal while on campus. He appreciates what he calls his “real-world education” in Madison. “There was important classroom learning,” he says. “We talked about theory, but I distinctly remember a huge component of it was, ‘Here’s the assignment. Go out into the real world and report it.’ ”

Despite its scandalous end, he values his work with Weiner — only his second job out of college — “just from a professional-development standpoint,” says Arnold. “He did more media in a week than most members of Congress did in six months.”

After Weiner’s resignation, Arnold worked for the prominent New York public relations firm MWW. One of the firm’s clients was Virgin America, and in 2015, Arnold joined the airline as director of corporate communications.

Reflecting on company founder Richard Branson, Arnold says, “His public persona is who he is. He’s fun and doesn’t take himself too seriously.”

In 2017, Arnold moved to Tesla, as global communications director. He enjoyed the challenge of working for the freewheeling Musk. “He knows how to build excitement,” Arnold says, ”and get people interested in issues they wouldn’t be interested in if not for him.”

Arnold has been with Facebook since November 2019. He calls Zuckerberg “a down-to-earth guy,” which is helpful given the intense scrutiny the company faces.

“There’s not a day that goes by,” Arnold says, “that Facebook isn’t in the news in some way. That was part of the deal. It’s been there throughout my career.”

Published in the Summer 2021 issue


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