Let us reflect on 2020...
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
a Message from Hannah Pruitt, COO of RJL Solutions
To operate a thriving business, the relationships within it must be solid and rooted in authenticity. At RJL Solutions, that is something we pride ourselves in maintaining. When I talk about the relationships within a business, I mean everything. From the relationships with coworkers to those we have with our clients; we must cultivate authentic conversations that create safe environments that allow for everyone to be heard. This, to me, is customer service.
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.
RJL Solutions, a local government relations and public affairs firm headquartered in Terre Haute, Indiana, welcomes TJ Collett to the team as a government relations intern. In this role, Collett will be working with the RJL Advocacy team as they prepare for the 2021 Legislative Session. Collett will aide in extensive research for the team and will be given the opportunity to learn more about lobbying, policy and government relations.
“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.”
Other than the various risk factors, society has faced the pandemic together with no real generational divides. From our great grandparents to our children, every life is impacted by what we’ve faced and continue to endure with COVID-19. Although the impacts may be different based on circumstances, the world has shifted. In many cases, it has caused a pause for reflection, a time to decide what is important and shift accordingly to our individual situations.
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
Lawmakers will be tackling issues that directly impact each of us ranging from unemployment, job security, taxes, business protections, and budgetary matters. The advocacy and government relations team at RJL Solutions will be in the trenches on all issues and ensuring we are an accurate source of information. In recent months, we moved into a new office in downtown Indianapolis, directly across from the Statehouse. Because of this, we have readily available access to all that is happening with the Statehouse and can react fast. Since session logistics are still unknown, our new office space allows us to continue to advocate and interact with legislators following proper social distancing and mask policies. Although session may look a little different this year, our strategies and tactics will remain the same as we continue to push and represent all our clients.
A dedicated advocate, ambassador and former Legislative Assistant for the Indiana Senate Majority, Andrianna Hji-Avgoustis brings her passion for policy, change and legislation to the RJL Solutions team. Andrianna's background in public policy and government relations adds proficiency and knowledge to the team and has allowed the firm to expand in the Indianapolis area and statewide.
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
First and foremost, do not get discouraged that your application was rejected. It doesn’t diminish your project’s worth! There are many applicants for one funding opportunity, and we need to understand the fact that not every project can be funded. Oftentimes, it’s a matter of scoring criteria and competition. An application with a lower score may get funded this year because the competition was low, while a high-scoring application may get rejected next year because more competing projects applied. In grant writing, persistence is key. Breathe, dust yourself off, and get back up again.
The great thing about grants is the funder usually presents an opportunity to sit down and provide feedback over your application, or at the very least will send written feedback via email upon request. Take this opportunity! In fact, ask for it! The worst the funder can say is, “No.” And they usually won’t. In gaining that feedback, not only will you learn how to create a stronger application and make improvements where needed, you establish a connection with the funder. This gives you the opportunity to have a contact to reach out to should additional questions arise during the application process.
Take Feedback and Look for Improvements
After you receive feedback from the funder, talk through the feedback with your team while going through the application. The feedback will give you a fresh perspective on your proposal, and you will be able to see what the funder saw, strategize and make the necessary updates.
Wait for the Next Round of Funding or Search for New Opportunities
You’ve taken the breath, received the feedback and made the improvements to your application. Now, it’s time for the next round. When the next round is announced, review the grant guidelines for any new information that may have been added from the last and get to work. Keep in mind, you are not limited to apply for the same grant. Another opportunity may come available before the next round of funding that fits your project proposal and eligibility requirements. Should that opportunity arise, go for it! You’ve done the groundwork. You’ve done the hard part. No un-funded grant application is a failure because you now have a starting point, messaging and data to use to apply for future opportunities.
Grants have the ability to help businesses and organizations through difficult times, jumpstart projects and change communities. Your project is worth pursuing, but it’s not always easy. There are occasional roadblocks that will pop-up even though we try our best to avoid them. The project may not receive funding the first time around, but that doesn’t mean the dream is dead. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t be afraid or too discouraged to try again.
