Devin O’Loughlin: The Power of Language

“The way that you communicate with people says a lot about you and about the people that you're communicating with,” Devin O’Loughlin, 20111 graduate of the M.S. in Communications Practice program (now the M.S. in Strategic Communication program) tells me in her office at RAPP, a digital agency. “You have to understand who they are, what they think, and how they feel, in order to communicate to them effectively.”

She came upon her interest in communications through her passion for literature and writing. As an undergraduate at Rider University, she majored in journalism and minored in writing and dance. However, she says, “I graduated in 2009 at the height of the recession.” She sensed the decline in the journalism job market and sought another career path that would give her writing skills “a bit more legs.”

She discovered the program at Columbia and saw it as a way to reposition her writing skills and apply them to the world of advertising, marketing, and communications. She studied with industry practitioners who not only helped her refine her writing and understand how to reach target audiences, but also connected her with her current employer, RAPP.

We sat down with Devin at her office to discuss the art of writing for business, the course project that launched her career, and how she tells the story of an agency that tells stories for its clients.

What brought you to Communications Practice?

I had a strong interest in writing, but I realized that journalism may not be the place for me. I decided to go back to school, and I came across the Communications Practice program. I would be in the inaugural class, which was exciting.

The program took my interest in writing and adapted it to the marketing, communications, advertising, and PR world. It gave [my existing writing skills] a bit more legs.

 

“The program took my interest in writing and adapted it to the marketing, communications, advertising, and PR world.”Devin O’Loughlin
Global Manager of Corporate Reputation, RAPP

 

Within the program, what did you find most valuable?

One of the things I found most valuable about the program was the intense focus on writing: being concise, being direct, being pointed with the words that I used, and choosing them carefully. That has served me infinitely in my profession; marketing and advertising is using language to shape the decisions of consumers. It was the most challenging piece of the program for me, but it was definitely the most rewarding part, too.

Can you tell me how you got your job here at RAPP?

I got the job at RAPP through one of my professors in the Communications Practice program. Her name was Helen Hibbott, and she was the Chief Talent Officer at RAPP. [Ed. note: Prof. Hibbott does not currently teach at Columbia.] Each week, she brought in a guest speaker from a different department at RAPP.

These classes led up to our final project, a faux pitch for Levi's. We were divided into two teams, and the creative teams at RAPP helped each group execute a full pitch deck. We came to RAPP on the very last day of our class and presented to senior executives whom we hadn’t met before. The executives ended up deciding which pitch idea they liked better, and that group won. [For the members of the winning team], Helen offered us a job interview if we were interested in pursuing a career at RAPP after graduation. It was a great way to get a foot in the door.

Can you tell me about RAPP?

RAPP was founded about 50 years ago. It started out as a direct marketing firm that executed print materials like paper mailers. But as technology and consumer needs have shifted, we have responded by becoming a more digital and data-focused agency.

Our main focus is on precision brand engagement in a smart, digital world. We are more of a marketing firm in that we try to help brands build their stories, as opposed to just creating assets for the brands.

What's your role here?

I entered RAPP as a project management and client services associate. I then moved into the client services role. I worked my way up to account supervisor.

I've been here for almost five years, and recently I wanted to shake up my career a little bit. The opportunity for my current role, Global Manager of Corporate Reputation, was presented to me. It's similar to what I was doing, but instead of telling the stories of other brands, I’m doing it for our organization.

I help create programs and build up different initiatives that foster a positive culture within the organization. It's one of the main reasons that I decided to come here and stay here; it’s because of the people, 1000 percent.