Ryan Ritchie, Director of Federal Relations, visits Washington, D.C. on behalf of clients
"These are uncertain times."
"It’s just the new normal."
"There is light at the end of the tunnel!”
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard these cliches since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m certain I would not be writing this blog and would be sun bathing on my million dollar yacht in Capri. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any such funding, so this is my next best option!
Although overused, these sayings rang true as the RJL Advocacy Team returned to Washington for in-person meetings. Navigating which of the many topics to cover in the seemingly short meetings was daunting. How do you prioritize issues when each of them seem equally pressing? Nonetheless, we made the most of our time with a number of elected officials covering topics of utmost importance to you – our clients. From broadband development to stimulus funding to mental health priorities to federal grant opportunities, we covered it all.
Equally perplexing was figuring out the mask situation in our nation’s capital. Now I know many of you reside outside of Indianapolis, so you may have already returned to casually walking into public establishments without donning a mask; however, I haven’t had the pleasure of doing so since March 2020 (except for the time I forgot to wear one at the grocery store and received my fair share of disapproving looks). Surprisingly, this changed for me when I arrived on the Hill and was told masks were encouraged but not mandatory in the office buildings. After trudging up the (literal) Hill in 90 degree heat, I capitalized on the opportunity and enjoyed the fresh, government laden air. What a thrill!
I know what you’re thinking… “Why does Ryan think we care about his personal problems?”
I don’t. But I do think you’d care to know that things are returning to normal. Nature is healing, people are gathering, relationships are being formed, important conversations are being had; and to take advantage of the many opportunities that await each of our clients, I am proud to say that the RJL Team is back in D.C.
Each and every day, we at RJL Solutions strive to find real solutions to our clients’ most complex issues. We don’t call ourselves a “no worry” firm for nothing. Whether your needs relate to community development, advocacy, communications, or public relations; know that each member of our team is committed to doing what’s best for you and your organization.
RJL Solutions, Indiana-based Government Affairs and Communications Firm, has grown their Community Development team with the hiring of Community Development Specialist, Anwyn Payonk. Payonk, an intern at RJL Solutions from Summer of 2020 to Spring of 2021, spent the last year exploring the firm’s Strategic Communications and Community Development departments as a Communications Associate.
“Anwyn has been an integral part of RJL Solutions for over a year. Her ability to take on new tasks and float between departments is amazing,” states McKenzi Kumpf, Director of Community Development. “She is thoughtful and pays close attention to detail, making her the ideal choice for my growing department.”
Payonk graduated Magna Cum Laude from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in May of 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Minors in Professional Writing and Women’s Studies. During her internship, Payonk gained professional experience from each department including copy editing, writing, social media graphics, public relations and grant writing.
“My time at RJL Solutions has taught me invaluable skills that I look forward to strengthening. Working as an intern in the Community Development and Strategic Communications department has allowed me to grow and embrace my talents in a business setting,” states Payonk. “I’m grateful to be given the opportunity to stay on at RJL and to work under the Community Development department.”
As Community Development Specialist, Payonk will aid Kumpf in grant writing, grant applications and research, as the two continue to serve Indiana communities. RJL Solutions looks forward to the positive impact Payonk will have in and outside of the firm.
a message from Lily Pesavento, Communications Coordinator
If you were to sit and reflect on your career so far, what comes to mind? Is it the pay? Is it the hours? Is it the years of experience? Does it bring you joy? Are you following your dream?
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer. As a kid I told stories to anyone who would listen. Needless to say, I was an annoying child who required lots of attention; my parents deserve an award. Most children wish to be astronauts or presidents or veterinarians. I imagined myself being published. It didn’t matter where, and it didn’t matter when, but I felt an innate need to have my words read by people I would never meet. Perhaps this longing to be recognized by strangers is a sign of an impending God Complex. Perhaps I’ll bring it up in future therapy. Or … I’ll use it to my advantage.
I have written short creative stories, countless essays in college, hundreds of news articles as a journalist and now a handful of blogs and press releases at RJL Solutions. If I had to pick my favorite platform or style, it would be blogging. Each blog I create is carefully thought out and curated to the audience. What will they take away from spending five to ten minutes reading my blog? Will they want to visit or explore the topic I’m covering? I use my personal experiences to make the blog relatable to readers, an example being my pottery date night blog. This piece was effortless to write and even more fun to relive. Every detail is as it happened, from my lack of pottery sculpting skills to the feeling of the clay under my fingernails. Even though I wasn’t a pottery expert, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Deming Park Pottery’s Date Night class and did my best to convey that energy to my readers. My hope is that each blog post, such as my Date Night blog which you can read on See You in Terre Haute’s website, inspires readers to explore the places and events I write about. I encourage readers to make their own experiences and enjoy the town we call home.
