RLF Communications Hires New Vice President

Experienced strategic communicator Donnie Turlington joins RLF as Vice President

RLF Communications (RLF) has hired Donnie Turlington as a vice president, where he will be responsible for providing client services and support. Turlington is the former director of communications and marketing for the City of Greensboro, where he guided the formation of the city’s first-ever communications and marketing department.

Turlington brings over two decades of experience in public relations and strategic communications to RLF. He joins the agency after helping to launch and lead Community Catalyst Partners, a national nonprofit focused on enhancing educational outcomes for young people and economic growth for communities. Prior to his work at Community Catalyst Partners, he helped lead national communications efforts, strategic communications and issue management for Say Yes to Education.

“We are thrilled to have Donnie join our agency. His communication skills and strategic planning experience will benefit our clients and bring greater depth to our team,” said Monty Hagler, president and CEO of RLF. “Donnie and I worked together in several of his past positions, including when he led communications and marketing for the City of Greensboro, and I have a deep respect for what he has accomplished in his career to date.”

“I have long admired the expertise and guidance that RLF Communications provides to its clients and I’m excited to be joining this team,” says Turlington. “One of RLF’s greatest attributes is the way the agency embraces its clients as true partners in helping them achieve their business results. I’m excited to be a part of that effort and look forward to providing strategic and critical thinking to help our partners succeed.”

RLF Communications Expands North Carolina Footprint With Acquisition of BAERING Group Public Relations

RLF Communications, a full-service public relations agency headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina, acquired BAERING Group, a Raleigh-based public relations agency on Jan. 31.

The acquisition furthers RLF’s strategy to strengthen its footprint across North Carolina, with professional staff in Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte, to serve clients conducting business statewide, nationally and internationally. Seven team members join RLF, strengthening the firm’s depth in industries such as agriculture and chemicals.

“Like RLF, BAERING worked with a wide range of industry-leading clients to provide strategic communications counsel, message development, media relations, internal communications, crisis communications, branding and other public relations services,” said Monty Hagler, CEO of RLF Communications. “The experience and knowledge of BAERING’s talented staff are a tremendous asset for our already strong team, and they will bring new perspectives and ideas to our clients.”

Founded in 2004, BAERING Group’s clients included agricultural companies, national trade associations, nonprofits and educational institutions. The firm also had a strong footprint in eastern North Carolina, adding to RLF’s capabilities in that part of the state.

“RLF Communications has an outstanding reputation as one of the premier public relations agencies in North Carolina,” said Robert Buhler, former chairman and owner of BAERING Group. “Once I made the decision to sell BAERING to pursue other business opportunities, I knew RLF would be the perfect partner for our clients and our team as their culture and dedication to strategy and service align so closely with ours.”

Worldcom Releases Special Report on War in Ukraine Influence on CEOs

Worldcom, a global network of PR agencies of which RLF is a member, recently released an updated Worldcom Confidence Index report analyzing how the War in Ukraine is shifting global CEOs’ conversations on social media. Below is a press release discussing the top 5 topics CEOs were engaged in from Feb-May 2022.


The War In Ukraine WCI Report Highlights The Top Five Issues Where Stakeholders Expect Leaders To Be Taking Both Immediate And Sustained Action

NEW YORK (June 21st, 2022) – In a special topic tracking report from the Worldcom Confidence Index (WCI) of what CEOs are saying about the impact of the War in Ukraine, The Worldcom Public Relations Group (Worldcom) has identified five main topical issues that global CEOs and CMOs are talking about. In the period between February and May 2022, the top five topics are: The massive displacement of people and refugee flows; the impact on energy prices; the impact on food security; making the issues of hunger and poverty worse; causing divisions among people and countries.

Human cost of the war receives sustained attention, but global food security became the number one topic in May

Unsurprisingly, the most talked about issue at the beginning of the conflict was the massive displacement of people and refugees fleeing Ukraine. This topic had the biggest engagement from global CEOs and CMOs between February and March[i], out of the top five topics discovered. The Ukraine war has caused the worst refugee crisis since World War II, which could lead to a significant increase in human trafficking and child protection crisis. However, by May concern over global food security and the impact that would have on their people and their business, had become the top issue.

The Ukraine war is disrupting supply chains and has caused the price of oil and gas to skyrocket. This topic received the second biggest engagement from global CEOs and CMOs between February and May, out of the top five topics. The cost of energy has obvious implications for the cost of ongoing operations but has significant implications for the way organisations operate too. For example, companies that were returning to office-based working, might have to rethink their strategy to relieve pressure on the rising cost of living.

