Meet alumna Denise Vitola, a 1997 College of Communication and Creative Arts graduate. Originally from Howell, NJ (Monmouth County) and now residing in Myrtle Beach, SC, she is cofounder/CEO of Vitola Strategies. Today, she will share with us how Rowan helped her find her passion for public relations and what inspired her to open her own agency.
Denise started out at Fairleigh Dickinson University and transferred to Rowan University her junior year to play basketball. “I always liked sports, I’ve played sports my entire life. I’m a sports fanatic,” she said.
Growing up, Denise wanted to be an FBI agent. It was not until Rowan that she started to fall in love with the public relations field.
“The way they designed the curriculum with advertising, news and TV … we didn’t have social or digital back then, but all the elements of the marketing mix really gave me many options of where I could take my career,” she said.
Denise loved that Rowan was near Philadelphia because she got the chance to do a couple of different internships. Some internships were on TV and one was at a hospital, where she did public relations. “I just really loved the variety of what they taught me under the whole communication discipline,” she said. “And it served me in my career later on because I started out doing public relations, but I’ve evolved in doing more integrated marketing now.”
What caught Denise’s attention about the communication field was that it’s a field where communicating and talking to people is a must. The ability to communicate to a larger audience and being able to share information to them also caught her attention.
Denise’s first job after graduating from Rowan was at the Alan Taylor Communications (now called Taylor Communications), a sports and entertainment PR firm. “It was really event related, so I had the opportunity while I was there to support my clients like Mastercard, Ford, NYC Marathon, the Super Bowl, the Olympics and the Major League Baseball World Series. So, I was able to really do a lot of exciting things like travel the world and meet a lot of famous athletes,” she said.
Before starting her own agency, Denise worked for 20 years in some of NYC’s top 10 agencies. “I started my own agency because I started moving away from doing the actual work. And I became more of a business head in that organization where I was looking at numbers,” she said. “So, I went off on my own to really begin working with the clients again, and that is what I’ve been doing.”
For Denise, the best part of owning and running her own agency is that she gets to call all the shots. “I get to work with clients that I like and love. I get to take on projects that are meaningful, and I get to do the work. I don’t hand it out to anyone else, I do it all. And I have an extremely flexible schedule,” she said.
She has recently worked with clients such as P&G, The Home Depot, Purina, Merial, Abbott Nutrition and PayPal.
Denise has earned several awards for her hard work, dedication and passion for what she does. PRWeek honored her as one of its “40 Under 40” PR professionals, and PRNews named her one of the Top 25 Women in PR. She won the 2016 Stevies Award/American Business Award for Executive and Woman of the Year, and Women’s Health Magazine selected her as one of its Action Heroes of the Year.
“Well, it’s fantastic. It’s nice to be recognized for the work that you’ve done. I feel very blessed that I won those awards,” she said.
Her next goal is making her clients award-winning brands. “I was able to achieve those things at a young age, and what’s next for me is to do the work for my clients. For me, it isn’t too much about me anymore, it’s about what I can do for my clients,” she said.
Her advice for anyone wanting to major in the communication field is to know how to work with new technology. “I would say that understanding social media and having a good idea about how to work with influencers and how to manage social channels is a must. You want to go into your job knowing much as you can, because your manager who is going to be 44 years old isn’t going to know much as you do. So, technology is key.”
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Iridian Gonzalez, senior journalism major