Biloxi native Victoria Berry, a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media graduate, is proof that big things can happen if you remain open to possibilities.
Berry, 27, now works as an account executive in PR and Influence at Ogilvy Chicago. Her responsibilities include daily account management, media relations, and influencer strategy.
Ogilvy has 132 offices in 83 countries and is described as a “doorway to a creative network, re-founded to make brands matter in a complex, noisy, hyper-connected world,” according to the company website.
Berry graduated from D’Iberville Senior High School in 2011. After debating whether to attend UM or Louisiana State University, she chose UM because of its affordability.
“After graduating high school, I was determined to attend college and study mass communication and political science to become a political news correspondent,” she said. “During my freshman year, I was able to take the core journalism classes and also interned at a full-service creative agency in Birmingham. It was that experience that allowed me to get a better understanding of what it is I really wanted to do.”
Berry said she was creative, but didn’t like the pressure that comes with being ‘a creative.’ So she decided to focus on opportunities in account/client management. This offered the best of both worlds – a chance to use her writing, communication, project management and problem-solving skills and still be involved and an essential part of the creative process.
“My role is hybrid, meaning that I work across the consumer and corporate PR capability, depending on the client,” she said. “For consumer clients, I may focus on things like new product launches, brand activations, or influencer marketing.
“For corporate, I work on things like executive visibility, internal communication, crisis communications and any corporate social responsibility initiatives that might be relevant. I would describe it all as fast-paced with no day really being like the last.”
Berry said she has worked on brands in many different industries, such as consumer packaged goods, finance, healthcare, quick service restaurants, technology, business-to-business and even hospitality.
“This type of experience has helped show me what I do and do not like as I continue to grow in my career,” she said.
While pursuing a degree in integrated marketing communication, Berry said the diverse course load introduced her almost every marketing component, from creative writing, to design and PR.
“By the time I graduated, I felt very confident in my general knowledge of how all of these components work together, and to this day, that experience helps me better understand and work with my colleagues that may work in other capabilities.
“While I may not be executing everything, when working in account management, it’s important to understand what it takes to get things done when building timelines and working with clients to set goals and expectations.”
Berry recommends that students and early career professionals enter the industry knowing their career path may not look exactly like hers or anyone else’s.
“The great thing about working at an agency is that advertising/marketing experience isn’t the only type of experience that qualifies you to create impactful work,” she said.
Berry offered the following advice: “Getting recognition in this industry is not always merit-based,” she said. “I have learned that it is important to stay curious, open to learn and always ask for constructive feedback.”
Jules Healy, from Madison, Mississippi, graduated in 2016 from Madison-Ridgeland Academy. She’s been a fan of the University of Mississippi since her first visit to the campus at age 11 with her best friend, who became her freshmen-year roommate.
“A huge reason I chose Ole Miss over some other SEC schools was for the IMC program,” she said. “Once I heard about this program, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do.”
Healy’s career path during college involved many internships. She said her professors emphasized how important field experience was during summer and winter breaks.
Her first internship was the summer after freshman year with McIntosh Associates in Jackson, Mississippi. There, she learned about a company in Austin, Texas called ModernGreek, and she became a campus representative.
“It taught me a whole new path of sales and dealing with customers,” she said. “Summer going into senior year, I had an internship with the Mississippi State Treasurer’s Office. This is where I put most of the things I had learned in class into real work.”
Healy now works at Deynoodt Marketing in New Orleans as a marketing associate where she said she learns something new every day.
“I mainly work on building websites for clients, running social media and ad campaigns,” she said. “Working with Deynoodt Marketing was my dream job for coming out of college, and Ole Miss helped me achieve that.
“I enjoy the work I do. There is a team of three of us who work together daily in creating the websites and ads. My boss, Mann Deynoodt, is very helpful with me being a recent college grad. He teaches me how the systems run, and we all work together, go to lunch and enjoy our days in the office.”
Healy said she uses the skills she learned at UM daily.