When I sit down to write, the swirling thoughts in my brain quiet down. My ears stop ringing, mind stops buzzing. The world around me melts away. It’s an odd experience, fully immersing yourself in your passion, letting the rush take you over until you become the very words you’re writing.
Sure, there are hard days where I really don’t want to write anymore. I become easily frustrated if the words don’t come to me quickly. I become very critical of my abilities. So critical, in fact, that I may fall into the dark blue abyss of mediocrity. And deep within the abyss, lives Writer’s Block, a horrifying monster with hollow eyes and a smarmy yellow grin. He whispers gently in my ear of due dates and upcoming projects. He taunts me in my dreams and keeps me up at night. He seems so intimidating in the dark, but he is nothing in the light. When I feel overwhelmed, I seek the guidance and support of my coworkers. Words of encouragement flow through the office like a rushing river. I swim up through the murky abyss and grab at the bright outstretched hands until I am floating peacefully on the surface.
RJL Solutions accepts me for who I am and finds my quirkiness charming… I think. I’m the girl with seven succulents in her office window and crystals on her desk. I’m the girl who, while everyone else is checking the paper, I’m checking my horoscope. I’m the girl who heard the printer go off while she was left alone in the office and immediately thought, “Ghost. It’s totally a ghost, and I’m stuck here with the ghost.” No, the office isn’t haunted, I am simply paranoid of the paranormal.
Bottom line, RJL Solutions takes you as you are and helps you grow, much like my window succulents. I see myself becoming a better writer under the guidance of my coworkers. I see myself taking on more Public Relations responsibilities and creating more blogs. I see myself staying at RJL Solutions for the long haul, making a positive impact on my community. This is more than just a business. This is a second home, and my coworkers are a second family. We share our worries and our faults. We share our successes and our good news. We go on weekend adventures and discuss our favorite books. We build relationships and trust.
The trust and relationships aren’t exclusive to employees. We extend the same offer to our clients who trust us with something very precious, their vision. Our job is to make your job easier. We provide you the tools to make your dream a reality. Whether it be in the form of social media, public relations, relationship building, advocacy, grant writing, lobbying, marketing or blogging. Blogging offers a unique perspective, an inside look, into your business. Blogging adds a personal touch to marketing campaigns and business models. Consumers want to see the people behind the big business. Who or what do you want to highlight in our next blog?
If I were to reflect on my career so far, I’d find that I am thankful for my past, content in my present and excited for my future and the content I’ll produce for you at RJL Solutions.
a message from Taylor Hollenbeck, Government Relations Associate,
Holtrey brings to the team a passion for design, branding and digital marketing, each founded on her devotion to serve. As Content Strategist, Holtrey will be an important element to RJL’s Strategic Communications department as she will focus her craft on content planning and development, design, analysis, social media and digital marketing strategies. Holtrey is a recent graduate of the University of Louisville where she studied Communication and Sociology. Her experiences are lined in unique internship and leadership positions for renowned companies and brands such as Love Your Melon and J Wagner Group.
"As a creative and one who has a deep passion for the service of others, I am grateful to have a place at RJL Solutions, understanding that everything the company offers is based on solution finding," states Holtrey. "I am certain my skillset will fit perfectly within the team and offer our clients even more solutions and opportunities."
Pesavento joins RJL Solutions as Communications Coordinator where she will be responsible for scheduling, managing communication requests, providing support in project management and leading various communications initiatives in areas including public relations, community development and marketing. Pesavento’s drive comes from storytelling and sharing the elements of any story, large or small. She is a graduate of Indiana State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in Communication with a concentration in Journalism. As a former journalist and consumer representative in the behavioral healthcare industry, Pesavento brings robust knowledge and a deep-rooted love for community.
"Everyone has a story and even the small ones have the potential to make a big difference in the lives of our community members. RJL Solutions has offered me the unique opportunity to seek and find individuals in Indiana waiting for their stories to be told,” states Pesavento. “I'm honored to learn from the leadership team here and find where I fit into RJL's story."
“I had the privilege of being RJL's first intern and now I have the opportunity to work one-on-one with each of our interns as head of the program. Leadership is an integral value at RJL Solutions. Our internship program is designed to support industry related studies, but most importantly, it's designed to create emerging leaders who are well equipped to take on the workforce,” states Anna Madden, Director of Strategic Communications.
RJL Solutions founded its internship program in 2018 because its headquarters was strategically located in Terre Haute, a city consisting of four higher education institutions. Wanting to capitalize on what schools were offering within their curriculum, the company hoped to provide additional value to the students, the institutions and the community as a whole. Today, the company has expanded its services to a downtown Indianapolis-based office where it serves clients from across the state and beyond.
“I believe to better our communities, our state and our nation, we must work together to mentor and offer opportunities to our emerging leaders,” states Rachel Leslie, CEO. “From our first intern, Anna Madden, and beyond, we’ve seen them already make significant, positive impacts in society. Those impacts will make lasting impressions that we’ll be witnessing for some time. I’m thankful to the Indiana Chamber, the Indiana INTERNnet program, their staff and volunteers, and those who were nominated alongside us, for believing in a shared mission.”
