Looking Back and Moving Forward

It’s the holiday season and, for a senior in college, that means a lot of things: finals are right around the corner, I only have one more semester left at Elon and it’s time to start the post-grad job search. But, the arrival of the holidays also signifies that soon I will no longer be communications specialist here at RLF.

Looking back, it’s amazing how much I’ve learned and grown in the past four months. Before steppingcommunications specialist, RLF, agency, intern off the elevator for the first time, I had never written a pitch or created a media list, and I’m pretty sure I’d never spoken to a professional reporter in my entire life. Now, I can say with confidence that I have done all those things and more.

I’ve had varied professional experiences during my time at Elon, but I’ve never had a position or class where I was writing as much as I do at RLF. In any given week, I could be writing a pitch, drafting a press release, writing tweets, ghostwriting for a client or writing for the RLF blog, all under the guidance of more seasoned professionals. These experiences have helped me round out my professional development and given me incredible writing samples that I can use in my job search this spring.

On top of the writing samples, I’ve gained skills in some of the behind-the-scenes work that makes media relations possible. As someone that had never touched media database Cision before, I am so happy to have had the opportunity to work with it as much as I have. I feel very comfortable using it, and I know that will be very helpful after graduation. I have done research on media placement opportunities for clients and updated coverage reports so we can keep track of the media placements we are getting for our clients. Each of these tasks has helped me understand the process of media relations better and given me experience with each step of the process.

I think that one of my favorite things about working at RLF is that from day one I was a part of the team. My edits, ideas and suggestions are taken seriously, and I can see the impact my work does for my clients. At the same time, everyone on the team has been great about teaching me. When I write something or create a media list, I don’t just get edits back; I get comments explaining why the changes were made which has allowed me to learn and apply these comments to future projects.

Just being in the office a few days a week has taught me so much about public relations. Getting to sit in on and participate in brainstorms and monthly social media meetings showed me what it means to work as a team to find direction for a client or campaign. The professionals at RLF really know what they’re doing, and seeing them in action has given me examples to emulate when I graduate and am in the workforce myself.

I can’t express my gratitude for this experience enough. When I walk out of the RLF office for the final time, I am leaving as a much more confident budding professional than when I started. I have so many more skills to offer my future employer because of the time I spent at RLF, and it has been such a meaningful stepping stone from student life to professional life.

Fall Intern Spotlight – Taylor Faust

The best way to learn many skills is not through a classroom or a lecture, but through hands-on experience. That’s why we feel it is important that our interns get to the opportunity to try as many facets of life in a PR firm as possible, whether it’s helping to research costs for a new campaign idea, drafting news releases or participating in our social activities.

Meet fall intern Taylor Faust.

“I am a strategic communications and Spanish double major at Elon University, and I live about an hour outside of Philadelphia. When I’m not interning at RLF, I serve in the Elon community as the external vice president of my service fraternity and work as an account executive at Elon’s student-run strategic communications agency. I spent most of my summer interning in New York City, and I am planning on moving back to the city to work in communications after I graduate in the spring.”

How did you find RLF?

I found RLF by searching for advertising/PR agencies in Greensboro. I knew I wanted to complete an internship this fall, so finding an office that would be flexible with my class schedule and within a reasonable driving distance was a big bonus!

What is the best advice you’ve ever heard?

“Fake it till you make it.” My freshman science teacher told me that in high school. While that sounds like the opposite of good advice, for me it means that you were chosen for a reason. I’ve definitely found myself in situations where I have been given opportunities and not felt qualified. But, if you pretend for those first few days or weeks like you know what you’re doing, soon enough you will find that you actually do. It’s more about pushing away self-doubt than actually faking it, because you wouldn’t have gotten the position or opportunity if you weren’t right for it.

Are you a morning or night person?

I am definitely a night person. This semester is a little different, but usually my most productive hours are from 8 pm to 1 or 2 am. Especially as it gets later, and people go to bed, there is a quietness that creates a great environment for focusing. Plus, if you’re running close to a deadline, that extra pressure is really great for stress focusing.

Do you have a pet?

Unfortunately, my house is petless, but I’m planning on adopting a cat that I will name Stanlee after graduation.

Do you have any fears?

I am absolutely terrified of heights. I once went on a ropes course and had a sustained panic attack for over an hour while no more than 30 feet off the ground.

What is your favorite food/snack?

My favorite food is quinoa. I love to eat it with melted brie cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

If you could learn any skill what would it be?

I want to learn to sing well. I love music, and I’ve always wanted to be in a band.

What is your dream job?