“In my classes, I had to do graphic design, write blog posts and press releases, run social media campaigns, and create websites,” she said. “Ole Miss prepared me so well for my job, and I could not be more thankful for the program and the amazing teachers.”
Healy’s advice is to attend career fairs and panels the school hosts.
“I met my boss at one of the panels the School of Journalism and New Media put on for juniors and seniors in January,” she said. “They are so important in meeting people, getting your name out there, connecting with the people you meet on LinkedIn and staying in contact with one another.”
Healy said working in the IMC field isn’t easy, but it’s rewarding to work on different campaigns, update their social media, build new websites and search for new clients.
“It is a lot of fun,” she said, “but it’s a lot to keep up with. Staying organized is key.”
Brandon Rook, 30, is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native who graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media and now works for the (Paul) Newman’s Own Foundation as the public relations manager. We asked Rook about his career path and job.
Q. Can you tell me a little about your out your background? Where are you from? Age? Where did you attend high school? What led you to the University of Mississippi?
A. I attended two separate high schools, West Philadelphia Catholic High School for my freshmen and sophomore years; Marple Newtown High School for my junior and senior years.
I was a senior at Alcorn State University when I first became interested in the University of Mississippi. As the 2011-2012 Student Government Association president at Alcorn, I had the pleasure of attending the monthly Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning meetings in Jackson, Mississippi.
During the final meeting of the year in April 2012, all SGA presidents from each public university in the state had the opportunity to speak about their plans after graduation. During my speech, I mentioned plans to continue my studies in communications in graduate school at Arkansas State University.
However, Morris Stocks, the University of Mississippi provost at that time, had another idea. After the meeting, Provost Stocks tracked me down to inform me of the University of Mississippi’s journalism school. He gave me his business card and asked me to think about coming up for a visit.
Within a week’s time, I followed through, visited the University of Mississippi, and thoroughly enjoyed it. And as they say, the rest was history!
Q. Can you tell me a little about your career path after high school?
A. Well, after high school I attended Alcorn State University, where I immersed myself in all things journalism. I was part of the student newspaper, had my own radio show, and I was a reporter and anchor for ASU-TV 13.
During my time in undergrad, I interned at Power 99 FM, a hip-hop radio station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after my freshman year. After my junior year, I interned at NBC 10, the local NBC affiliate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and after my senior year, I interned at WJTV 12, the local CBS affiliate in Jackson, Mississippi. I was also involved in student government from my sophomore to senior school years.
After Alcorn, I attended the University of Mississippi for three semesters. During the summer of 2013, I interned at CBS News in New York City, and I am grateful to have started my career in November 2013.
First, I was a reporter for WTVY, the local CBS affiliate in Dothan, Alabama. In October 2014, I then moved on to become a reporter with WATE, the local ABC affiliate in Knoxville, Tennessee.
In November 2016, I worked for WTMJ, the local NBC affiliate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as a reporter. In October 2018, I decided to leave journalism, so I transitioned into public relations and joined Carthage College as their public relations manager until July 2020.
Q. What is your current job? How would you describe it? What are some of your responsibilities?
A. I currently work for the Newman’s Own Foundation as the public relations manager, and I have truly enjoyed every second of it so far. It’s a rewarding feeling to work for a philanthropy foundation, and it feels good to know that my work makes a positive impact in the nonprofit sector. I would describe my job as creative chaos, and as a creative, it is the perfect fit.
My responsibilities include designing and executing creative publicity and public relations campaigns to increase awareness and bolster the national reputation of the Newman’s Own brand. I also generate story ideas that are illustrative of the brand and that align with the Newman’s Own strategic roadmap.
I create digital assets to support the stories, including developing photography and short videos. I pitch stories to members of the press, and I manage the Newman’s Own Foundation’s social media channels, including updating the website.
Q. What do you enjoy most about the job?
A. I enjoy being creative. I enjoy the storytelling aspect of my position, and I’m grateful to be in a position to make many connections with people.