Interns at RJL participate in weekly professional development workshops, engage with and are mentored by RJL team members and present a final project presentation at the end of their tenure. Overall, interns are each given real-world and high-level projects to work on, generating an added sense of professionalism, responsibility and trust.
“Our program would not be successful without the institutions who provide the best students, and of course, our interns who continuously bring a unique spark, perspectives and personality to our team each and every semester,” states Madden. “Thank you, Indiana INTERNnet, for recognizing RJL Solutions and our interns.”
RJL Solutions is looking forward to continuing its internship program throughout the state and expand its reach for Hoosier students. To learn more about our internship program, visit www.rjlsolutions.com/internships.html.
An update from Anna Madden, RJL Solutions
Marketing is changing by the minute thanks to a more digital prone world due to events from this past year. The hardest thing you will have to do as a marketer is to re-find your clientele now that homes are major office hubs, and some counties are still requiring businesses to be at half capacity. Marketers are working hard at the beginning of this year to research the new trends and changes in the industry and how we can make this year profitable for our clients after a year that tanked for some industries. Your RJL Solutions’ Strategic Communications Team has made this a goal too. This past month, our marketing team had the opportunity to attend a virtual and rich marketing conference held by the American Marketing Association (AMA). This conference featured speakers from Lucidpress, Sitecore and Tealium, marketing companies with niche focuses on data, branding and digital marketing. Here is what we learned that you need to know while planning your 2021 marketing.
Utilizing Data Effectively
Telling a consistent story through your brand
Brand consistency is of the upmost importance. To feel confident in your brand, it’s imperative that you feel confident in your understanding of two MAJOR players in your game: your consumers and your employees. “24.54% stated that inconsistent branding creates confusion in the market. An inconsistent brand prevents customers from fully recognizing a company and its messaging, which in turn, impacts sales conversions and lead generation,” states Lucidpress, AMA conference guest speaker. The best way to avoid inconsistency is to create (or outsource a marketing agency to create) clear and resourceful brand guidelines. In addition to brand guidelines, you’ll also want someone (or, again, a marketing agency) to monitor your brand and help your company make major decisions, down to smaller decisions such as how a post should be created and the do’s and the don’ts of social posting.
A new trend that was influenced as a result of the pandemic is that sales are shifting from a non-face-to-face format to potential consumers wanting to use text, chat or research on their own. Because of this, it is important that your online content clearly shows your brand with little to no changes in colors, fonts, and design elements. You should include your logo when you can and consider refreshing or adding to your brand through a structured process to allow for more fluidity on the internal creative process. Additionally, what’s being published through marketing channels needs to be consistent with talking points that sales representatives are using. “Sales and marketing alignment helps off set brand inconsistencies, improves communication across teams and ensures your content best reflects customer needs,” states Lucidpress.
Digital Marketing Trends
"Ryan joins the team with an array of knowledge. His extensive understanding of federal initiatives and how they directly impact local and state municipalities and organizations will allow our team to ensure our clients are taking advantage of every opportunity," states Andrianna Hji-Avgoustis, Director of Government Relations. "Ryan's skill-set is certainly a competitive edge and we are happy to have him working alongside us."
Ritchie will work directly with RJL’s clients by providing analyst level support, coordinating legislative efforts by working with state, local and federal government officials and legislators, and implementing strategic high-level initiatives through policy development, relationship-building and intentional partnerships.
“I am deeply honored to join the RJL Solutions Government Relations division. Advocating and finding solutions for issues on the state and federal level has long been a passion of mine,” states Ritchie. “I look forward to working alongside the talented team at RJL Solutions to serve our clients’ needs.”
Ritchie earned his bachelor’s degree from Ball State University and is currently earning his Master of Public Affairs (MPA) from Indiana University. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, attempting new recipes, and reading non-fiction works.
As the firm’s Advocacy and Government Relations Interns, Hensley and Dinkins are tasked with providing supplemental support to the RJL Solutions advocacy department. With the 2021 legislative session in full swing, Hensley and Dinkins are immersed in policy and industry research, client communications and political happenings in and around the state legislature.
Dinkins, a Political Science major at Indiana State University, is passioned with writing and policy analysis. Her previous internship experiences at the U.S. Congress – House of Representatives and Indiana GOP have heightened her political drive and legislative knowledge.
Hensley is obtaining a degree in Communication – Public Relations at Indiana State University. Her past internship experiences and tenure as Student Body President elevates Hensley’s innate ability to lead and facilitate high-level conversations.
Kendall joins the RJL team as the Marketing and Design Intern where she will delve into content creation and planning for RJL and its clients through social media, SEO, web and video design and other digital marketing platforms while analyzing digital relevance and account trends. Kendall is a student athlete at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and is studying Business Administration.
