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Cultivating Connections Changes Lives: A Kristen Ellis Profile

Published on April 2, 2024, at 5.48 p.m.
by Stephanie Smith.

Platform Magazine and Capstone Agency alumna Kristen Ellis has been in the public relations agency world for nearly eight years, having a successful career in account management after graduating from The University of Alabama in 2016.

From day one
Ellis knew she wanted to come to The University of Alabama as soon as she toured the school. “From day one, the professors and faculty rolled out a red carpet for me,” Ellis said. She grew up near Montgomery, Alabama, and knew she wanted to go into communications since high school. Her sophomore year at Alabama is when she truly fell in love with public relations and everything it has to offer.

Kristen Ellis

Upon enrolling at UA in 2012, Ellis instantly got involved with different organizations on campus. She joined the Student Alumni Association, serving on the Public Relations Committee. She also served in the Student Government Association as a member of the First Year Council and eventually became a senator for the College of Communication and Information Sciences. Her Honors College experience began through its mentor program, first as a mentee her freshman year and then as a mentor her sophomore year. She also joined Phi Mu, serving as a Panhellenic Delegate and Rho Chi.

Later in her college career, she served as vice president and president for C&IS Ambassadors. Being an ambassador opened many doors, leading her to become part of the C&IS Student Executive Council, and it was also during this time that Kristen applied to Capstone Agency. When she joined the on-campus agency her junior year, she served as an assistant account executive, then as an account executive during her senior year. Her Capstone Agency experience helped Ellis learn what it’s like to work at a PR agency. Ellis said, “It’s what got me interested in what I’m doing now.” She also became a writer and editor for Platform Magazine.

Ellis was constantly busy being involved in so many organizations. “I did it because I wanted to get the experience year-round for my job,” she said. Throughout all organizations Ellis was involved with, she made so many connections with students, faculty and alumni — some that would completely change her life.

The power of networking
When Ellis was a junior, she was strongly encouraged by a faculty member to join The Oakley Society, a professional development organization that helps foster relationships between students and alumni in the industry. Alison Holcombe, advisor of The Oakley Society, explained, “It was all about Jim Oakley, advisor, counselor and friend. He wore all the hats, and Oakley [Society] was named after him to represent all the connections he had. It was important because he could pick up the phone and had a connection almost anywhere.”

Photo via Adobe Stock by

Despite being heavily involved on campus, Ellis still wanted to learn more about life after college from someone currently in the industry. She knew she wanted to work at a PR agency, so she put on her Oakley Society application that she would love to be matched with someone in the agency world. She ended up being matched with Amanda Coppock Rue, a senior account executive at the time for Porter Novelli in Atlanta.

Ellis and Rue talked on the phone monthly, chatting about the basics of PR or which PR agencies would best suit Ellis after college. “We didn’t focus a lot on Porter Novelli specifically,” Ellis said. “For some reason, Porter Novelli wasn’t really on my radar yet. Furthermore, not knowing much about the city, I was dead set on not moving to Atlanta after college.”

“Kristen and I got paired together, and it was the first year that The Oakley Society began. I actually got to visit Tuscaloosa and meet her in person,” Rue said. “I remember talking to her about what she wanted to do after college, where she wanted to go, and what kind of internships and jobs she was looking at. I remember she was interested in Dallas, and I remember saying to consider Atlanta.”

Ellis recalled, “At the very last minute just before the internship applications were due, she said, ‘Have you thought about applying to Porter Novelli?’ Ellis told Rue that she was interested but was still hesitant about living in Atlanta. Rue strongly encouraged Ellis to apply for the internship, and so she did. Ellis ended up getting the internship and three months later was hired for a full-time position at Porter Novelli’s Atlanta office.

“Truly, I do not think I would be where I am today without that connection. She is a testament to that, and the whole Oakley Society mentorship program is a testament to that, and that is why I still [serve as a Oakley Society mentor] today,” said Ellis.

The story continues
Ellis quickly fell in love with Atlanta and agency life, just as she’d hope she would. Rue became Ellis’ co-worker and still mentored her but in a different way. Even though they were on different accounts, Rue continued to help Ellis get settled in her new role.

“I loved it; I was there for five years,” Ellis noted. She worked on about 20 accounts while being at Porter Novelli. “It was great to dip my toes into everything and learn about the different industries and facets of PR,” Ellis said.

Photo via Porter Novelli’s LinkedIn Business Page

Over her five years at the company, she went from being an account coordinator to an account supervisor, working her way up through six positions total, including her role as an intern. After working on client accounts like Bayer Crop Science, Habitat for Humanity International, Chico’s, White House Black Market, Soma, T-Mobile and Food Lion, she was able to identify the niches of public relations that specifically interested her.

Ellis is currently at MSL in Atlanta. She joined the team in August of 2021 as an account supervisor and now is a senior account supervisor.

“I’ve loved it and I love our clients,” Ellis said. She is working on accounts such as Inspire Brands (Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings) and The Home Depot. Ellis is also still serving as a mentor for The Oakley Society and is a member of the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, volunteering on the College Relations Committee..

Ellis’ story illustrates how crucial connections are. “I think connections in your network are so important, because it’s something that you have to nourish over time,” said Rue.

Ellis and Rue are still friends to this day. “The connections you form are equally important, if not more important, than the work that you do,” said Ellis.

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