About McKenzi Kumpf
As RJL's Community Development Specialist, McKenzi specializes at telling communities' stories. Within her first year at RJL, she has been able to obtain millions of dollars in funding for various communities throughout Indiana. A talented grant writer and natural storyteller, she works closely with all departments at RJL Solutions to correctly tell each client's unique and individual story. McKenzi becomes the wordsmith many clients need to achieve their goals and find opportunities. Not only that, but her hidden talent lies in video design in editing.
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
career path was for me. I had not been presented with the opportunity to use my passion anywhere except a classroom. I wanted to find a place where I could use writing in the real world and be taken seriously as a young professional.
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
Take our great country for example. When the United States first formed, we did not have a federal government. In fact, our “states” were still considered commonwealths able to implement their own local regulations and policies. These in turn reflected the local communities’ ideals and priorities. Members had the opportunity to work with their local leaders to encourage change in policies to create a COMMUNITY for the common good. These opportunities STILL exist today, but surprisingly few community members take advantage of them.
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:
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
As the firm’s Government Affairs Associate, Taylor brings extensive knowledge in policy analysis and the creation of advocacy strategies that have proven successful. Her in-depth knowledge of the legislative process alongside her proven ability to form strong connections with key stakeholders provides an added layer of strategy and collaboration for high-level initiatives.
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.
Prior to her role at RJL, Pearison served as the Director of Faculty and Development at the Osler Institute where she was responsible for recruiting, coordinating medical meetings and contract negotiations. In this position, she developed key communication and organizational skills and is well-equipped to work in a fast-pace environment. In addition, Pearison and her husband are Owners of Divine Construction located in Sullivan, Indiana where Pearison serves as the Director of Interior Design. She is involved with many local businesses and at her church, Abundant Grace, and participates in local organizations and fundraisers.
“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."
Pearison graduated from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College with a Bachelor of Science in Human Resources with a minor in Business Management. In August of this year, she received her Master of Leadership and Development from the Woods. Most recently, she completed the first Graduate Certification in Women’s Leadership.
Just a few weeks after adding another team member to their advocacy department in the Indianapolis office, RJL Solutions, an advocacy and strategic communications firm headquartered in Terre Haute, announces internal changes with more growth in Indianapolis as the driving goal. With one strategic communications team member elevating to an executive level role, another being promoted from within, another moving to lead an Indianapolis division for the department and yet another being elevated to lead community development initiatives, RJL Solutions has big plans that align these changes for the strategic growth of the company.
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:
Betsy Peperak, former Director of Strategic Communications, becomes Chief Financial Officer.
Shelby Gifford, former Digital Marketing Manager, becomes Senior Director of Strategic Communications.
Anna Madden, former Assistant Director of Strategic Communications, becomes Director of Strategic Communications - Indianapolis.
McKenzi Kumpf, former Grants Coordinator, becomes Community Development Specialist.
“It’s a lot of change and a lot of growth when you put it on paper,” states Leslie. “But we don’t really know any different! We are always thinking of how we can evolve, and we have a culture that supports that. These internal changes will allow us to better serve our current and future clients as we expand to new markets. I’m excited for what our future holds. We aren’t planning on slowly down any time soon.”
RJL Solutions, an advocacy and strategic communications firm headquartered in Terre Haute, Indiana, has added a second full-time employee to their Indianapolis office. Taylor Hollenbeck joins the team, bringing previous experience in government relations, most recently as Director of Legislative Affairs in the Office of Indiana Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch.
“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
Listening. It seems like such an easy task, an easy thing to do. As humans, we've been doing it from day one. We were taught when we were kids to listen up and quiet down. To an extent, it has been engraved into our very nature. However, listening with heart and the full intention to understand is an acquired skill.
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
Vittoria Meyer, former Public Relations Specialist, was recently promoted to Business Development Specialist at public affairs firm, RJL Solutions. Within this new role, Meyer is responsible for building relationships with prospective and current clients, communicating the benefits of the company’s services and providing excellent client service to partners of RJL Solutions.
“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.
RJL Solutions, a local public affairs firm, recently hired three summer interns: Anwyn Payonk, a senior from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College; Ashley Salesman, a senior from Indiana State University; and Abigail Wilson, a senior from Indiana State University.