My dream job would be to do marketing for Marvel Entertainment. I am obsessed with Marvel and its amazing movies, so working there is the dream.

What is your favorite place you’ve visited?

When I was abroad, I got the chance to go to Morocco with my cohort. We got to ride camels on the beach, stay with incredibly kind host families, and eat AMAZING food. The country is indescribably beautiful. Plus, I was able to have this experience with some of my best friends abroad; it was the perfect weekend.

Fall Intern Spotlight – Erin Gallagher

In today’s job market, having real-world experience is critical. That is one of the reasons RLF strives to hire new interns throughout the year, to help them see what life inside a vibrant agency is like. Interns also provide our team with new energy and fresh eyes, helping us to often see our work in new ways. Each of our interns has the opportunity to work in different disciplines on a variety of client accounts.

Meet our first fall intern Erin Gallagher.

“I am from Greenwich, Connecticut, but ventured down south for the warm weather! I am studying strategic communications and business administration at Elon University.”

How did you find RLF?

I knew that I wanted a fall internship because I thought it would be a great opportunity to gain experience in the field of communications. I went to Elon’s internship office and found RLF in the database. After doing some research, I thought that it looked like a great opportunity.

What is the best advice you have ever heard?

The importance of remembering someone’s name. When my dad used to drop me off at school, he would send me off with a lesson of the day and that was one that stuck. Not only is it a sign of respect, but it leaves them with a positive and lasting impression. A name is a person’s connection to their identity and makes them an individual. Any time I greet a classmate or acquaintance and call them by their name, you can tell by their facial expression that it made them feel good. Remembering someone’s name is personable and it makes them feel important.

Are you a morning or a night person? 

I am a morning person because that is when I am most productive. To me there is nothing worse than waking up at noon and feeling like my day has been wasted in bed.

Do you have a pet?

Yes, I have three rescues – Freddie, Teddy and Penny. My dogs are my world. If it weren’t for my fear of blood I’d be a veterinarian.

Do you have any other fears?

I wish I was more of a risk taker when it came to outdoor activities, but I am terrified of heights. Over the summer my friends went skydiving, but I was perfectly content taking photos from the tarmac.

If you had to live in another country, where would you live?

I think I’d choose London because I want to live and work in a fast-paced city, similar to New York. It is also nice that there is no language barrier.

What is your favoring thing to snack on? 

Hummus on anything.

If you could learn any skill, what would it be?

I’d love to be a great cook. I have learned some fantastic recipes from my mom, who is an awesome cook, but I tend to rotate the same 8-10 recipes. I think it would be really cool to have the ability to just whip something delicious up using whatever is in the pantry.

What is your dream job? 

Ideally, I’d love to work for a fashion lifestyle brand because that is what I am most passionate about, but I’d be happy to work anywhere as long as I feel like I am contributing to the team.

What is your favorite place you’ve been?

While studying abroad in Florence, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel to some pretty incredible places. My favorite place that I traveled to was Copenhagen. It was such a neat city and the people were so nice! I hadn’t heard much about it before going, so I think that made it even more captivating.

Reflection on a Career: A Q&A with David French

By Jenna Barone

To earn college credit for interning with RLF, my career counselor at Elon requires all students to interview work colleagues for industry insight. I love interning with RLF, but I can’t say I was exactly psyched to write a seven-page paper detailing the work environment and my colleagues. Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to interview one of RLF’s two vice presidents, David French, who kindly agreed to let me bombard him with questions about his career development and position at RLF. David made the assignment easy by providing me with excellent snippets of advice, reflection, and stories when answering each question.

After completing the assignment, my internship supervisor suggested using David’s interview answers as the basis for a blog post. Students who aspire to work in the field of public relations and seasoned professionals alike can relate to the sequence of events making up David’s career path and how it influenced his professional development. My main take away—work hard and find the fun, and everything really does come full circle.

What is appealing about your job?

“I enjoy the challenge of devising communications solutions to an organizational issue, concern, or need. In essence, it’s why I chose this as my career. Since I’ve been on the agency side, I’ve really enjoyed the diversity of clients because there’s always something new to learn. I’ve worked with healthcare companies, nonprofit organizations, banks, small businesses, etc. Each client has very different organizational needs and specialized strategic communications solutions. I love that my job requires life-long learning. I can’t think of anything deadlier than doing the same thing for the same organization day-in-and-day-out for the entirety of my career. I would be bored out of my mind.”

What are some of the challenges of your job?

