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Strategizing Communications for Healthcare Clients


After graduation, Haley Hassell ’20 will begin work as an executive trainee with Ruder Finn, a public relations firm that is one of the world's largest privately owned communications agencies. After completing training, Hassell will work as an assistant account executive. Here she tells what led her to a career in communications.

What drew you to communications work?

I’ve always been really interested in the intersection between communication and cognition. I’m curious about how the different ways we communicate affect how we think, behave, and make decisions. This interest is what led me to choose my majors, as well as what sparked my interest in working on communications strategy. I also think of myself as a problem solver, so helping clients on the front lines of the news is exciting to me. Seeing a client’s gratitude and joy after a successful campaign is such a rewarding feeling, and in consulting work I get to experience that feeling often!

What specifically drew you to Ruder Finn?

My previous internships have been at smaller companies, and I went into the job search knowing that I wanted to be at a larger agency with a wider reach.

I had a networking call with Kari Arneson ’10, and she ended up referring me internally for the job. Now I'll be working on a team with her doing public relations for corporate healthcare clients.

Ruder Finn has a global perspective, and its focus on “what’s next” resonated with me. Today’s media world is fast-paced and ever-evolving. Therefore, it is crucial to always be thinking about how the work you do now is going to have an impact on whatever may happen in the future and how the public will respond to it.

About Haley Hassell ’20

Majors: Psychology and literature

Hometown: Arlington, Va.

High School: St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes 

read about other members of the class of 2020 

Being able to make an immediate impact at the entry level is also important to me, so throughout the interview process I asked a lot of questions about Ruder Finn’s culture. I was impressed with the inclusive and collaborative environment at the company, as well as the responsibilities entrusted to entry-level employees. 

Did you seek out consulting positions specifically for healthcare clients?

I was open to working with a wide variety of clients, but I’ve been interested in healthcare clients because they encompass such a wide range of issues that drive headlines. A lot of my classes in psychology and sociology have dealt with healthcare accessibility and policy. I also interned at a nonprofit two years ago that worked on healthcare for senior citizens. I definitely have a lot more to learn about the industry, and I’m excited to get started! 

What Hamilton experiences prepared you best for this new role?

I’m going to be doing a lot of writing, and Hamilton’s focus on that has definitely prepared me to write professionally. I also completed two thesis projects this past fall that involved managing long-term research and doing a lot of writing and editing. Working on these projects helped me learn how to conduct effective, in-depth research on a variety of topics, and I anticipate doing similar work in my new role.

Additionally, being a student-athlete at Hamilton has helped me learn how to manage my time and prioritize projects efficiently. Starting a new role in an unfamiliar place can make it challenging to figure out how long certain tasks take and which types of projects are the most time-sensitive. Balancing academics and extracurriculars with athletics has given me a lot of experience with setting smaller deadlines for myself and producing quality work under time constraints.

What skills do you look to develop further in your new position?

I’m excited to gain more experience with taking on client voices in the writing projects that I’ll be working on. One of my favorite parts of working for clients is getting to learn about their industries. With healthcare clients, I will get to immerse myself in a variety of different issues, and I’m excited to learn about them more deeply.

What advice would you give to students interested in PR consulting?

A lot of the work in public relations involves storytelling and developing a consistent voice for your clients, and that means you should be able to do the same for yourself. When writing cover letters and preparing for interviews, you should focus on building an effective professional narrative and on delivering your story. This story should be one that makes each of your previous experiences logically lead up to the opportunity that you’re applying for.

 

Also, something more general I like to keep in mind — especially during the pandemic — is that you only need one “yes.” I’ve gone through a lot of long recruiting processes and experienced some disappointing rejections over the past few years, but getting one “yes” has kept me motivated and continues to make all of the hard work worth it.

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