“RJL Solutions seeks applicants who exemplify leadership qualities because every RJL employee is a leader on their own. Our interns support our mission to advance Indiana communities as well as take initiative in their daily tasks,” states Anna Madden, Assistant Director of Strategic Communications. “RJL’s internship program provides professional development and elevates individuals. We give them great opportunities through hands-on experience. Our interns take on high-level work that a lot of other places don’t allow interns to do. We choose leaders because we have opportunities for them.”
Anwyn Payonk, of Champaign, Ill., public relations intern, provides support to RJL Solutions in copy editing, writing and researching. Anwyn is currently pursuing a degree in English with minors in professional writing and women’s studies. At Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, she gained experience as a writing tutor and Learning Resource Center assistant as well as serving as a Student Senate representative. After graduating, she hopes to earn an MA and eventually a Ph.D. in the literature and writing field.
“I love the foundation of RJL and what it stands for,” states Anwyn. “As a certified woman-owned business, it is empowering and motivating me to expand my knowledge and skills not just as a writer but as a young professional.”
Ashley Salesman, of Terre Haute, Ind., marketing and design intern, supports the team in social media management, content creation and website design. She is currently working towards a degree in communications with a minor in marketing. Along with RJL, Ashley works as a marketing specialist at Gibson Real Estate. At ISU, Ashley is extremely involved, serving as Zeta Tau Alpha historian, State Dance Marathon captain, and a National Honor Society member. When Ashley graduates this December, she hopes to continue working in marketing in the Terre Haute area.
“RJL has offered me the tools for success,” stated Ashley. “I am able to strengthen my design and marketing skills while maintaining and improving relationships with members of our community.”
Abigail Wilson, of Beecher, Ill., advocacy intern, assists RJL in grant research and government relations and is learning more about lobbying and policy. Through her work with Vigo County’s CASA, she found her passion for advocacy and helping people. Abigail is currently working toward a degree in public health and pre-law. After graduation, she will be joining the Indiana National Guard. She, then, is aiming to continue a career in advocacy by studying law.
“I’m excited to continue advocating and networking through RJL,” states Abigail. “I love that the mission of RJL is to bring a voice and platform to communities that need it. There are so many great businesses and services that deserve the necessary resources to bring them to their fullest potential.”
Fondly referred to as Triple A in the RJL office, all three interns began their internships working remotely, due to COVID-19. This week, they were able to join the team in the office and will continue their internship through the end of July.
“This group of interns are advanced college students. Each of them reflects the best of their respected colleges,” Madden continues. “I find value in leading future leaders. They are collaborating and gaining experience with the entire RJL Team. I’m excited to witness how they’ve accepted the challenges that COVID-19 has thrown their way and how they adapt and grow as leaders.”
a message from Shelby Gifford, Digital Marketing Manager
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the RJL Solutions team had a very real conversation about how businesses historically have reacted to a crisis. The harsh reality is, many organizations’ first response is to cut marketing and communication budgets significantly, in some cases all together.
As a marketer, I know that eliminating your communication during a crisis could be detrimental to your business or organization. A crisis is the time to step up, make your voice heard and communicate with your customers, clients and business partners. A crisis is a time to evaluate how to strategically communicate what your mission is and what your values are.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged businesses all over the world to re-think how they operate from a digital perspective. Brick-and-mortar reliant businesses suddenly had no way to continue to operate as normal and were forced to quickly develop a digital presence, or face shutting down all together.
Sadly, as many businesses are now learning, building a digital presence is something that is difficult to do overnight. Building a digital presence, whether it be on social media platforms, a website or an e-commerce platform, takes time to develop, and even more time to do so with an intentional and strategic approach.
For many businesses, COVID-19 has been a wake-up call that has sparked somewhat of a digital marketing revolution. Many businesses and organizations are now taking time to evaluate how to better utilize digital marketing efforts across many platforms, some for the first time.
At RJL Solutions, we pivoted our internal digital communication efforts not once, not twice, but three times since the beginning of the pandemic. Not only have we done that for our own internal processes, but we have done that for our clients as well.
