How Making Mac & Cheese Is Like Crafting the Perfect Pitch

By Jasmine Forte
On July 14 we celebrate one of the most accessible foods in the world — Happy National Mac and Cheese Day! This popular side dish has remained one of America’s top ten comfort foods for decades.
Making a delicious serving of mac and cheese is similar to crafting an effective pitch in public relations – it requires a simple mix of ingredients, timing, and just the right amount of flavor to win over an audience. Below are some mac and cheese cooking tips that you can apply to creating that perfect pitch.
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Summer Intern Spotlight: Nick Ramsey

Students often ask us how they can make the most of their internships. And the answer is simple: become engaged.
The best way to grow as a young professional in the communications industry is to use your time wisely and learn as much as you can before you enter the workforce. So, ask a lot of questions during your internship, join as many team meetings and brainstorming sessions as you can, organize one-on-one meetings with team members at your company, and take advantage of any opportunities that may arise, such as attending a media interview or special event.
Today, our summer intern spotlight is on Nick.

Nick Ramsey

I am a senior strategic communications major and entrepreneurship minor at Elon University. I am from Cheshire, Connecticut, but I enjoy North Carolina weather much more than the cold up North. When I’m not busy with school, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, playing golf and traveling. After graduation next May, I plan on pursuing a career in public relations and marketing.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

This past spring semester I studied abroad in London for four months, and it was a great experience. I have always enjoyed traveling, and have been lucky enough to travel all over the world with my family. However, the one place I have not yet had the chance to go is Australia. I would love to learn more about Australian culture while simultaneously enjoying the beautiful surroundings.

Do you have any hidden talents? 

I have always been interested in cars, and for some reason I have the useless ability to name the make, model and approximate year of just about every car I see on the road.

What activities or organizations are you involved in?

Elon University encourages students to join any of the hundreds of organizations and clubs on campus. I am a member of Elon’s chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), and I really enjoy meeting with my peers to discuss what’s going on in the industry outside of the classroom setting. I am also a member of Elon’s club soccer team and Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Next year I hope to get involved in Live Oak Communications, Elon’s student-run public relations agency.

If you had a theme song, what would it be? 

This is a tough question because I like so many genres of music, but if I had to choose one song, I would probably choose ‘I Won’t Back Down’ by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

John F. Kennedy. I find Kennedy to be one of the most interesting and inspiring presidents and I would love to pick his brain on just about everything. I went to the same high school that JFK attended in the 1930s, so I would also like to ask him what sort of trouble he caused back in those days.
To apply for an internship at RLF, please send cover letters, resumes and writing samples to

Summer Intern Spotlight: Alex Rossetti

Every summer RLF holds Intern Bootcamp Day to share best industry practices and teach vital skills to incoming interns. Team members give presentations in key areas such as social media, advertising, branding and media relations, often sharing examples from our current clients, to help better prepare our interns for the projects they will be tackling during the summer and give them more insight into how we approach the work we do.
This summer, we are excited to welcome three new interns to the team: Alex Rossetti, Jhanay Davis and Nick Ramsey. Our first spotlight is on Alex.

Alex Rossetti

My name is Alex Rossetti and I am a rising senior at Elon University. I am majoring in strategic communications with double minors in business administration and psychology. I’m originally from Stamford, Connecticut, a large city about an hour outside out of New York City. Outside of my career in public relations, I am a highly competitive golfer and previously played for Elon’s varsity golf team.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would have to visit St. Andrews, Scotland. It has been my dream to play The Old Course since I was a child. One of my friends recently attended St. Andrews University for a year and loved the area. The people are supposedly very nice and the sight seeing is unreal. It’s definitely on my bucket list.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I have mastered the art of cookie making! There are roughly five crucial steps in baking mouth-watering chocolate chip cookies. I wish I could disclose my secrets, but I am under strict orders from my grandma to keep them on the down low.

What activities or organizations are you involved in?

I am the manager of the Elon women’s basketball team. I assist with practices and help run the players through drills. I have always been an active person and love being a part of a team. I also am an account executive with Live Oak Communications, Elon’s own student-run public relations agency. We work with commercial clients on public relations and advertising projects.

If you had a theme song, what would it be?

If I had a theme song, it would have to be “All the Small Things” by Blink-182. They have always been my favorite band because their songs are fun and energetic. It was the first song I learned how to play on the guitar.

If you could have dinner with anyone, dead of alive, who would it be?

It would be a dream come true to have dinner with Arnold Palmer. He was arguably the greatest golfer of all time. He treats his fans well and gives back to the community frequently. His successful business ventures are well documented and he was a great spokesperson for his sponsors during his playing days. Of course we would wash down our meal with a cold glass of iced tea lemonade.
Follow Alex online at
To apply for an internship at RLF, please send cover letters, resumes and writing samples to

Summer Intern Spotlight: Heather Harder

How do RLF interns gain real-world agency experience? They work on a variety of projects for clients in industries ranging from travel and tourism to commercial real estate. An average day might be spent writing a pitch for a national publication or joining an interactive team meeting to discuss project updates.
Our last summer intern spotlight is on Heather.

