Rachel Van Dolsen is the founder and CEO of RVD Communications, a progressive PR and social media agency with a focus on the hospitality industry. Founded in 2012, the company has 20 full-time employees and headquarters in Brooklyn. Notable clients include Toby's Estate Coffee Roasters, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, Black Seed Bagels and Buffy, among others.
As her family and friends will attest, Rachel has a gift for storytelling. Sometimes this trait gets her into trouble, like in seventh grade when her report card boasted six "excessive talking" comments. However, since launching RVD, Rachel has had the pleasure of using her powers for good – helping entrepreneurs tell their stories, reach a wider audience and build loyal and authentic brand followings. In 2017, she was featured in Brooklyn Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture" issue. She also teaches PR and social media seminars at the Institute of Culinary Education.
Rachel has degrees from the University of Virginia (BA English Literature, BA History of Art) and The New School for Social Research (MA Liberal Studies). She lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with her boyfriend, two rescue pups and piles of hats.
Sum up your current mood in a Beyonce lyric!
I'm gonna throw it back to Destiny's Child and say "The shoes on my feet
I've bought it
The clothes I'm wearing
I've bought it ––
'Cause I depend on me"
What is your current position and what steps did you take to get there?
I'm the CEO and founder of RVD Communications, a boutique PR + social media firm that I founded at my kitchen table in Brooklyn. More than anything else, I've gotten here based on strong communication skills, an ability to laugh at myself (...and others) and *lot* of hard work. Since childhood, I've been the type of human who saw rules as *loose guidelines* – being an entrepreneur has always come naturally.
Take us behind the scenes, how is (your company) structured?
I'm supported by my management team, made up of 5 incredible publicists and the director of our social media + partnerships division. We also have an operations director, who keeps my stress level in check with her relentless positivity. We have 4 super talented mid-level folks and 6 lovely support staff below them. I also have executive assistant (she wears other hats at the agency too) and in-house graphic design and photography experts.
What are three tips you’d give to your 20 year old self?
1. Relax + slow down.
2. Keep reading everything you can get your hands on.
3. Go back to therapy, you crazy thing.
A lot of career women struggle with finding balance. How do you manage your work/life balance?
This is one of my biggest hurdles as an entrepreneur and something I still grapple with. I've learned that if I don't respect and protect my personal time (yoga, weekends away, drinks with friends), no one will. I do my best to set hard limits and have learned (kicking and screaming) to say no.
PR is a field that can be stressful and full of rejection, how do you stay motivated?
As long as the stress is working *for* and not against you, you're doing fine. Once it starts to truly impact your performance + focus, it's time for a walk around the block, ice cream or a real vacation. When it comes to rejection, I'm all about kindly asking why – it'll help you learn and do better next time (or not blame yourself, if it's truly out of your control).
No two days are alike! What do your days usually consist of?
Lots of coffee and matcha! Running from meeting to meeting - answering a trillion emails – writing detailed plans + strategy docs – motivating my staff with a weird GIF – cuddling with my dogs/BF
What's the biggest challenge facing communicators right now?
The nature of what PR can and should be is changing constantly –– it's essential to look forward and get creative with contacts + strategy. What was effective even six months ago may no longer be a valid plan of attack. It's also quite common to encounter clients who believe they understand PR/social (and the blood, sweat + tears it entails), when in fact... they don't. So, it's essential to learn how to effectively communicate what you do and why it's valuable – you'll need to got to bat for yourself + your work every day.
How do you stay on top of industry trends?
I just consume as much of media as I can! I subscribe to newsletters, read blogs, buy magazines (+ hell, novels too), scroll that 'gram, listen to podcasts...
What has been the most meaningful moment in your career thus far?
I love watching my team knock events / campaigns out of the freaking park –– particularly if it was a collaborative effort that was not only fun/challenging/rewarding for us, but also blew the client away.