“Each semester, we partner with our local higher institutions to offer some of our region’s best and talented students an internship opportunity,” states Anna Madden, Director of Strategic Communications and head of the internship program. “Our program is designed to provide our interns with a unique, hands-on and experiential learning experience. We hope that through our program, they find a deeper appreciation for their craft and find added skills and confidence to better prepare themselves for the workforce. We are grateful to have these three on board.”
Anwyn Payonk, Communications Associate, continues her extended internship experience this semester as an integral part of the RJL Solutions team.
Although there were (and still are) hardships unique to 2020, did you find peace in having extra time for some reflection?
I enjoyed hunting with my oldest son and learning survival skills from my youngest son using a youth designated survival kit. These are things I’m not sure I would’ve made time for if not in quarantine.
I read. I caught up on books that ended up on a shelf in my office after entering my home. Those books caused me to think differently, develop new leadership skills and share them with others.
I learned new technology (good and bad) and advanced my professional capabilities in the virtual environment.
I licked some toads (Thanksgiving blog). Made long overdue appointments, sent long overdue notes and cards and reconnected virtually with some dear friends.
I stopped and appreciated my RJL family and all we’ve accomplished. I used the time to reflect on each person’s superpower and their unique talents to serve our clients even better.
Now, I’m reflecting on you and your trust. The entire RJL family appreciates you.
If you’ve made it to the end of this message, I have a favor to ask. Please share if you found some peaceful time at home during 2020 and what unique things you were able to accomplish or take on that you wouldn’t have done otherwise. Perhaps we can help one another with some ideas.
May you reflect and be merry!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you,
Chief Executive Officer
As RJL’s Chief Operating Officer, I’ve learned firsthand how important relationships are to the success of our customer service. Through my position, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know our clients personally and build relationships based on trust. These connections developed through good customer service are imperative for a business to grow and succeed. You can offer the best service in the world, but without customer service and individualized communication, it won’t matter.
In 2019, Forbes examined just how essential customer service is for a business. They found that 96% of customers find a company’s customer service an important decider in their loyalty to an organization. In fact, Forbes cited customer service as the top reason clients will choose to leave or discontinue business with a company. If your clients don’t feel appreciated and heard, their loyalty to your business won’t last. Retention and keeping those valued relationships among clients are incredibly important for a growing business. Companies that provide good customer service are five times more likely to have clients purchase from then again and keep their business (Forbes). But it’s not just returning customers that cite customer service as important. Forbes found that brands with higher customer service ratings will bring in 5.7 times more revenue than their competitors who are unable to provide superior customer service experiences. The way you treat clients directly shows them how the company operates and the morals in which they are built on. It tells your clients whether or not they should trust you, do business with you and continue their relationships with your business and its employees.
Customer service strengthens your business and provides all employees the opportunity to grow both within their professional and personal lives. At RJL, our relationship with our clients aids our employees as they gain feedback and continue to better themselves. While customer service can be viewed as a social skill, all it takes is the ability to connect and be open. Excellent service doesn’t come from the chattiest, funniest or most outgoing team member, it comes from an employee and a team who strive to get to know their clients and promote growth. Forbes argues that companies with excellent customer service have employees who are 1.5 times more engaged with them than other organizations. Treating your clients well can empower employees to do better. This attitude opens dialogue for honest evaluations and feelings to be shared. Employees are then able to learn the ways they are impacting the company and the community they serve. Through customer service and honest relationships with clients, a business and its employees can visualize their needs to become better for their clients and their community.
This unique year has taught businesses a lot about their interactions with those they serve. When moving to digital formats, in-person interactions were almost impossible as customer service became exclusively digital. It created a new challenge as many found it harder to connect through a screen. Sitting through meetings with endless lags and constant connectivity issues felt like a bridge that made it impossible to connect with clients and to inspire positive environments. It became even more important to emphasize the relationships built upon good customer service and continue to provide high level attention and detail through digital relationships. When your customer service is rooted in authenticity and a genuine want to help those you work with, the relationships can survive and thrive in any format.
“It exhilarates me to be submerged in new work that will challenge me in the best possible way,” states Collett. “The culture that Rachel Leslie, CEO, has created inspires a drive to advocate for RJL’s clients and the community. I am looking forward to learning more about relationship-building, effective communication, and the professional team environment in my time at RJL.”
Collett, a Terre Haute native, is currently working to complete his M.A. in communications at the University of Kentucky while he plays in his final year of eligibility for the university’s baseball team. Through his support in athletics, Collett has been able to begin cultivating relationships rooted in advocacy through his volunteer work with the UK Kentucky Children’s Hospital and the Jessie Reers Foundation. Collett is currently home for an extended winter break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His love for his hometown community and passion for advocacy are what influenced him to find internship opportunities in Terre Haute during this break period.