Our entire team rallied to support our client family throughout this journey. Barriers between departments were bridged through digital technology and brainstorming became an entire team approach. We brainstormed, we acted, we pivoted and pivoted again. We ensured that our clients were getting their message out, strategically, intentionally and effectively. We understood and continue to understand the vital importance of digital communication during a crisis.
As a public affairs firm, we are proud of what we have done to help our clients so far during this journey. You will find that the businesses who didn't cut their marketing dollars and successfully increased their marketing efforts are the businesses that will not only survive, but thrive.
About Shelby Gifford
a message from Kaleigh All, Operations Manager
To serve as a manager, one should be a forward thinker and a leader, highly organized and possess a heightened ability to multitask. To be the Operations Manager at RJL Solutions, one also must be able to work efficiently in a fast-paced environment, while ensuring the foundation and backbone of the organization, its people and, of course, its clients are prioritized. With this, as Operations Manager, I am able to a contribute to the team in ways that allow each member to focus on their specialty, optimize their strengths and keep the company running smoothly and efficiently.
My goal, in its varying forms, is to assist the RJL Leadership Team, allowing them the flexibility, resources and support in order to give undivided attention to client relationships and moving the company forward. I hold this role to the highest regard, understanding that a strong and functional operations system lies the groundwork for growth. Quite often, like in modern architecture, the groundwork is unseen. I, too, maintain this groundwork in ways that aren’t directly visible. Many times, it’s maintenance on the groundwork of our already established processes, while other times its strategically developing and adding new, innovative groundwork that supports the growth of the organization. However, everything that encompasses my position is aimed to create an elite experience for our clients, our team and RJL Solutions as we know it.
Part of RJL Solutions’ elite experience is the woman-owned business certification the company holds through the state of Indiana. This status not only positions RJL Solutions uniquely in Terre Haute and West Central Indiana, but it is also a major benefit for our clients, giving them more opportunities to meet diversity bidding requirements. Operationally, obtaining this certification helps our clients, community, teammates and ourselves succeed, and I am so happy to be a part of a team that gets things done, from the groundwork up.
Our company, in partnership with the state of Indiana, has recently completed the process of becoming a women-owned businessrecognized throughout the state. With this certification, RJL Solutions, led by CEO and owner Rachel J. Leslie, looks forward to serving our clients in a new capacity, building beneficial partnerships and bringing greater opportunities and solutions to all.
"Our commitment to elevating our clients includes elevating our internal business operations, qualifications and certifications," states Leslie. "We have found that these investments provide greater benefits to our working partners and that drives us to create a more robust business model, which includes this certification."
RJL is committed to undergoing the next steps and certifications needed to help clients, community, teammates and ourselves succeed, and obtaining this certification heightens this ability.
For an entire list of the certified women-owned businesses in the state of Indiana, visit https://www.in.gov/idoa/mwbe/2743.htm
a message from Anna Madden, Assistant Director of Strategic Communications
When was the last time your company sat down to discuss your brand? If the answer is “in the last five years,” then great, you’re on track for another strategic discussion here soon. If your answer is “we don’t talk about he who must not be named,” then we need to sit down and have ‘the talk’ … the brand talk.
Let’s talk about what a brand is. Your brand is all of the tangible and intangible components of your company that both your consumers and employees see and experience. It’s your logo, colors, fonts, website, documents, name tags, business cards, brochures, and the list goes on. Some elements might need minor changes, and some might be classic to your brand with no changes but a focus on how to strategically use them to your benefit.
Brands are important to a company for multiple reasons. Internally, it’s a lucrative asset. You should include your brand on your balance sheet because something so well implemented and important to your company can be worth thousands of dollars. Your brand is also something that, when communicated and interpreted correctly, can provide a better understanding of your mission, vision and values to your employees so much so that they begin to exemplify these same strategic goals in their behaviors. Externally, it is how your consumers, community members and stakeholders perceive you. So, if you haven’t updated your brand in 30 plus years, only have one low quality image of your logo to use and purposely leave off your brand on the items your company produces, then you’re only decreasing the value of a lucrative asset and misrepresenting yourself to the people who contribute to your success.