Todor Janev, chairman of The Worldcom Public Relations Group (Worldcom), said: “Leaders need to develop a clear strategy for protecting their brands from the impact of the war. Stakeholders expect immediate action to minimise the impact of increases in fuel and food prices. The WCI data shows that they also expect leaders to take action on policies which will have longer term implications. This includes increasing the pace at which they embrace ESG policies and demonstrate that their business believes in profit with a purpose. Communicating clearly, consistently, and transparently on these topics will be essential to building stakeholder trust and belief.”

Todd Lynch, managing director of Worldcom, said: “Many business leaders have been quick to show support for the people of Ukraine and make meaningful decisions about their business ties to Russia. But the results of this special tracking report, by the Worldcom Confidence Index, show that the focus is now switching to issues that have both immediate and sustained implications on operations, employees and their customers/key stakeholders. Brands with an international or global footprint need to identify how these five topics change in priority from one country to the next and then make sure they are communicating their positions/actions effectively and frequently to their key stakeholders.”

View the special War in Ukraine Topic Tracking Report and the Video summary.


The Worldcom Confidence Index is the world’s most extensive monthly study of what the C Suite is talking about. And it is the only global study that shows the change in confidence and engagement across a range of important business topics. This extensive data is now available via an interactive online portal and can be filtered by geography, industry, and role. You can explore the latest Worldcom Confidence Index data here. Our Worldcom partners in 115 cities are ready to provide even more local context. Contact Todd Lynch to start the discussion.

About the Worldcom Confidence Index

The Worldcom Confidence Index (WCI) is the first AI-driven ‘living’ global market research, tracking the topics that over 80,000 CEOs and CMOs are commenting on online. The AI-fuelled tracker is updated monthly and is drawn from an active sample of over 100,000 C-Suite executives. It tracks data for two roles, six regions, 42 countries and 11 industry sectors. It identifies the levels of engagement with business topics and how much the level of confidence for each topic has changed. It is the first global study of this type to use AI supported data capture. The longitudinal analysis employed by ASI, the research company providing the data for the WCI, enables Worldcom to look back in time and make direct comparisons for levels engagement and confidence.

About The Worldcom Public Relations Group 

The Worldcom Public Relations Group is the world’s leading partnership of independently owned public relations firms, with 143 offices employing some 2,000 staff in 115 cities across six continents. In total, Worldcom partners reported combined revenue of US$350+ million last year from 3,034 clients. Established in 1988, the group was formed so that the strongest, most capable independent firms could deliver immediate impact and sustained value through the intelligent use of communications – wherever in the world a client needs support. Partners serve national, international, and multinational clients, while retaining the flexibility and client-service focus inherent in independent agencies. Through Worldcom, clients have on-demand access to in-depth communications expertise from professionals who understand the language, culture, and customs of the geographic areas in which they operate.


Connect with Worldcom PR Group on Facebook and LinkedIn

Learn more about Worldcom at www.worldcomgroup.com or call Todd Lynch at 1-800-955-9675.


Worldcom Public Relations Group Installs New Global Board and Regional Committees

RLF Communications CEO Monty Hagler has been named to a second term as chairman of the Americas Committee of Worldcom Public Relations Group, the leading global partnership of public relations firms, with 143 offices in 115 cities across six continents.

Read More here

Former North Carolina ABC Commission Administrator Agnes Stevens Joins RLF Communications as Vice President, Client Strategy and Service

RLF Communications (RLF) has hired Agnes Stevens as vice president, client strategy and service. In this role, Stevens will develop and lead comprehensive public relations campaigns for RLF clients based throughout the United States. Stevens joins RLF after more than a decade managing communications and serving in key positions, including chief of staff and administrator, for the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

Stevens has more than 30 years of experience as a professional communicator and leader in strategic planning, campaign execution, internal and external communications and reputation management. Prior to her leadership roles at the NC ABC Commission, she served as vice president of corporate communications at First Union (now Wells Fargo) and as an account director at Capstrat (now Ketchum). Stevens also founded and led her own boutique public relations agency for many years. She is a native North Carolinian and a graduate of St. Mary’s College and Davidson College.

“We are thrilled to have Agnes on board. Her extensive multi-channel expertise and passion for strategy will be assets for our clients and our team,” said Monty Hagler, president and CEO of RLF. “Agnes and I have worked together on numerous projects over the years, including our time together at both First Union and Capstrat. I am deeply pleased she has chosen to return to the private sector after ten years as a public servant for North Carolina.”

“It is a tremendous pleasure to join the team at RLF,” said Stevens. “I am excited to partner closely with clients and leverage my experience to deliver creative, results-driven ideas to help them meet their business objectives.”
Founded in 2007, RLF Communications is a North Carolina-based public relations firm with a national reputation for generating creative ideas and breakthrough strategies to engage its clients’ audiences. RLF clients include a mix of professional service firms, government agencies, foundations, lifestyle and consumer products and S&P 500 companies.