Heather Harder

I am a strategic communications major at Elon University. As an active Public Relations Student Society of America member and leader, I have been able to travel across the country and learn from public relations leaders. When I’m not practicing public relations, I like to spend time outdoors swimming and hiking.

What is an important lesson you have learned in college?

You can’t do everything. Set priorities, and choose to pursue the things that matter most to you professionally and personally.

What is your dream job?

Media and presentation trainer. I love public speaking and interviewing.

Which summer flick are you most excited about seeing in the theater?

I’m more excited to catch up on old movies, but I’m a Johnny Depp fan, so I’ll say “The Lone Ranger.”

What is a fun fact about you?

I grew up on a wheat farm in eastern Washington.

What is your favorite part of being an intern at RLF so far?

I like the sense of a small community where everyone collaborates on projects. Everyone is very supportive here.
Follow Heather online at @HeathHarder.
To apply for an internship at RLF, please send cover letters, resumes and writing samples to

Summer Intern Spotlight: Liz Jester

RLF holds an intern boot camp each summer to introduce new interns to   best industry practices and past agency projects. Our team members give interactive presentations on social media, advertising, media relations, crisis communications and more. RLF President Monty Hagler recently shared tips he learned at a WORLDCOM global partners meeting in South Korea two months ago.

RLF has four enthusiastic interns this summer. Today’s spotlight is on Liz.

Liz Jester

I am a rising senior at Elon University. I come from Atlanta and am majoring in marketing and international business.

What is an important lesson you have learned in college?

An important lesson I have learned in college is that the older you get, the better it is to be unique. In high school I always thought I was supposed to be normal, but college has taught me that a person’s quirks can help them in their personal and professional life.

What is your dream job?

My dream job would probably be sports or travel related – maybe even both if I’m lucky! I would love to do marketing, brand management, or PR in either of the industries I mentioned, or at an agency.

Which summer flick are you most excited about seeing in the theater?

The movie I most want to see this summer is “Monsters University.” I love Pixar movies. It comes out on my sister’s birthday so hopefully she’ll let me drag her to see it as a “present.”

What is a fun fact about you?

I spent five months last fall as an exchange student in Singapore. I got to travel throughout Southeast Asia during my time there.

What is your favorite part of being an intern at RLF so far?

So far, I love the upbeat atmosphere and how friendly everyone is. I also like getting to do hands-on work; I feel like I have already learned so many new things, particularly about media relations.
Follow Liz online at @elizjester.
To apply for an internship at RLF, please send cover letters, resumes and writing samples to

Summer Intern Spotlight: Trey Newstedt

Not only are internships important for learning valuable industry skills, but also for building diverse portfolios. At RLF, we encourage our interns to keep track of each press release they write, media list they build, and research document they create. These work examples are perfect for creating a portfolio to show future employers.
RLF welcomes four interns to the office this summer. Our second intern spotlight is on Trey.

Trey Newstedt

I graduated from Elon University on May 25 with a major in strategic communications. I am from Winston-Salem, the birth place of Krispy Kreme.

What is an important lesson you have learned in college?

The most important lesson I learned in college was how valuable relationships are. It is important to develop meaningful relationships, both personally and professionally. Strong relationships are what made my college experience so memorable.

What is your dream job?

My dream job would be PR, advertising or marketing for something related to sports, but especially golf. I would really like to work for the PGA Tour because I really want to go to The Masters.

Which summer flick are you most excited about seeing in the theater?

I’m excited about “The Internship” with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. They were great together in “Wedding Crashers” and I’m hoping they’re just as good this time around.

What is a fun fact about you?

I studied abroad in London for three months in the fall of 2011. While in London, I also interned at a boutique PR agency.

What is your favorite part of being an intern at RLF so far?

I like the fact that we’re able to participate in real world media relations. It vastly improves your communications skills when you have to get the attention of journalists.
Follow Trey online at @trey_newstedt.
To apply for an internship at RLF, please send cover letters, resumes and writing samples to

A PR Professional’s Guide to Avoiding Spoilers During the 2012 “Social Olympics”

WARNING: Olympic Spoilers Ahead
By Caroline Nobles

As public relations professionals, so much of our job depends upon staying up on current events and news. In addition to sifting through newspapers and watching local and national TV stations, we must now regularly scan non-traditional media such as blogs, Facebook posts and Twitter feeds for the most recent coverage.
And the current hot topic? The 2012 London Olympic Games. There is a steady barrage of news concerning shattered world records, down-to-the-wire finishes, heartbreaking losses and mind-boggling wins. And all of the event news can be heard, seen or read in real-time thanks to online video streaming and social media updates. The Games were even dubbed the first ever “Social Games” as Twitter recorded 9.66 million tweets just during the Opening Ceremony.