Sure, rebranding is a lengthy process and implementing those changes can be costly. Take McDonald’s, for example. The company makes a consistent effort to update their logo on a regular basis, making the investment to implement those updates despite the high cost with thousands of locations all over the U.S. and around the world. There is a reason big corporations and chains participate in this practice and a reason you should too. Because it works. It’s all about consistency and staying relevant. I recommend collaborating with a marketing agency on how to do this correctly and implement it over a longer period of time. Ideally, you can rebrand your company and complete the implementation process within a year. You can also plan ahead and leave room in your budget for the future to accomplish this. Lastly, your rebrand can also be a successful tactic to accomplish items in your strategic plan.
Below, find some successful companies in West Central Indiana taking the initiative to invest in their company, consumers and employees by rebranding.
a message from McKenzi Kumpf, Grants Coordinator
To complete a puzzle one needs a good eye, patience and more patience. It takes time to put the pieces exactly where they need to go, and sometimes it takes a village to get to the finish line when the last piece is being placed. I like to view grants as a puzzle. I’m given pieces of a project and then given the responsibility to tell the project’s story. Much like puzzles, grants come in all shapes and sizes from a simple application to a multi-page narrative with documents attached. Like puzzles, one needs all the pieces to make it complete.
There is one thing I have learned about my role: writing is just a piece of that puzzle.
Before the writing even begins, there is work that needs to be done. There is researching, data collecting, budgeting and picture taking to build the foundation upon which the narrative stands. It's necessary to analyze instructions to ensure the pieces of the puzzle are put in the right place.
When the final pieces of the grant writing puzzle are complete, the goal is always to be awarded. Many factors influence the outcome of grant awards, many of which are outside of our control. Things such as the number of applicants, ask amounts, giving priorities, etc., all factor into the final decision. However, the pieces of your puzzle are also pieces of your next puzzle. These pieces provide the foundation to the next funding opportunity and the next after that. For every grant applied for, a fraction is awarded. It's important to note that un-awarded grants aren't failures, but enhance the foundation of your puzzle moving forward.
I am here to discover funding opportunities for your visions and projects. Once we find the opportunity, I am here to not only write your project narrative in the proposal, but I am here to assist you in piecing the information together that will make your project concrete whether through additional research, making videos or even counting houses on Google maps. I am here to help you read between the lines and look for things you might not consider. I am here to help create the blueprint for your story.
Your visions and projects can be made possible through the abundance of grant opportunities available out there. We only need to find the opportunity, bring it to the table and get to work piecing the puzzle together.
a message from the Director of Government Relations
Becoming an advocate was not a path I had envisioned for myself, initially. During my first job as a legislative assistant at the Indiana Senate, I began to understand the value and importance of the lobbying and advocacy roles. I worked closely with these people and saw, first-hand, how they educated legislators and provided them with information that informed them during the decision-making process. It was during this time that I gained a lot of respect for our participatory democracy and citizen engagement. I quickly learned that a productive government needs good advocates to make informed decisions. I decided I wanted to take part in working with governments to influence change and impact outcomes.
It is easy to recognize when you need help resolving a situation. What isn’t always as clear is who can help. An advocate goes to bat for their clients when they don’t know how to do it themselves. Advocates understand a situation on a higher level and understand how to make changes. We are lucky enough to live in a representative democracy that allows each of us to have the right to advocate, share our concerns and make sure our voice is heard.
The legislative process, at any level of government, is long and complex. There are many players and stakeholders, but effective advocates understand how to maneuver and build coalitions in order to effect positive change. Effective advocates are the passionate and strong voice for their clients and understand how to communicate and draw attention to issues. They have access to information and insight that is necessary in understanding how to get things done. The process of advocacy centers around representation, mobilization and empowerment for each person because we all deserve a seat at the table.
I became an advocate because I wanted to help people achieve their mission. Every person and every industry deserve a fighting chance to impact and improve their situation. As someone who spent over six years studying public administration and policy analysis, I know the importance of citizen engagement. Serving as the Director of Government Relations at RJL Solutions has provided me with the ability to do meaningful work for businesses and organizations. From research to relationships, I can provide our clients with a plan to achieve their mission.
