Name: Rachel (Nelson) Marsden
LCA Graduation Year: 2006
Education: Grove City College – BS in Business Management, Minor in Communication Studies
Babson College – MS in Entrepreneurship
Place of Employment: Inkhouse PR (https://inkhouse.com/)
- What brought you to LCA and what was your experience like?
We had access to a great public school system in our hometown (Dover, MA) but by 5th grade, both my twin sister Hannah and I were still really shy. We struggled with confidence to speak up in class or try out for sports. Our parents recognized that a smaller school setting with more 1:1 instruction from teachers might help us grow. And it did! Entering LCA at 6th grade was a perfect opportunity for us to try new things – we were able to jump into sports, theater, music, etc. – and grew a lot of confidence and friends along the way.
- What activities were you involved in while at LCA?
One of the most memorable (and impactful) activities I was involved in was cross country. My sister and I started during the preseason of our first year, so it was one of the first activities we tried. We didn’t love running at the time – plus there weren’t many girls on the team. So during both practices and races, we would be in the back of the group. 🙂 Through practice and hard work, I got faster. By high school, I was finishing in the top runners and became the captain of our team. The confidence it gave me set me on a path to be a runner and athlete throughout my life, running competitively in college, completing 7 marathons and most recently, an olympic triathlon in 2019.
- Which LCA faculty member(s) impacted you the most while at LCA?
I don’t think there’s one faculty member who impacted me most, but an experience and teacher that helped shape my career path was Jake Hoffman – he was my professor in chemistry among other science classes, all of which I was not good at! I was a pretty good student overall but I did not do well in biology or chemistry. And ironically, a career I had always dreamed about was marine biology. Mr. Hoffman gave his students many opportunities to learn, but he also was no-nonsense: if you got a poor grade, that was your grade. Being in his classes and not succeeding helped me realize it wasn’t the right path for me, which was a good thing.
- Is there a piece of advice would you give to a student entering LCA today?
I’d tell a student entering LCA that you are in a great place to grow and to be yourself. Be authentic and kind, show integrity and work your hardest. These qualities will set you apart in college, in your career and whoever you ultimately work for.
- Tell us about the road to your current career.
In undergrad at Grove City College, I worked on campus as a tour guide and also with the theatre department doing public relations (PR) – that’s where my curiosity around the field started and I ultimately minored in Communications. In 2010 after I graduated, I was fortunate to get a job as a sales/marketing consultant with a medical devices company that introduced me to the broader world of marketing. I took a break for a year to earn my Masters at Babson College, and then I was back at square one wondering what to do next. A family friend of my parents led me to Inkhouse, a tech public relations agency. The minute I met the founders (both women) and team, I knew I wanted to work there. That’s where I’ve been ever since!
- Tell us about your role and responsibilities in your job.
I’m currently a Vice President at Inkhouse, a bicoastal public relations agency of about 140 employees. I started as an intern in late 2013, and worked my way up through the organization to vice president today. At its core, PR is about communicating company messages to key audiences. Today, I set the strategic direction for our clients’ communications programs, working with teams of 5-10 people. We have offices in San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and New York – although in the past year, COVID-19 has taught us that our team can collaborate virtually from anywhere – and we’re embracing a hybrid model in 2021.
- What are the most challenging aspects of your current job?
The media environment is constantly changing and evolving – just think what a long way we are from the newspapers that used to be people’s main source of news! The past few years have brought even more change, accelerated by social media platforms, the political climate and COVID-19. Newsrooms have shrunk, paywalled content is more common in the business and technology press and there has been a rise in newsletters allowing reporters autonomy to reach their readers directly. Amongst all these changes, we have to find ways to break through and get our clients in front of the right audiences at the right time, so they can grow and attract customers. What worked yesterday won’t work tomorrow or next week. We have to be nimble and that’s hard, but it’s also an exciting challenge.
- What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of agency life is the diversity of my day-to-day job – each day looks a little different. You could draft a plan for your day but have that completely derailed by 8am due to breaking news. It’s not boring! But in general, what I love most about my work is the opportunity to manage teams and people and to work with smart, motivated colleagues who I can learn from everyday. I have found that happiness at work is really all about the people and environment you work in. If you feel appreciated, challenged and respected at work – the hard, uncomfortable or unenjoyable things about the job (which will exist in every job) – matter much less.
- What would you say are the top requirements (skills, mind-set, etc.) for someone entering this line of work?
Every PR professional needs to be a good communicator (both written and oral), detail-oriented and organized. Those are some of the most non-negotiable skills. From a mindset perspective, some of the top requirements are being adaptable and having thick skin. You can’t take things personally and you need to be really good at accepting rejection and moving on (which has been a tough one for me!) You’ll get a “no” from 15 reporters on a story idea before you get one “yes”. Your company (if you work internally in communications), or your clients (if you work at an agency) are getting pressure from all sides, so they will forget your accomplishments of yesterday pretty quickly. You need to be ready to pivot and secure a “win” for today.
- If you could offer just one piece of career advice to students, what would it be?
It is completely okay to not know exactly what you want to do next. The most important thing is to work hard and try things. You’re in the best time of your life to take risks – apply for that internship and see what happens. If you don’t get it, that’s a good thing: growth comes from discomfort. Lean into it!
- Are there any reflections you would like to add?
Amidst the homework, projects and assignments, remember that you are working towards something. I’m very grateful to LCA for the skills I learned that still serve me today – such as being a strong writer, and editor. Learning and growing in a supportive environment allows you to fail but get back up and pursue a different opportunity, and that’s critically important in life.