“A lot of the same things that appeal to me are at times also the challenges. This is true in life, too. Clients can be difficult; they can be resistant to our best attempts to help and guide them. I’ve had to work on honing my skill at diplomacy! Sometimes we walk a fine line between what we know is right for the client and what they think they want. You have to be able to convey your case in a professional and respectful way.”

What do you read to keep up with the professional industry?

“I read pretty much everything in my inbox from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). As a member, I receive newsletters, magazines, print/online material, etc. I also consider myself a voracious consumer of news media. It helps you spot public mood, opinion, trends, and if you can somehow relate them to a client or their business, then it can be very beneficial. I am partially a counselor in my job, not just a technician. It’s important to stay up on current social, political, economic, and business trends.”

What skills are vital to your job?

“I think this will be true until the end of time—first and foremost, good writing skills are important regardless of the career you choose. I don’t think anyone comes out of college a fantastic writer but knowing the fundamentals will help your skills develop over time. At some point, you will have to be able to write, inform, educate, and persuade using several different writing formats in the field of communications.

“Second, you need to understand client perspectives. Never project on them what you want to hear, see, or read. This requires understanding the client and their culture to communicate a message or call to action aimed at a particular audience. And this all comes back to writing—everything starts with something written. Because we’re communicating on behalf of clients to an audience, we also need to figure out what’s going to resonate with, catch the attention of, or lead the consumer to taking an action. It’s difficult to communicate unless you understand what touches people and what’s meaningful to them.

“Lastly, it’s important to have great presentation and persuasion skills. We don’t realize how many times a day we’re trying to convey a message and persuade someone, both personally and professionally. These are fundamental and foundational skills.”

What’s your advice for a student just starting out?

“When I was in college, there was no PR degree—people came into the industry with an English, communications, humanities, or journalism background. I’m very happy to see that internships have almost become a requirement in school. Internships are fantastic and provide the opportunity to polish your communications skills, whether on campus or through other organizations. I think there’s great value in internships in building a network and making yourself known.

“I’ve always felt the smaller agencies (big enough, but not massive) or nonprofit organizations are a great place to begin a career. The need is there, but the staff and the resources are usually not, so you often get to try out a lot of different things—figuring out what you like and don’t like. My starting out at a nonprofit afforded me this opportunity, but you must be aware and alert to take initiative. I know several young people just starting out who felt stuck and pigeonholed in a specific role when working in large organizations or large agencies.

“In terms of my portfolio, I always tried to show a diversity of tasks—various kinds of writing, publications, projects, videos I had produced, etc. When looking at your work, ask yourself the question: ‘So what?’ Because people who are looking at your portfolio are going to be asking, ‘Why should I hire you?’ Make sure to show results or outcomes, not just output. Everything you do doesn’t have to be a home run, but it’s important to say and to show the objective, here’s how it was or wasn’t met, and what you learned or would do differently.”

How did you begin your career, and what was your career path?

“I sort of back-doored it. I originally went to college with the intention of becoming a veterinarian. But I did not have the math and science skills to pursue this career path.

“The decision to think about an alternative career path came to me early in my sophomore year of college. I happened to be taking a communications class, and I really got along with the professor who happened to be the head of the department. When I was in high school, I participated in a summer workshop in North Carolina for radio, television, and motion pictures. Based on my writing skills and interests in high school, my professor encouraged me to look into communications. I soon became interested in journalism, also.

“During college, I completed two internships in the news department of two different television stations. After the second internship, I knew for sure I didn’t want to stay in television news. I still liked to write, but there had to be something better for me.

“While still in college, I found a local chapter of a professional organization called the International Association of Business Communicators. I was able to get my hands on a list of members, and I called several of them to introduce myself. Ten people agreed to meet with me and offer career guidance. This is why I always feel obligated to talk to any student who’s making career decisions. I built a network, and through that network, I landed my first job at a nonprofit in Raleigh.

“For three years, I helped produce television and radio spots while writing for their monthly publication. I expanded my network. Two people I met later became my future bosses and one of them my mentor. Next, I took a job as a public information officer in a state government department for the next four years. My mentor then called me up and offered to refer me to Burlington Industries where I started my next job managing corporate media relations for the largest textile company in the world, at the time. After four years there, my mentor hired me at his own company where I worked for the next 15 years. I started out doing external communication, moved to internal communication and eventually ran the company’s charitable foundation.

“Next, I worked for the Trone agency in High Point, North Carolina. This marked my transition from organizational business communications to agency life. Here, I met Monty, who was my boss as president of Trone PR. We worked together for a little over three years until Monty founded RLF Communications. I eventually joined him, and I’ve now been at RLF for seven years.”