I am here to ensure that each client has the ability to share their story and, if they choose, change their story. The beauty of our democratic government allows for us to be the change agents we want to see in this world.
a message from the Chief Operating Officer
March 16, 2020 marks a monumental time for me at RJL Solutions as I was honored to step into an incredible opportunity as the newly appointed Chief Operating Officer. The opportunity came with an interesting first assignment as that same day our company decided to prepare for the current situation focused around COVID-19. I am proud to be a part of a team that decided to transition to working from home early, as we learned to adapt quickly to these unprecedented times of uncertainty.
It is said that when you lose one sense, your remaining senses quickly begin compensating for the loss. This means something different for each company and every person; however, I am certain that we have lost one of our most valuable senses - the sense of physical connection to our friends and family, our clients and even our work and coworkers. We must now attentively focus efforts to regain those lost forms of communication and understanding by finding unique systems of connection.
It has been remarkable to experience the transition and change of working from home as we learn and adapt to a new normal. A normal that involves daycare and homeschooling in the same place as work, constant connectivity, laundry, web-hosted meetings, interruptions, multitasking at its greatest and continuous communication as we compensate for the lack of physical connectivity. Working from home has created new challenges with new opportunities and trials as we learn to “work” in a new form. Like many companies, we have quickly adapted to more intentional communication, both internally and externally.
As research promised, the business culture quickly adapted with other senses. One is listening. Of course, we have always listened, but now we depend on our ability to listen. The current state of a pandemic has caused us to more closely value the voices around us as we listen more attentively. We listen for emotional inflection, stress, drive and even gratification. These uncertain times have provided an opportunity to strengthen our listening proficiencies. Listening means taking notice and responding by making a calculated effort to hear. As I reflect on where we have come, this is exactly what we have done. As members of a conference call or zoom meeting, we intentionally listen to every aspect. Often, a member of the meeting will observe a sound from children or pets in the background as we each silently acknowledge the struggle of balance while rejoicing in the company of others.
We listen to our coworkers. We listen intentionally for many things. We hear the unique sounds of working from home, but we can also hear the stress, tension in their voices, and hear the distress in their concerns. We take in deep consideration of their wellbeing and frantically consider new ways to support, encourage and come alongside our valued and irreplaceable team. We hear the kids in the background and the interruptions being interruptions; work continues, and the progress overachieves the company’s penciled forecasts. As leaders, we are more intentional with our communication and above all, more sincere to our team's emotions. We are genuinely improving our abilities to understand, engage and respond to each other. In a less than ideal opportunity, we are refining our ability to adapt and listen with an intentional and sincere response.
There is a second group that deserves our intentional listening and response: our clients and our partners. Initially, as we all felt, many seemed discouraged, uncertain and concerned for what might be around the corner. As we listen to our clients and our partners share their earnest concerns, in their voice, you can hear the worry and uncertainty of the present times. There is no playbook or gameday video to watch; we are truly #inthistogether as we navigate the next hurdle. Each worry, just like ours, is different with a different weight of concern. Discouraging? No. This is our opportunity! Our opportunity to rebuild together, listen intently and respond with solutions. Not to sell but to uncover needs and create products and solutions for our partners. Zig Ziglar often is quoted in sales and motivational pieces saying, “True sales creates products and services for needs.” The need from a partner or customer’s worry. Consider this, consider how many have risen to the occasion to provide the next solutions by listening and uncovering the need. What will be your organization's next solution?
And lastly, as we reflect, we learned to listen to ourselves, to trust our gut and to respond with intentionality, drive and focus. As we make these next steps and navigate the next unknown, we can stand strong in trusting ourselves as leaders, relying on our training and believing in who we are, to succeed. What an opportunity! While not ideal, we have learned something about ourselves in these last few weeks. We have taken the time to listen to our ideas, and we transitioned better than we expected. We created new workspaces and daily operations, and we leveraged opportunities to serve others. We listened to our voice.
The mood has shifted. We have embraced the sounds of children in the background, remote learning obstacles and zoom meetings on our couch. It's made us who we are today, better listeners.