“It’s always incredibly exciting to welcome a new intern to the RJL team,” states Anna Madden, Director of Strategic Communications for RJL’s Indianapolis office and head of RJL’s intern program. “At RJL, we believe in giving our interns thought-provoking work that connects them directly with clients and real-world experience. TJ is bringing a strong work ethic and charisma to the team. I can’t wait to see all he is able to accomplish with our government relations team.”
How we face our individual circumstances are undoubtedly setting the stage for how we lead our organizations, businesses, educational institutions, communities – maybe all of the above. Have you changed the way you lead and see things? I have to admit, for me, everything shifted so quickly I found myself making the best decisions I knew in the moment using my leadership style (or at least I think I did). While living in the reactive frame brings me down and shuts down my futuristic vision, my ability to see beyond two or three years, it did cause me to reflect on what I needed to do to switch modes.
The proactive frame of mind, especially going into the holidays brings hope. From a grateful heart at Thanksgiving, to the magic of Christmas, to the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, which will undoubtedly have new found meaning, this time of year offers pause. Although this sounds insightful, I secretly wish the mode shift from reactive to proactive was like switching a toy from demo mode to on. Perhaps that would make our lives a little easier, but it’s just not that simple.
A friend bought me a book titled, Your Oxygen Mask First: 17 Habits to Help High Achievers Survive & Thrive in Leadership & Life by Kevin N. Lawrence. Although it was a simple read, the basic concepts are not only good reminders, but they’re slap-you-in-the-face type of reminders. Chapter Five, Licking Your Toads, suggests that getting the things you don’t want to do done and checked off your list is remarkably important to leading effectively.
“You may delay, but time will not.” – Benjamin Franklin
It offers a step-by-step guide such as first identifying your toads, taking action on them and then setting a timeline (specifically 10 days).
I’m spending the weeks ahead licking my toads, preparing for the future and working to switch my mode from reactive to proactive. I should note, I’m encouraging my team to do the same. My list is likely to include more life items, personal things that will allow me to shift how I lead in 2021. I’m committed to changing from demo mode to on at the drop of the ball at midnight. In that moment, I will no longer reflect on 2020, but consider the difference I plan to make after 2021.
If we’re all in this together, no generational divides, but truly, a society faced with the same enemy, it seems the history books will be written about those who stood above everyone else. My guess is the story will be about those who didn’t live in reactive mode for very long.
So, lick your toads accordingly, and cheers to 2021!
a message from Andrianna Hji-Avgoustis, Director of Government Relations
This year’s Indiana legislative session brings in a wave of change, as lawmakers grapple with COVID-19 and the impacts to the state budget. Although we all know the legislative session is important, why our state legislative session matters can sometimes get lost. However, this year, we need to all pay even closer attention as lawmakers work to save the state from the unforeseen consequences from the pandemic.
The Indiana legislature represents all of us throughout the state. Each individual neighborhood, school district, community, business, or county has representation and can fight for their unique issues to protect and see positive change. With all that is going on all over the world, each of us will be impacted by what our state legislators decide. I implore us all to find our voice, advocate, and educate fellow Hoosiers to get involved in this process because it is a vitally important year.
Andrianna’s passions in her work are rooted in her education background as she holds a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in Public Affairs with coursework in law and political science and a Master of Public Administration from Indiana University Purdue University of Indianapolis (IUPUI) with a concentration in Environmental Policy and Sustainability.
a message from McKenzi Kumpf, Community Development Specialist
In the world of grant development, it’s important to have thick skin. With numerous grants available and many different projects seeking to be funded, the opportunities are large but the competition is fierce. It’s a reality we have to understand. Rejection is inevitable. Having a project rejected isn’t easy. It hurts. One can have an amazing application for a strong project and still get a letter back saying, “We regret to inform you that your project has not been selected for funding at this time.” This is a phrase we dread to hear in the grant industry. But rejection doesn’t mean it is over, so don’t throw in the towel just yet. Here are four things you should do if your grant application is rejected.
Take Feedback and Look for Improvements
Wait for the Next Round of Funding or Search for New Opportunities
About McKenzi Kumpf
McKenzi is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College where she received a degree in Professional Writing. Her course curriculum and internships strengthened her interest and skills in the grant writing industry. In her free time, McKenzi coaches volleyball at The Academy Volleyball Club in Indianapolis. As a former student athlete, McKenzi’s competitive edge is lined with grit and grace which she brings each day to the RJL Solutions team.
a message from Anwyn Payonk, an RJL Intern
The word “internship” will strike fear into any 20-something college student. For many of us, it’s a requirement or an obligation. While my degree didn’t require an internship to graduate, it still seemed like something I needed to do. Writing was a passion of mine, but I wasn’t sure how to channel that passion into a career. I knew how to apply my writing in skills in a classroom, but beyond that I had no clue as to how the world worked. My mother tried assuring me that an internship would help me find that passion. As all 21-year-old girls do to their mom, I shrugged it off and thought I didn’t need to listen.
