Rachel Leininger has an old soul—at least, that’s how her mother described her at three years old. As for Rachel’s husband, well, he’s inclined to agree.
“He thinks I’m at least 85,” Rachel says. “I’ll watch the Jeopardy!, I’ll work on crosswords, I know who Jack Benny is. My friends call me the Sophia of our group—as in, the oldest of the Golden Girls.”
Old soul or not, Rachel is also the sharply intelligent new public relations manager at Well Done Marketing who previously split her time between the IU School of Nursing and the Columbus Area Arts Council. We sat down with her to learn more about her background, plans for the agency, and how on earth a self-described introvert ended up in public relations.
So, explain this to us. You say you’re an introvert, but you chose a field that puts you in constant contact with strangers. Why?
I was somewhat shy growing up, and it took me a minute to make friends. I like to have a small, but very close group around me, and that’s still true now. But honestly I love meeting people, and I love creating relationships. And in some ways, introversion is a good quality in this kind of job. I don’t like to be the center of attention, and I’m happy to help other people talk about themselves. But if I need to get up and speak in meetings or to a crowd, I don’t mind that at all.
When did you first become aware of the fact that you, as a human being, had a reputation? That people had perceptions of you that maybe you didn’t have of yourself?
It sounds horrible, but probably not until high school. I didn’t really think about things like reputation until I became editor-in-chief of my school paper senior year, and then this weird thing happened where somehow having that visibility meant my friends started coming up to tell me about whatever stupid gossip people were spreading: “This is what they’re saying about you.”
It was a weird feeling, but I also realized I could kind of shape how people saw me. Being visible sometimes attracted negative attention, but it also meant I was public facing, I could say this is who I am and affect people’s perceptions of me. I didn’t think of it as public relations at the time, but in a lot of ways that’s what it was.
How much did those experiences influence your decision to make PR your profession?
Indirectly, I think. I took a job placement test in high school and it suggested I should go into journalism, which sounded great until I looked at the trends in that industry. That gave me some second thoughts. But then I wondered, okay, what else allows me to write, meet people, and interview them, because I knew those were things I loved doing. That’s when I discovered public relations.
This is kind of a busy year for you—not only are you starting a new job, you also got married. Do your PR skills give you an edge in spousal disputes?
You actually do learn to hear the intent behind what people are saying. Listening is a skill. Whether you’re talking to a client or your spouse, you have to learn to listen to what they’re actually saying, and what their deeper concerns are. So it does help me understand how to listen better, and identify where we actually disagree.
But I mean sometimes we’re just not going to agree about how clean dishes need to be before they go in the dishwasher. He likes them nearly spotless, but—it’s a dishwasher. You’re defeating the purpose!
What do you want to accomplish at Well Done?
I came here because I really appreciated that this was a very socially aware company—Well Done is part of the community, and there’s a lot of giving back going on here. And once I met everyone, it really felt like there was a nurturing environment here. You have an office dog, for goodness’ sake.
But there’s also a real feeling that personal growth is encouraged, and I like that a lot. I like that I’m trusted to self-manage my time and projects, and that there’s the freedom here to work with the kinds of companies I’d like to work with. I’m excited for that balance between having support from industry experts as well as the freedom to steer my own path.