#betterlisteners #solutionmakers #rebuildingtogether
a message from Betsy Peperak, Director of Strategic Communications
Earlier this year – before COVID-19 became a threat to our health, our way of life and our economy – I had written a personal blog about losing my muchness. I had been in a funk for quite some time and was ready to make an intentional decision accompanied by concrete action items to find my muchness.
If you’ve seen Tim Burton’s live action Alice in Wonderland, then you know this word: muchness. It comes at a time when Alice has lost faith in herself and her abilities. She doesn’t believe the path before her is her path to take. In fact, she’s flat out refusing to help her friends because she doesn’t believe she’s the right person for the job. She doesn’t believe she is meant to be the hero in this story:
“You’re not the same as you were before,” the Mad Hatter says to Alice. “You were much more muchier. You’ve lost your muchness.”
“My muchness?” replies Alice.
“In there,” the Hatter points toward Alice’s heart. “Something’s missing.”
My 2020 goal was to find my muchness again, and I had surmised that the way to do that was to focus outward instead of inward – to focus on the relationships in my life. All relationships – personal, professional and spiritual. Looking back, part of me laughs at the fact that I decided to focus on relationships – something that often requires personal contact – when a global pandemic was days away from keeping me stuck in my home for several weeks. The other part of me thinks, “This is actually the perfect time to do that. It is a chance to reflect and truly be intentional about how I am interacting with and affecting those around me.”
I think my realization mirrors the choice now in front of any organization or business; they can either view this time as a challenge or an opportunity. They can sigh and say, “Boy, this messes up everything I had planned,” or they can say, “How can I use this situation to reach my goals?” Or both, as long the first comes before the second.
I think that many organizations and businesses are probably feeling like they’ve lost their muchness right now. “Normal” changed overnight, and we are all struggling to see where we fit in. I’m sticking to my story that the key to gaining your muchness back is relationships. Relationships with your customers, your clients, your partners, your vendors, your stakeholders, etc.
And what do all experts say is the key to any good relationship? You know it. Communication.
That’s why our CEO, Rachel J. Leslie, shortly after opening RJL Solutions, an advocacy firm, an industry that strives on relationships, added a communications department. As the Director of Strategic Communications at RJL Solutions, I’m here to tell you that now is not the time to become a marketing and communications hermit. It is more important to tell your story during a storm than it is when it’s smooth sailing. If you don’t tell your story, then rest assured someone else will, especially in today’s world. When self-publishing is at everyone’s fingertips – social media, review websites, etc., silence is not the key.
When COVID-19 hit the U.S., you may have noticed your email inboxes flooding with communications from just about every company that you had ever allowed to have your email address. Those emails communicated to you what the company was doing, how they were pivoting, and why they were still relevant to you. They were using that communication as a tool to maintain their relationship with you, their customer. I received and read several of those emails, and they often gave me renewed confidence in the businesses and organizations that I have chosen to trust with my patronage and my money.
From the moment a customer, or anyone, first interacts with your business or organization, the relationship is sparked. It may be small at first, a brief encounter that can set the tone for the future, but the more communication you send their way, the stronger the relationship becomes. And in times of uncertainty, if a company doesn’t communicate with their customer, they risk losing them. Pivoting is important, but how are you communicating that pivot to your customers?
At RJL Solutions, we have been busy helping our clients pivot and communicate since COVID-19 hit – by creating social media strategies and campaigns, producing videos, hosting webinar forums, writing talking points and editorials, and more. We have fought hard for our clients to prevent them from losing their muchness – inspiring them to step up and move forward, much the same way the Mad Hatter did for Alice. We are in this together. We must take those necessary steps now – pivot with a focus on our relationships and our communication – so that when we come out of our rabbit holes, we have the opportunity to be better and stronger than before.
a message from Rachel J. Leslie
Some would say what defines a crisis is how we react to it, both from a tactical and emotional standpoint. Today’s healthcare crisis, which has caused an economic one, offers the most equipped leaders an opportunity to rise to the occasion, elevate their capabilities and pivot. The fear, sadness and unknowns of our current reality lend us to not just shelter in place, but shelter from our individual realities. The “what if” scenarios begin playing out, and it’s fight or flight. I’ve read articles about the last pandemic, the Great Depression, our last recession and about every economic recovery model I can manage to find online. Our leaders have historic decisions to make in the coming days. When do we cut the caution tape? When is it safe to begin healing the backbone of our country - a thriving economy, the American dream? At the end of this, will we be the miracle or be looking for one?
