07 Jan Rosie Thoni: Public Relations, Content, and Agency Life
A native of western Canada, Rosie Thoni had always grown up around agriculture and had been heavily involved in 4-H and junior cattle associations. Despite her love for Canada and the nearby, world-famous Calgary Stampede, Rosie knew that she was going to have to take a chance to follow her passion of being an agricultural communicator. A passion that was recognized by her father when she was very young as she would write junior members’ agriculture stories on their auction bid cards.
Choosing a College You’ve Never Seen
Rosie used skills she would later use in agriculture communications to start researching degree programs as Canadian institutions were lacking in a degree program for agriculture communications. Knowing very little about Oklahoma State University and even less about Oklahoma or, for that matter, anywhere else in the United States, she began to see a future in the Sooner state as an OSU Cowboy! She packed up her bags and transferred after her first two years, and hasn’t looked back since.
Differences Between Studying and Working in Ag Comm
“I am a reformed agvocate,” Rosie says with a laugh, adding, “I am glad they didn’t laugh me out of my interview.”
That interview was with AdFarm, a full-service marketing agency with proven capabilities across every category, discipline, expertise and specialization. Based out of Canada, Rosie accepted a job in AdFarm’s homebase in Canada for the first couple of years before transferring to Wichita, Kansas, for her current role as the U.S. Public Relations and Content Lead.
“Bridge the gap” and “agvocate” are all noble causes but are tired words that are not representative of what agricultural communication graduates often find as entry-level careers. Typically, the work they’ll do is connecting farmers and ranchers to the choices they have available and not the direct outreach to consumers.
Different Levels in Agencies
- Entry Level
In her first role with AdFarm, Rosie was a Junior Public Relations Assistant and focused 100% of her time on her one account, which was also AdFarm’s largest account at the time and was a crop production client. As a self-proclaimed “beef kid,” Rosie wasn’t as familiar with the crop science world, so she threw herself in at full force to learn as much as she could about the account and the industry.
Moving to a Public Relations Account Lead and a Public Relations Strategist, Rosie went from her one account to managing ten plus accounts any given week. In a way, it almost felt like an entire career change!
- Senior Level
Currently Rosie’s position involves more responsibilities, such as pitching services, building new clientele relationships, working day-to-day, an understanding of small start-ups and large corporations, rebranding a business or communicating new products to an audience.
Never Get Bored!
Work at agencies like AdFarm is diverse and can include strategic planning, account services, project management, creative, media planning, public relations, content creation & management, marketing automation and customer relationship management, marketing perspective, production research, search strategy, and web development.
“I thought I wanted to be more of a generalist, maybe an association job,” says Rosie about what direction college-Rosie would have thought her career would head. “While I think that’s still an excellent career choice, what I discounted is that I would get to do all of those different [career aspects] but I would have subject matter experts and highly trained individuals at my fingertips.”
Managing a Team Remote
A veteran at working remotely, Rosie has helped provide tips to her AdFarm team on remote working as many offices have moved that direction due to COVID-19 restrictions and mandates.
- Always know how your employees are motivated.
Recognize that people are all motivated differently and, specifically, different than you. Find out what motivates them and helps them achieve their best.
- Over communicate!
Make a schedule for weekly check-ins and don’t be afraid to discuss things that aren’t work related. Current business culture is missing “break room chatter” and, while many people may not have given it much thought in the past, it’s pivotal for your team to stay connected and engaged – especially when we aren’t able to have face-to-face interactions.
- Management isn’t something you can learn from a book, podcast or mentor.
Management is something that you learn through application. Adapt principles that you read, learn or think about, but understand that it’s a diverse position and relies on reading the team that you manage.
Agency life isn’t for everyone and can even have high turnover rates due to longer and unpredictable hours. That lifestyle isn’t attractive to some people, but others, like Rosie, thrive in it. If you’re adaptable, not to set in your routine, love being creative on the fly, and working collaboratively with a large, diverse and talented team – agency life could be a great fit for you!
“I have never lived the same day twice, I’ve never experienced the exact same thing twice,” says Rosie. Agency life could be the antidote to the reputation that millennials have of being career restless.
Rosie’s prediction is that agency life will move towards specialist freelancers that can help on specific projects within industries and she encourages agricultural communication students and graduates to find their specialization, hone it, and broadcast it. For example, Rosie was interested in public relations and, while OSU didn’t have specializations at that time, she stated that she was a specialist in writing and built her resume through college on freelance writing.
Make sure to subscribe to the AgGrad YouTube Channel to learn more about career opportunities in agriculture and follow along on the special “30 Under 30 in Agriculture” series! Interested in nominating someone under 30? Nominate them here!