I had always envisioned internships in a very stereotypical way - making copies, getting coffee and cleaning up the office. I didn’t want to do this. I needed a place to apply my skills and gain the mentorship to grow them. I’ll be honest, I felt a little lost with my future. I wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure what
When I applied to intern at RJL, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard good things from past interns, but my sardonic personality couldn’t help but think of all the intern horror stories I’d seen online from random strangers at random companies. However, at the start of my interview I knew I had found something special. It felt like a casual conversation in which people were truly trying to get to know me. They wanted to know my skills but also what I wanted in an internship, not just what they imagined. I was an individual with aspirations to them and not a possible coffee runner. When I was asked about my writing, I felt an odd sense of pride. I knew I had finally found the opportunity to use my skills in a meaningful and real-world way.
An internship can elevate you in ways you didn’t know it could. During my internship at RJL, I was extremely lucky to be surrounded by mentors and supervisors who trusted me and wanted to see me succeed. I was assigned tasks that were beyond my comfort level but pushed me to be better as a professional and as a writer. Doors to opportunities were not just opened for me, they were flung open at rapid rates. I was handed task after task that taught me something new. Blog posts, press releases and website copy became new ways in which I was able to express my passion for writing in the real world. I had always loved writing. Of course, I did. It’s why I chose English as a major in college. But I had a very narrow view of how writing applied to the real world. Being an intern opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I could do with my degree and skill. RJL gave me the opportunity to use my writing for social media, ghost writing, data analysis, press releases and more. A passion for writing didn’t have to be confined to writing books or papers. It could be used in multiple aspects that go beyond the world of academia. As an intern, you have to seize the opportunities thrown at you. At the core of almost all my tasks as an intern was writing. I was fortunate to be at a company where they heard what I wanted. I wanted to write, so they gave me varying tasks that involved just that. I was given the opportunity to constantly be learning about myself, a business and writing. It was essential to not just my success at RJL, but RJL’s success overall. I was becoming an integral part of RJL because they trust their interns and want to see them succeed.
Internships get a bad reputation. Some deservedly so, but if you truly find a company that wants to see you succeed and wants to see you elevate yourself as a young professional, the opportunities are endless. Paying attention, giving your best and, most importantly, working hard, will allow you to find new opportunities that can help you find your niche and your passion.
a message from Taylor Hollenbeck, Government Relations Associate
Have you ever wondered where your taxes go, what they are used for or why they keep increasing? Why are our students going to school earlier in the year and getting out later? When will that pothole get fixed or the lanes expanded to prevent the morning road rage?
Growing up, I never understood why my parents were always concerned about these issues. Why they would write letters to the editor or attend local community meetings where maybe five people showed up on a good day. How was this helpful to them and the entire community? Now that I own my home, I can’t help but wonder why I still haven’t gotten involved in my local government, written letters to the editor or attended local decision-making meetings. I have concerns about my daily commute, safety, economic development opportunities and taxes. I should not and cannot rely on others to make MY voice heard and make my community a better place to live.
Before we dive into the next piece of federal policy, let’s first take a step back and ask ourselves what we are doing to better our local community. The policies made by councilmen/women and county commissioners are going to have an immediate and lasting impact on the community compared to the slower pace of the federal government. Our local communities’ decisions have a much more direct effect on ordinary day-to-day activities compared to state and federal government. We have more opportunities to make our opinions, concerns and praises heard by our local elected officials. It is our duty to serve in the community where we live by becoming prominent leaders and active residents. Simply put, it is our responsibility to serve our neighbors to enhance our quality of life.
Some examples of ways to enhance your local community and make your voice heard include:
- Writing letters to local community leaders and publications
- Attending City Council meetings
- Signing up for monthly newsletters from organizations and leaders within your community
- Voting in local elections
- Volunteering for local and community organizations
- Submitting recommendations and requests for improvements in a community
- Participating in and completing surveys sent out to communities
Find out who your state and local leaders are by visiting http://iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/ and by exploring your local city and county government websites.
About Taylor Hollenbeck
Taylor obtained her bachelor’s degree in political science from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Prior to her tenure at RJL Solutions, Taylor held the Director of Legislative Affairs position in the Office of Indiana Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch. Before that, she was a legislative assistant and, prior to that, a legislative intern. She also volunteers as co-director of a local pageant affiliated with the Miss America Organization.
RJL Solutions is excited to welcome our new Executive Assistant, Christina Pearison, MLD, to the team. As the Executive Assistant, Pearison will serve as administrative support to the Chief Executive Officer and the executive team of RJL Solutions as well as be responsible for daily business operations.
“Christina’s attention to small details and the passion she exhibits for her community makes her an excellent fit for the position and within the culture of RJL Solutions,” states CEO, Rachel Leslie.
