Regional spotlight: Richmond's tight-knit PR community and intense talent wars

Jill Vaughan, comms director at Virginia Lottery, discusses how Richmond's helpful spirit benefits newcomers to the city's PR scene

Although Richmond, Virginia, is roughly a three-hour drive from Roanoke, a number of Richmond broadcasters traveled to the city to help its TV station WDBJ hold down the fort after two of its journalists were killed live on air this summer.

This allowed WDBJ staffers to attend memorial services for the station’s reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, who were shot dead by a former co-worker, explains Virginia Lottery’s communications director Jill Vaughan.

"The community, and institutions such as Virginia Tech [the site of a shooting incident also], really banded together after the tragedy," she says. Vaughan adds it hit her hard because the university was her alma mater and Virginia Lottery has three former broadcast journalists.Richmond’s response to WDBJ is testament to the community’s willingness to help.

"The city is such a welcoming and helpful community," she says.

This extends to newcomers to the city’s communications industry, which is handy, as the talent war in the area is "intense" with companies receiving hundreds of résumés for one job, she continues. And competition may be getting fiercer due to the recent influx of young PR professionals.

"Young people are looking at Richmond as a new destination," Vaughan adds. "That comes with the downtown revitalization with old buildings being converted to offices and apartments."

Local organizations, such as Virginia Lottery, are also happy to offer jobseekers résumé-sharing and Q&A sessions.

"We’ve also engaged Virginia Commonwealth University’s respected Brandcenter for work," Vaughan says of the school’s program that enables students to gain real-life experience developing brands on a global scale.

Businesses and organizations in the city are also willing to lend one another a hand. Vaughan describes Richmond’s PR industry as "a tight-knit group."

"In state government, there are many consumer-facing firms such as Virginia Lottery, the Wine Board, and agriculture and tourism agencies," she explains. "So we recently formed Virginia Agency Marketing Project to educate each other about our objectives at our agencies and how we can use our talent for future campaigns to cross promote our products and services."

Although it is easy for a PR practitioner to climb the ladder in Richmond, opportunities diminish with each rung. At the executive level, Vaughan notes that it is getting increasingly hard to find open positions to grow and move around in. To contend with this, she says one must take advantage of the myriad networking opportunities in the city.

"Hit up all the PRSA lunches, attend networking events, and reach out to some of the big companies in the area [including CarMax and Altria Group]," Vaughan advises.

Fast Facts

1. PR professionals in the area often frequent Urban Farmhouse Market & Café and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s taproom

2. Craft beer and breweries have really taken off in the area, says Vaughan. San Diego-based Stone Brewing, for instance, announced last year that Richmond will be home to its second US location

3. PR firms in the area include Virginia Lottery’s AOR PadillaCRT, Wireside
Communications, Commonwealth Public Relations, The Hodges Partnership, Broderick Communications, and Siddall. Independent agencies are constantly springing up, Vaughan says

4. Six companies in the area are on the 2015 Fortune 500 list, including: Altria Group (#169); CarMax (#232); Dominion Resources (#243); Genworth Financial (#304); Owens & Minor (#309); and MeadWestvaco (#464)

Reach out

PRSA Richmond
P.O. Box 29232,
Richmond, Virginia 23242
(804) 994-1120

American Marketing
Association – Richmond
P.O. Box 3007, Mechanicsville, Virginia 23116
(804) 427-6982

The Greater Richmond Convention Center
403 North Third St.,
Richmond, VA 23219

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