Q. How are you using some of the skills you learned at UM in your current job?
A. I am definitely using all of the videography and research skills that I learned at UM. I would like to send a big shoutout to Deb Wenger, Scott Fiene, Patricia Thompson, Shannon Dixon, Mykki Newton, Joseph B. Atkins, Mark Dolan, Nancy Dupont, Dean Mitchell, Dean Norton, Alysia Steele, Curtis Wilkie, Robin Street, and Morris Stocks for all of their help.
Q. What advice do you have for students who may be thinking of following in your footsteps?
A. I hope students are being intentional in regards to learning as many valuable skills as they can while attending UM. The more they know, the more of an asset they’ll be to any company.
Try any and everything to get your foot in the door. Also, one internship in four years is not enough. The more the merrier.
Last but not least, have fun! It sounds so simple, but sadly many people are working in jobs and careers that they hate. If it’s not fulfilling, don’t be afraid to move on in hopes of finding something that fulfills you.
Q. What is an important lesson you have learned that you can share with others in your field?
A. Always evolve in this ever-changing world. There are always new skills to learn, new books to read and new information to be studied. A wise man knows that he knows nothing at all.
I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in integrated marketing communications with a minor in business and journalism in 2017. The summer before my senior year, I interned in New York City at Comedy Central (Viacom) as a communications intern. After that summer, I knew I wanted to head back to NYC.
After months of applying to different jobs after I graduated, I finally landed a job in October at Warner Media as a digital account coordinator in the Turner Sports division. This job focused on executing and managing ad campaigns that were sold through by our sales team to run on our sites like Bleacher Report, NBA and NCAA. I was in this position for almost two years, and realized I wanted to transition to the sales side of the business.
In September of 2019, I was promoted to be a digital sales planner at Warner Media in the CNN and Great Big Story. My current job is very fast paced, especially with it being a election year.
The team I’m on helps our account executives go out in the marketplace pitching different opportunities for advertisers to run digitally on CNN and Great Big Story.
Long term, wherever my career path leads me, I would love to stay in the sales side of the business and help advertisers find strategic solutions for their brands in the digital ad space.
It was a hard but interesting experience after graduated. I went to Los Angeles and got a part-time job in Global Times North America (first). Later, my friend introduced me to a full-time job in Chinese Daily as a reporter.
During that time, my boss sponsored me to apply H1B working visa, but still didn’t get it. So I had to back to China. Now, I am working in a Hong Kong game company called “APPTUTTi” as the position of marketing specialist in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China.
I planned to apply the master’s program in the U.S. But due to the Covid-19 situation, the application had to delay to next year.
A graduate of the Class of 2016, Grace White is an account executive for GMR Marketing in Charlotte, North Carolina. She interned as a student with Ole Miss Athletics, the now-defunct Mississippi River Kings, and the online platform SportTalk, and in the four years since leaving the School of Journalism and New Media, her professional career has navigated its way through organizations with the NFL, NBA, NHL, and now the MLB.
A career within the sports industry was always the only option for White, but the opportunities themselves evolved exponentially since she took her first professional position as a ticket sales representative with the Washington Redskins.
Cold calls and prospect tours are a far cry from the creative programs one studies with Integrated Marketing and Communications, but it was those experiences that built a foundation of understanding the business and industry from the ground up.
Her most recent experience with Monumental Sports &Entertainment was what finally lit a path back to brand management and experiential marketing. As sales marketing manager with the Suites department, White focused on streamlining the sales operations for the suites teams and ticket sales departments and helped facilitate new opportunities and promotions to boost revenue.
This position also helped execute on any needs MSE’s Global Partnerships team had tied into contracts, from suite use to client events and sponsor giveaways.
White’s time with MSE also included historic playoff runs culminating in franchise firsts like the Capitals’ Stanley Cup Championship, and the Mystics’ WBNA Championship.
After achieving a personal dream of participating in the Caps’ first cup celebrations, it was time to find a new, more creative challenge. Extensive research and networking prompted Grace to look outward to agencies and organizations separate of her team and venue background.