But the trouble with having immediate Olympic results at our fingertips is that some of us still don’t want to know the outcomes until we have the chance to watch the events on television, live or taped. Most avid Olympic fans, such as myself, don’t want to find out via Twitter that Michael Phelps won gold to become the most decorated Olympian, or read on Yahoo! News that defending beach volleyball champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings historically lost their first Olympic set, but managed to dig, set and spike their way to a win. We want to see the action for ourselves.
Here are my tips to help PR professionals avoid spoilers while still staying in the loop throughout the day:
Reset your web browser
During the Olympics, no major online news outlet is safe. It’s almost impossible to avoid the Internet while trying to work during the day, but we can minimize our exposure. Avoid casual news-surfing and use a search engine, such as Google, that doesn’t list real-time news updates. And if you must visit a news outlet like USA Today or The Wall Street Journal, navigate as quickly as possible to the section or search bar you are trying to find. (I recommend holding a hand in front of the computer screen to block scrolling news updates).
Turn the dial down on talk radio
You can tempt fate by hovering over the radio dial in your car, ready to change the station at any one moment should the broadcaster start recapping the daily sporting news, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The risk of overhearing an Olympic event spoiler is too great. Instead, use your commute time to clear your head, outline your work load for the next day, listen to your new audio book, or simply plug in your iPod to eliminate all risk of spoilers.
Limit your social media intake
Twitter may be the most difficult social media outlet to shun during the Olympics. Athletes immediately post to the site to celebrate their medals or the successes of their teammates. If you must check Twitter, you can use applications like Twitter DogHouse or TweetDeck, which allow you to stop following users for a certain amount of time, or filter out words and hashtags associated with the Games.
Even Instagram isn’t safe from Olympic spoilers. The mobile phone app, which allows users to filter and post creative photos to their followers, spoils its own share of surprises for those who follow Olympic athletes. For example, Michael Phelps posted a photo of him and training partner Allison Schmitt, with their silver and bronze medals from the 4×100 freestyle relays, immediately after winning the medals – but long before coverage aired in the U.S. I recommend temporarily un-following Olympic athletes until the Games are over, or avoid the application altogether for a few weeks.
Inform others of your plan
You may do everything correctly, from driving to work without the radio in the background, to staying off Twitter and Instagram, to avoiding all online news sites that may hint at Olympic results, but if you forget to tell your co-workers, family and friends about your mission to avoid Olympic results, all your hard work may be for naught. I know firsthand the feeling of almost making it through a work day with no new Olympic updates until hearing an unknowing co-worker casually exclaim from his office, “Michael Phelps gets the record!” So post a sign outside your office door, send an office-wide email or verbally communicate with your colleagues to let them know of your plan to avoid all real-time Olympic results.
While the Social Olympics are still heating up this week, and many are following the results in real-time via traditional and non-traditional media outlets, rest assured you don’t have to be one of them. It is indeed possible for PR professionals to maintain office productivity while staying away from the daytime Olympic results. And if you falter, it’s not the end of the world. After all, you’ll have another chance to perfect how to watch (or not watch) in 2016!
Photo courtesy of Claire Dancer’s Flickr photostream.

Public Relations is More than Negative vs. Positive Publicity

I’m going to violate our Orange Slices policy of not commenting on how companies handle public relations and media relations. In reading this morning’s Wall Street Journal, I was stunned to read the comments [subscription required] by Bayer CropScience CEO Bill Buckner regarding a tragic explosion at one of its chemical plants in 2008. Buckner is quoted as acknowledging that his company’s response efforts created “confusion and concern” because the company had tried to keep details of the explosion confidential out of a desire to “limit negative publicity.”

Note: If you cannot get to the WSJ article through the link above, you may be able to access it by searching for “bayer wall street journal” and then clicking on the first link, which apparently bypasses the newspaper’s pay wall.

I thought we had moved past the time when corporate CEOs think that they can hide or obscure information simply because they want it that way. That is difficult to do in the best of circumstances. It is virtually impossible to do when your building explodes, fireballs shoot hundreds of feet in the air, two employees are killed and rescue workers are injured. And it did not go unnoted that the chemical the plant produced was the same chemical that leaked from the Union Carbide plant in India that killed 4,000 people in 1984.
However, for our profession, the real issue is not the misguided desire to “limit negative publicity.” It is the continued misunderstanding and misperception that public relations is about good or negative publicity. Public relations is about managing communications with stakeholders who can help or hurt an organization’s mission by what they think, believe, say and do. It is an interactive process and it is an open process that builds trust, understanding and credibility. When the CEO of a major company talks about limiting information and obscuring details so that it could better shape the “public debate,” then we know our profession still has a long way to go in making our voice heard at the management table.