A Newsworthy Birthday

In May 1846, five New York City newspapers joined forces – spearheaded by New York Sun publisher Moses Yale Beach – to get news from the distant Mexican-American War. The consortium that we now know as Associated Press was founded with the mission “to gather with economy and efficiency an accurate and impartial report of the news,” an innovation in journalism at a time when most major newspapers took a strictly partisan editorial stance.

Impartiality wasn’t the only innovation. In 1914, Associated Press introduced the “telegraph typewriter” or teletype into newsrooms across the U.S. That, and the later launch of its Wirephoto network which transmitted images the same day as they were taken, gave AP a major advantage over other news media outlets.

The AP is also the only news organization that collects and verifies national and local election results in every city and county across the country. News outlets rely on the polling data and results provided by the Associated Press before declaring winners in major political races, notably the presidential election.

Sports fans have relied on AP’s college football rankings since 1936, and its college basketball poll is the go-to source for which teams deserve national attention.

And while writers have several style guides upon which to rely, the venerable AP Stylebook produced as a guide for reporters and now in its 55th edition, remains the grammar and punctuation bible for writers in broadcasting, magazine publishing, corporate communications departments and public relations firms like RLF.

Happy birthday, AP!

Fall 2020 Intern Spotlight: Lissy Shortall

At RLF, we are committed to providing opportunities and real-world experience to the next generation of PR practitioners. So, even with the COVID-19 pandemic, we felt it was important to continue our internship program this fall, albeit largely remotely. Meet Lissy Shortall, our fall 2020 intern!headshot of Lissy Shortall

“My name is Lissy Shortall and I am a junior strategic communications major at Elon University with a minor in multimedia authoring. I am originally from Rhode Island and wanted to experience something different than the tiny state I grew up in, hence I ended up touring out-of-state schools and absolutely fell in love with Elon where I have continued to cherish my experiences. While I am very devoted to academics, I also have 2 part-time jobs on campus as a student technician as well as a group exercise instructor. When I’m not in class, you’ll often find me in the library, taking strolls across campus or listening to Hozier at the lake.”

What made you want to pursue communications?

I’m very much a people person as well as a creative, so communications felt like a no-brainer. With each experience I’ve had, my love for communications has only been further affirmed! I love the fact that communications is involved in every industry in some way, shape, or form; it is a constantly evolving field so there are always new things to learn which draws me in even more.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I ask myself this question every day! I’m currently in a very unique place in my life in which I do not feel particularly tied to any one location. On one hand, this is awesome because the world is my oyster, on the other, it is a little scary since the world is so big! I would most ideally end up working on lifestyle, health, and/or fitness brands in a small PR agency that has a very family-like feel to combine my passion for health and wellness with communications.

What is your favorite part of the RLF internship program?

My favorite part so far is the hands-on approach to the tasks. I really enjoy the fact that, under the guidance and feedback of the RLF team, I get to see some many projects through from start to finish. In classes, I often only do one piece of the communications experience and do not work with actual clients. At RLF, I get to be involved with the entire process of research, writing and outreach which is exciting.

What is your favorite quote?

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” – Friedrich Nietzsche

What is your favorite movie?

I’m a sucker for Jake Gyllenhaal movies and my favorite would have to be Donnie Darko! I’ve probably watched it more than 25 times at this point.

If you could travel anywhere where would you go?

Something about Australia has always intrigued me and is at the top of my list! I’ve never left the country, but I would go everywhere if I could.

My Journey as an Intern in the PR World: What I Have Learned

By Lindsay Silverman

I never knew what I wanted to do with my life. As a child, I was one of those kids who ran around the house pretending to be an FBI agent or recording news segments on my desktop computer (does anyone have those anymore?). I played every sport and never stuck with just one. But one thing remained consistent, and that was my ability to read a room and connect with people. When I got to college, I once again was on a path of not knowing what I desired for a career. The pressure was astounding. But when I walked into my very first PR class junior year, I knew: I am supposed to tell people’s stories.

During spring break, I applied to 80 internships (Yeah, I know, the Gen Z mentality is a bit hyperbolic.) I made sure to personally email all of the places I wanted to apply to — no job boards allowed.lindsay silverman, intern, pet friendly office, RLF Communications

However, when I first stumbled upon RLF’s website, I knew it was the place for me. From its motto of being respected, liked, and feared, to its design work — I was obsessed, to say the least; and I hadn’t even met these people yet!

