You can’t talk about Brooklyn’s flourishing social media scene without mentioning Rachel Van Dolsen. The founder and head of RVD Communications, which specializes in personalized PR and social strategy, has been rapidly rising since Van Dolsen started it from her Williamsburg apartment five years ago—where, for the first year, she used her kitchen table to work to tell the stories of entrepreneurs and brands she respected. RVD represents Brooklyn-based brands such as Rider and Gristmill, and for 2017, will head up the return of Dessert Goals in Williamsburg and the opening of East One Coffee Roasters in Carroll Gardens.
RVD Communications is one of Brooklyn’s most innovative PR and social media firms. Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind starting this boutique company out of your BK apartment and what went into it the past four years.
I wish I could reveal a brilliant master plan! But in full transparency, I had no intention of starting a business—I thought I was a just a scrappy freelancer who had made the (possibly stupid) decision to cut out the agency middleman.
That early naïveté worked in my favor, I think. I wasn’t subject to external pressure to grow quickly or rake in a certain amount of revenue. For the first year at my kitchen table in Williamsburg, RVD was all about working with entrepreneurs that I respected to tell their brand stories and blow things up in the media. I focused on doing the best possible work and eschewing PR and social media practices that no longer felt relevant—I built great relationships and didn’t belabor every tiny decision. I’m a big believer in the power of forward momentum and that a little bit of moxie goes a long way.
Of course, I eventually made the decision to lean into RVD, take on bigger projects and hire a team of talented people (we’re now up to 10 full-timers!)—but I’m very lucky that the majority of our growth has been organic.
Since starting RVD, what have been some of the highlights and accomplishments you’ve been proud of?
I’ve learned to celebrate every milestone because all of them are hard won.
In the earlier phases of RVD, things like running my first payroll, leasing office space and landing my first huge client press placement in The New York Times felt epic and unreal. Now I’ve gone into proud mom mode—I get most excited watching my staff and clients succeed.
What have been some of the most important lessons you’ve learned running a company in such a culturally vibrant and image-driven place like Brooklyn?
Aesthetics matter, but kindness matters more.
PR is about creating gorgeous, memorable and shareable experiences for our media friends and our clients. While cultivating a certain outward image is an essential part of that process, people will immediately sense that your facade has no interiority. This is why human connection is at at the core of everything we do —we can’t do our jobs well without a healthy helping of humor and empathy.
What’s exciting you about working in PR and branding right now? Looking forward to anything in particular this coming year?
One of things I love most about working in PR and social media is how rapidly the industry is evolving. It forces us to adjust our strategy with each client and project – there’s no room for dogma or complacency.
We have quite a few cool Brooklyn projects on the docket for 2017. We love working with Rider and Gristmill, and are psyched for the return of Dessert Goals in Williamsburg and the opening of East One Coffee Roasters in Carroll Gardens.
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.
Photo by Nicole Fara Silver