“It’s been said that the difference between a job and a career is the passion behind the drive, and I am so excited that my passion and purpose has crossed paths with RJL Solutions,” states Christina Pearison. “To be given this opportunity to work with such amazing leaders is not only exciting, it’s empowering. I can’t wait to see where this journey."
In just 3 short years, the RJL Solutions team has grown from 1 full-time employee and 1 part-time employee to 10 full-time employees and 3 part-time interns. As an Indiana certified woman-owned enterprise, RJL Solutions continues to grow not only in size, but in services and reach throughout the state of Indiana. Established in 2017, RJL Solutions began as a Terre Haute-based advocacy firm. Adding a strategic communications department was one of the company’s first major decisions after opening in order to provide advocacy clients with other needed services such as public relations, web design, brand strategy and social media marketing. The department quickly grew from one employee to five within 18 months’ time.
Now, with an additional office in Indianapolis and clients all across the state, the firm's services include advocacy, community development, grant writing and marketing. RJL Solutions quickly outgrew its first location on 7th Street in Terre Haute, and in October 2018, the team moved to the second floor at 1125 Wabash Ave. Recently, CEO Rachel Leslie purchased the building and expanded to the main level. In early 2020, RJL Solutions established its first Indianapolis office.
“We have grown quickly yet intentionally since opening three years ago. We have created a pattern of constant planning, implementing, and reevaluating to meet the growing needs of the communities we serve,” states Rachel Leslie, CEO. “We consistently think very deliberately about our services, desired markets, and most importantly, our employees and empowering them to lead and grow alongside RJL Solutions. These changes make sense for all of the above.”
The changes Leslie is referring to include:
“We are taking the contemporary CFO approach. This position will not just be managing finances, but will contribute to the strategic growth of RJL Solutions as we expand to other markets across the state of Indiana - using data to make decisions. Betsy has the perfect balance of analytical and big picture thinking that we need in this position,” states Leslie.
As CFO, Elliott will be responsible for maintaining the financial well-being of RJL Solutions and driving sustainable growth of the company. This position will also provide leadership, management and vision in the areas of budgeting, quality control, information technology, project management, and strategic communications to ensure the proper financial performance and strength of RJL Solutions.
Elliott was Leslie’s first hire at the company. She has a bachelor’s degree from Indiana State University, a master’s degree from Eastern Illinois University, and most recently completed the Master of Leadership Development program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
As Senior Director of Strategic Communications, Gifford will be responsible for leading the development of strategic communications programs and elevating the profile of RJL Solutions and its clients. She will also lead the expansion of the strategic communications department to other markets, starting with Indianapolis, overseeing headquarters and any satellite locations.
“Shelby is perfect for this position because she can think creatively yet also manage the operational aspect of the position,” states Elliott. “One strength of hers that I am excited to see her develop is the ability to connect the dots between projects and clients to create a full picture. She thinks strategically about collaborative opportunities and provides solutions for how to implement.”
Gifford studied marketing and journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and her previous work at Clabber Girl allowed her to explore her skills in design, analytics, photography and content creation.
Originally from Indianapolis, Madden began her tenure at RJL Solutions as an intern while obtaining her bachelor’s degree in marketing with a minor in French from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She also recently completed the Master of Leadership Development program and is an active SMWC alumni board member.
“We knew we were ready for a full-time strategic communications employee in Indianapolis, and we knew Anna was personally ready to get back to that location,” states Elliott. “It is a mutually beneficial move and a shining example of how we have built the culture at RJL Solutions to promote employee growth and opportunity.”
Madden will be responsible for leading the development of the strategic communications presence at the already-established Indianapolis office, bringing the total number of Indianapolis employees to three.
As Community Development Specialist, Kumpf will be responsible for growing the community development services of RJL Solutions and leading initiatives in data collection and analysis, grants development, and strategic planning.
“Grants and community development is perhaps our fastest-growing service right now,” states Hannah Pruitt, Chief Operating Officer at RJL Solutions. “When we hired McKenzi, we knew we had found something special, and she has continued to reinforce that by growing our grant writing offerings exponentially. We know she’ll do the same for community development now that we’ve expanded her role to include these strategies. She is already thinking strategically in matching opportunities and potential partnerships for clients.”
Kumpf is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College where she received a degree in professional writing. Her course curriculum and internships strengthened her interest and skills in the grant writing industry, and her time spent at RJL Solutions since being hired in January have given her a newfound passion for community development.
“As RJL Solutions continues to grow, it became important for us to provide support to the Indianapolis office not only during session but all year long,” states RJL Solutions CEO Rachel Leslie. “While Taylor will work with our clients from every location – West Central Indiana to statewide – we knew that it was time to increase our presence in the Indianapolis market.”
As Government Relations Associate at RJL Solutions, Hollenbeck will assist in the development and implementation of strategic high-level initiatives for clients which include policy development, relationship-building, collaboration and partnerships at local, state, and federal levels. Additionally, this position will be key in the analysis of proposed legislative actions, determining the potential impact and developing appropriate responses.