And then the interview happened. I was completely out of my comfort zone, this being the first virtual interview I had ever done. My voice was shaking and I was unsure of my answers, speaking to the 4 faces on the screen in front of me. All of these faces were so kind and engaged, and I felt like a fish out of water.

Towards the end of the interview, it was just me and two Communications Managers. I asked them why they do what they do, and they said: “Because we yearn to tell people’s stories. The look on someone’s face when you impact them can’t be compared.” And that’s when I knew: I had to work at RLF. I made sure to narrate that I felt the same way, and in those moments, I had never felt more connected to people through a screen then I did right then.

My experience at RLF has proven how important storytelling ties into the work that we do. Our clients give us the opportunity to shape narratives and change lives. I’ve really examined that in my coworkers here at RLF, in that each of them has an intense desire to make positive change. It is truly inspiring to work with such a dedicated, intellectual bunch who genuinely care for each other and their clients.

Throughout my first time at RLF, I have uncovered new skills and elaborated on my existing ones. I have discovered the hidden mysteries of pitching to national media, and how to pick the brains of journalists. I have learned how to use media database Cision to do extensive research and keep track of media coverage, which is something I didn’t know I would enjoy. I have perfected my writing skills by writing press releases and extending my creative freedoms with our social media postings. All of these things, I have done with success thanks to the confidence that the environment of RLF instills. In the time remaining with RLF, I hope to become as respected, liked, and feared as the rest of my coworkers at the hardworking agency I now call a temporary home.

Note: Lindsay has accepted a part-time position at RLF as she completes her senior year at Elon University.

RLF marks 10th Anniversary with The Worldcom Group

By Monty Hagler

This year marks RLF’s 10th anniversary in Worldcom Public Relations Group, the largest and oldest partnership of independent agencies in the world. I had the pleasure of serving on the Global Group board for several years and am now returning to a leadership position as board chair for the Americas’ Region, which is comprised of nearly 50 agencies stretching 5,350 miles from Santiago, Chile, to Toronto, Canada.

Worldcom has been an invaluable resource for RLF on multiple fronts. Our clients have access to local expertise, knowledge and contacts in virtually every region of the world. Our team has access to best practices, case studies, practice groups and knowledge sharing on nearly every issue we encounter. And I have access to thoughtful, experienced and insightful agency leaders who have become dear friends and mentors.

One of the requirements of Worldcom membership is face-to-face interactions with other agency leaders. We gather twice a year — a global meeting in the spring and regional meetings in the fall – to conduct business, hear from a diverse range of speakers and share ideas. Amazing meals, alcoholic beverages and impromptu exploration of our host cities are also part of the bonding experience. As a result, I know and trust leaders at more than 100 communications and PR agencies throughout the world.

When we reach out to partners on behalf of our clients or our own needs, they respond. They take ownership. They produce results. That is not achieved by luck or randomness. The vetting process for potential new Worldcom partners is rigorous, and once partners are in, there is a formal peer review process every two and a half years to ensure partners continue to meet the highest quality standards. I’m proud to say that RLF has scored exceedingly well in our 4 peer reviews over the past decade and benefitted tremendously from this practice of having partners review our operations and offer advice on how RLF can become an even better agency.

Although we did not hold our global meeting in Malaysia this past April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (nor will we gather in Philadelphia this fall for the Americas region meeting), our partnership is stronger than ever. We have been holding bi-weekly webinars for agency leaders to share insights and knowledge on rapidly changing topics such as COVID-19 communications, the global economic shutdown and the widening impact of the Black Lives Matter protest movement. We are getting real-time insights that we can incorporate into our counsel and work with clients.

I’m proud to be a Worldcom partner and look forward to my time as Americas board chair. #WorldcomStrong

Monty Hagler Speaks to COVID-19 Communications

CEO Monty Hagler led a Q&A session with more than 100 Greensboro Chamber of Commerce members on best practices for communicating with key audiences during the coronavirus crisis. Key points of the discussion included:

  • Deliver a consistent message. Work with your company’s leadership team to come up with a unified message, then tailor it for different audiences. Consistent messaging and visuals show you are in control of the situation.
  • Expect criticism. No matter how perfectly packaged your message, someone will disagree. Be respectful, listen and adapt if needed. Expect that everything you write will become an external document.
  • Think about the long term. How can you plan ahead for six months to a year from now? Think about how this crisis will affect your marketing strategies going forward. Use any down time to work on projects you wouldn’t normally have time for.
  • Prepare for jagged re-entry. Companies will return to normal operations at different points. Where is your industry on the curve? Check will suppliers, employees and other stakeholders about their timelines.

The full conversation can be listened to here.