Spotlight on 2020 Rising Star: Taylor Thornberg

Taylor Thornberg is a public relations specialist at the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. She has a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she majored in Mass Communications with a concentration in Broadcast Journalism, and minored in Spanish. With three years of experience in the field, Taylor’s skills and interests span social media management, media relations and crisis communications. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, baking, and staging photos of her creations, seeing live music with friends, and hiking the best peaks in Virginia.

What does receiving the Rising Star award mean to you?

I’m honestly still in disbelief about this. I feel exceptionally grateful and humbled for the opportunity to reflect on my achievements of the last three years. I remember in 2016 when I saw that my former supervisor for my Virginia21 internship, Alexsis Rodgers, had received the award and thought how lucky I was that she had shared her knowledge with me during my tenure there. It’s inspiring to now be in that position, among the incredibly talented and driven winners who came before me. In short, it means everything.

How did you decide to get involved in the public relations industry?

While I was in school for broadcast journalism and looking to fill my internship requirement, I began searching outside the usual newsroom internships for something more generally communications-based. I landed a communications and policy internship at Virginia21, and it was my first experience in content creation for social media. It piqued my interest, to the point that when I graduated later that year, I applied to similar positions. My first full time job opportunity happened to be in marketing, and I quickly recognized a big difference in what I was doing and what I wanted to do. When I stumbled upon the public relations specialist position opening at Virginia ABC, the description sounded exactly like what I wanted to do. I haven’t looked back since. 

Do you have a highlight when you think of your career thus far?

In 2019, Virginia ABC reached $1 billion in revenue for the first time in its 84-year history. Our communications team developed a multi-faceted PR campaign and it was the first time I’ve been able to work on something like that from start to finish. The “A Billion Reasons to Celebrate” campaign was a huge undertaking but one of the most rewarding experiences to watch all of it come to life. 

How did you get involved in PRSA Richmond? What has been your experience as a member thus far?

One of the first things I was told when hired by ABC was that I would be able to join a professional development organization, and that PRSA Richmond was the one all my peers were in. The choice was clear, and it’s been an awesome experience ever since. The community has taken me in and given me so many opportunities to expand my skills and knowledge, including the chance to attend the International PRSA Conference in 2018. When I first got to Austin, I thought I might be spending the week alone since no one else from my organization was attending, but I quickly found my PRSA Richmond chapter cohorts and we spent the week learning and networking together. I think it’s impressive how engaged our chapter is in particular, despite our busy day jobs we dedicate time to the betterment of the profession as a whole. 

What advice do you have for young professionals?

You are going to make mistakes, but you can’t let them paralyze you. The pressure can be immense in this field when everything you do is in the public eye. Sometimes your learning opportunity comes in trial by fire. As long as you lead with empathy, and recover with grace, you’re going to be okay. 

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I can’t overemphasize how grateful and honored I am for this award. I am especially grateful to my team for their support. Thank you. I can’t wait to continue learning and growing with PRSA Richmond.