Over the years, people have defined leadership in different ways. Today, I would personally describe leadership as the ability to see far enough into the future in your own way, knowing every pivot matters and bringing people alongside you, making them a part of the bigger plan too. You may define it differently, but that’s okay. I’m not sure there is a right or wrong answer, just one that defines you in this moment.
Defining moments don’t have to be life or death. However, during a pandemic, it’s hard not to turn on the television and see that life and death is literal. People are dying from the virus; business are dying from the impacts; and the survival is hard to celebrate because guilt takes over. I believe it’s okay not to feel guilty, to lead beyond others and take risks. In these historical and defining moments, we have an opportunity to succeed and bring others along. If that is the case, could you be the miracle you need?
I found this story of one miracle, literally.
Richard Hellman introduced a gooey spread at his deli in the early 1900s. Americans became mayonnaise lovers. But thirty years later, during the Great Depression, people could no longer afford the condiment, which is made out of pricey ingredients: eggs, oil, and vinegar. Kraft, whose mayo sales were slipping, devised new emulsifying technology in order to create a mayo alternative. The machine made it possible to whip cheaper ingredients from high fructose corn syrup and water into oil, creating Miracle Whip - the fluffy, creamy, sort of mayo-like spread. (ondeck.com)
So, the Great Depression brought us Miracle Whip. It makes me wonder what this pandemic will bring us. Some are predicting tighter restrictions, fear, a turn to spending more on healthcare. I’m predicting so much more. I’m predicting leaders who are already pivoting, but we can’t see what they’re doing just yet. I’m predicting greatness, miracles and defining moments.
For my small business, I’m pivoting too. Every day, new material is there for us to read, uncover and help our clients (you) through different opportunities and scenarios. I believe that at this time, my pivotal moment is recognizing where we belong. Right now, the RJL team seems best fit standing by you as you become the Miracle, which will perhaps be our defining moment. I hope so.
With gratitude for your trust,
Rachel J. Leslie
Her expertise in relationship-building and strategic planning will ensure the company not only has the proper operational controls, but also the people systems and customer service in place to effectively grow RJL Solutions.
“I’m thankful for this opportunity to further engage my commitment and passion for the successes and wins of community partners,” states Pruitt. “As a member of the RJL Solutions team, I am always looking around the corner at what is coming next, not only for our company but for our clients. I’m excited to see where this journey in leadership takes me and how I can use my talents to contribute to RJL Solutions’ future in big ways.”
A Terre Haute native, Pruitt has expertise in customer relations, business development, strategic marketing planning and digital platforms, with over 13 years of experience in digital and media sales. Her experience is focused on business development and strategic planning through high-level, long-term solutions for businesses of all sizes, with emphasis on brand development, brand awareness, competitive analysis and strategically focused planning to increase market share. Pruitt graduates with a degree in human resources this spring from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
Hannah has served on various volunteer boards and committees in the community including the Wabash Valley United Way, Terre Haute Young Leaders, Sponsorship Drive Chair, and Marketing Committee Liaison. As a Purdue Extension Leadership recipient, Ivy Tech graduate, and Vigo County 4H Tenure Alumni, Hannah recognizes the importance of leadership in the community.
"I am so excited to be a part of this team and do my part in working towards making a positive impact on the community, region and state at large. As a homegrown Hoosier and Terre Haute native, I look forward to not only learning about my community in this new capacity but growing alongside it."
Prior to her role at RJL Solutions, All worked at Indiana State University’s Career Center as Employer Relations Coordinator. Before that, she was the Program Support Specialist for the Department of Nursing at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Both roles supported All’s organizationally and logistically sound personality, and have crafted her skills, making her the ideal candidate for the job.