Finding a company that primarily focused around experiential marketing was a top priority, which narrowed the search greatly. She said GMR Marketing was, and is, a true leader in that space—their mantra being “creating memories that matter for over 40 years.”
White started her new role on March 16, the same day all GMR offices, and many other companies around the nation, went fully remote due to COVID-19. A completely remote onboarding and transition is unconventional to say the least, but it’s been a master class in working from home.
In this new role as an account executive, White is working to manage the sponsorship between Humana and its three MLB partners.
With Opening Day postponed for the first time in 25 years, managing expectations and project deadlines are just a few of the daily responsibilities she faces during social distancing and the quarantine.
The professional sports world stands to look very different post-pandemic, but as many can attest in this industry, “there’s never a dull moment!”
Ryan Rigney, global communications lead for the League of Legends franchise, spoke in January of 2020 at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media.
A native of Poplarville, Rigney, 28, said he enrolled at UM in 2010 with dreams of becoming a magazine journalist.
“While still in high school, I landed some gigs writing about video games for, first, websites and later, small-press magazines like GamePro (R.I.P.),” he said. “By the time I was in college, I’d worked my way up the ladder of the magazine world enough to write for magazines like PC Gamer, and later Wired and Edge.”
Rigney wrote about mobile games, which culminated in the publication of his book “Buttonless” (CRC Press), which examines iOS games. After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles to work for a gaming-adjacent startup.
About a year later, he landed his first job at Riot Games, the developer and publisher of League of Legends. By player count, it is the world’s most popular PC game and biggest esport, with an annual world’s championship that has drawn about 100 million unique viewers for a couple of years.
A key driver of the explosive growth of esports, Riot Games is headquartered in Los Angeles and has 23 offices worldwide.
“On paper, I’m a people manager,” he said. “I lead a team that includes our editorial lead and a quartet of senior/mid-level comms strategists who run all communications on three of Riot’s games. I operate at the ‘franchise’ level, which is just a fancy way of saying that they call me whenever we do something that covers more than one game.
“I’m a little unusual in that I also work as an individual contributor. I write a lot of Riot’s messaging directly. I act as a spokesperson for the company on social media – Reddit/Twitter especially – and I guide our overall approach to communications. Mostly, I sit in meetings and help developers figure out how to say stuff to players.”
Rigney predicts the games industry will get bigger and more ambitious. College students should consider pursuing jobs in the industry because more entry points and viable careers are available than ever before, he said.
Rigney arrived on campus as a student with big ideas and a lot of energy, said Ellen Meacham, adjunct instructor in the UM School of Journalism and New Media.
“He was a hard worker, too,” she said. “In 2012, he won the university’s Gillespie Award for best business plan. I think he will also have a lot to say about what the esports and gaming world is like now, what’s in the future and how his work in communications will shape and be shaped by that.”
Rigney said writing is one of the most valuable skills he learned at Ole Miss.
“My j-school professors taught me how to write,” he said. “Which is to say, they taught me how to think clearly and to structure information in a way that’s digestible for other people.
“Even though my job doesn’t match the degree I earned from Ole Miss, I think the lessons I learned about writing are 100 percent applicable to my current job.”
Rigney also remembers the professors who encouraged him to pursue his passion.
“I don’t know what sort of encouragement the current crop of Ole Miss students need, but I’d love to listen to their questions and share what limited knowledge I have to help them along their own paths,” he said. “I think sometimes people from Mississippi don’t think they can do the sort of work that successful people in the film industry, or literature or gaming do.
“It all seems very distant, when you grew up in the woods, like I did. I would love to help people understand how achievable their goals are, if they’re strategic about their career.”
Rigney said he doesn’t believe in one-size-fits-all advice, but he’s learned a few things about the business world.
“You have to ask for something if you’re going to get it,” he said. “That applies to jobs, and career opportunities and chances to grow.”
For more information about the School of Journalism and New Media, visit https://jnm.olemiss.edu/.