“Taylor brings extensive knowledge in policy analysis and the creation of advocacy strategies that have proven successful,” states RJL Solutions Director of Government Relations Andrianna Hji-Avgoustis. “Her experience has given her in-depth knowledge of the legislative process and the proven ability to form strong connections with key stakeholders. She’ll definitely be a gamechanger for our Indianapolis office and the entire company.”
Hollenbeck obtained her bachelor’s degree in political science from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Before serving in the Lt. Governor’s Office, Hollenbeck was a legislative assistant and, prior to that, a legislative intern. She also volunteers as co-director of a local pageant affiliated with the Miss America Organization.
a message from Vittoria Meyer, Business Development Specialist
As Business Development Specialist at RJL Solutions, listening has become a significant part in my every day role. As the liaison and committed contact for our clients, it is my job to take what a client shares with me, whether it be opportunities, hurdles or distant visions, and digest them to generate solutions and tangible outcomes. By listening, I am able to ask probing questions and draw answers and information that might not be evident from the start. Many times, this leads the conversation through a stream of processes in which ideas unravel, creativity flourishes and resolutions become evident.
Over the last 4 months, normalcy generated a new feel. Many things were changing, including my role at RJL Solutions as I entered into the position of Business Development Specialist. As many of us know, business development quickly looked different as companies and organizations began strategizing under perimeters they hadn't experienced before. Priorities shifted, mindsets changed and business models pivoted with the times. Listening suddenly had a heightened level of responsibility and significance. Listening became make or break, success or failure.
Today, listening has become more of a normal in our society. We tend to stop and listen to the response at the end of the standard passing question of "how are you?" Genuine asks replace those that were used as a standard greeting. Today, we listen quite differently.
At RJL Solutions, I continue to hold this virtue as part of my standard business practice and integrate it into every facet of client relations. There are plenty more stories to be told and listening to be done. What are you ready to share?
About Vittoria Meyer
A talented writer and client liaison, Vittoria specializes in understanding our clients and telling their stories. Her personable skills and strategic approach to solution finding is integrated throughout every client relationship where she is able to identify opportunities that fit each client’s unique needs and organizational goals. Meyer provides a link between clients and the essential resources needed to bring them winning successes.
Meyer graduated from Indiana State University in 2018 with a degree in communication/public relations and a minor in marketing. Vittoria’s education has given her practical experience in campaign and event planning, digital and social media marketing and public relations. Meyer’s academic achievements include Cum Laude Latin Honors, Lambda Pi Eta National Communication Association Honor Society, Dean’s List, Academic Distinction Scholarship, and Summer Honors Scholarship. She has recently completed the Purdue Extension Leadership Program in the 2019-2020 cohort and looks forward to her next leadership endeavor.
Vittoria Meyer Promoted to
“I look forward to serving and elevating our clients in this newfound role,” Meyer states. “It energizes me to work one-on-one with clients, strategize solutions and identify unique opportunities that fit each clients’ unique needs and organizational models.”
Working as Business Development Specialist, Meyer will work closely with RJL Solutions’ clients by strengthening relationships and helping them succeed. Her writing and public relations expertise will be instrumental in RJL’s continued growth as she will be responsible for expanding its clientele and serving as a liaison for the company and its clients. Meyer will provide a link between clients and the essential resources needed to bring them winning successes.
“This position is essential for elevating RJL Solutions and each of our clients as it creates an added level of understanding, communication and solution-finding,” states Hannah Pruitt, RJL Solutions’ COO. “Vittoria is a strategic and creative thinker. This, mixed with her relatable and personable personality provides attributes that are vital for this role.”
After graduating from ISU in 2018, Meyer was immediately hired at RJL Solutions as Operations Manager. She quickly established herself as a young professional and as an individual on the RJL team. Meyer worked closely with CEO Rachel Leslie and was a critical asset in establishing the operational successes of RJL Solutions. In 2019, she was promoted to Public Relations Specialist, housed under the Strategic Communications department. In this role, she was able to establish her writing and media relations skills. These, amongst others, provide a unique skillset for her new role.
“I believe I have an interesting perspective having worked under RJL’s CEO and having worked for the Strategic Communications department. My tenure at the company has elevated me in areas I can succeed in, but most importantly in areas where I can ensure and contribute to our clients’ successes,” Meyer continues. “RJL Solutions, CEO Rachel Leslie and the entire team has established a road lined in leadership and possibility. I know this will remain true for this new opportunity.”
Aside from her work at RJL, Meyer recently became a graduate of Purdue Extension Leadership Vigo County. During this six-month process, she received a certificate of completion for the program’s training in leadership development. This experience elevated her leadership skills and gave her the opportunity to engage with members of her community. Aside from work, Meyer is an avid yoga fan. In her free time, she loves to travel, read and, of course, write.