Summer Intern Spotlight – Piper Anderson

RLF offers a competitive internship program every summer and semester that teaches aspiring PR professionals the skills necessary to succeed in a career in strategic communications. From writing news releases and pitching reporters to compiling media lists and drafting social media posts, our interns do it all. This summer, we welcome Jenna Barone and Piper Anderson. Our second intern spotlight is on Piper.

“I was born in Long Beach, California, and moved to North Carolina in 2006. I love both coasts; the wild beauty of the Pacific is just as much a part of me as the peaceful waters of Lake Norman. I adore food, reading, clothes, and expressing my creative side– whether that be through making a poster in Photoshop or writing a short story. I attend UNC-Chapel Hill, where I major in English and minor in public relations and creative writing. As my specializations might indicate, I love writing, and plan on going into public relations or the magazine industry after graduation.”

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Summer Intern Spotlight – Jenna Barone

RLF believes that internships provide valuable training and experience to the next generation of PR and marketing professionals, so we have worked hard to create a comprehensive internship program. Students get a taste for agency life by working closely with our team on a variety of client accounts. Throughout the course of a summer or semester, interns enhance their skills in preparation for a career in public relations, marketing, or advertising.

This summer, RLF welcomes two new interns: Jenna Barone and Piper Anderson. Our first intern spotlight is on Jenna Barone.

“I live in the suburbs of St. Louis and am majoring in strategic communications at Elon University. In addition to interning at RLF this summer, I am also participating in the Opportunity Greensboro Fellows Program. As a rising senior, I hope to travel the summer after graduation before jumping into the work force and pursuing a career in public relations.”

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Spring Intern Spotlight – Erin Reilly

These days, even entry-level positions in public relations require real world experience. That is one of the reasons RLF strongly believes in hosting an internship program that exposes college students to the what agency life is really like on a daily basis. Over the course of the semester, local college students gain practical experience and firsthand knowledge by working closely with qualified professionals on a variety of client accounts.
This spring, two new interns have joined the RLF team: Erin Reilly and Chelsea Korynta. Our first intern spotlight is on Erin Reilly.
“I’m a Boston native who made her way down south for school. I’m a senior at Elon University majoring in strategic communications with a minor in business administration. I love cooking and travelling, but I love dogs most of all.”
If you could live in any country, where would you live?
If I could live in any country, it would be Italy. I come from an Italian family, so the culture and traditions are close to my heart. I also studied abroad in Florence for a semester and fell in love with it! There are so many beautiful places to visit in Italy and I can’t wait to go back and explore more.
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A Reflection On My Internship

By Taylor Lord
This post is bittersweet, as it signals the beginning of an end of an incredible experience. When I first applied for an internship at RLF Communications, I was interested in the hands-on learning and the opportunity to work on different accounts with industry professionals. I could have never imagined all the good times of laughing with my co-workers, playing with the dogs as they roam around the office or heading to the rooftop deck after a long day.
Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t spend the entire internship socializing. Through these short months, I worked on four different client accounts, gaining a greater understanding of what it means to be a PR professional. Each day is different – sometimes, I create media lists or research speaking opportunities. Other days, I write blog posts or find articles to share on Twitter.
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Fall Intern Spotlight – Camille Vargas

Classrooms are an effective way to learn the basics of the communications industry, but companies are always looking for applicants with practical, demonstrated industry experience. This is part of why RLF likes to engage students in our immersion-style internship program. Students can apply their skills on real client accounts, work with both mid-level and senior communications professionals and bring new strengths to the RLF team.
This fall, we welcomed two new interns to our team: Taylor Lord and Camille Vargas. Our second intern spotlight is on Camille Vargas.
“I am majoring in political science and media and journalism, while pursuing minors in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies and medieval and early modern studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I grew up in an extremely tight-knit Italian family in Edison, New Jersey. I love national parks, horses, autobiographies, the ocean and just about anything that involves the word cheese.”
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Fall Intern Spotlight – Taylor Lord

RLF’s internship program gives college students the opportunity to gain real world experience in an integrated communications agency. Over the course of the semester, interns learn practical knowledge by working closely with qualified professionals on a variety of client accounts.
This fall, RLF has two new interns that have joined the team: Taylor Lord and Camille Vargas. Our first intern spotlight is on Taylor Lord.
“I’m a native of the Tar Heel state, born and raised in Raleigh. I am a senior at High Point University, majoring in Spanish and strategic communication.”
Continue reading “Fall Intern Spotlight – Taylor Lord”