Women’s History Month Feature: Rasheedah Thomas
This month, in honor of Women’s History Month, we asked members to tell us about female D.C.-area public relations and communications professionals doing great work, like Rasheedah Thomas.
Rasheedah is principal and co-founder of RC Communications, a Black-owned D.C.-based branding and media relations firm. Originally from Columbia, S.C., she has been working in the industry for more than 15 years. To get to know Rasheedah, we asked her a few questions about her career and her life.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m originally from Columbia, SC – a Southern belle through and through! Both of my parents are from South Carolina and my father is from the Lowcountry, so I proudly claim that rich Geechee Gullah culture and heritage. I haven’t seen my parents for a year because of the pandemic and I miss them (and their cooking) terribly. But I’m also a great cook. Because I refuse to eat those horribly processed grits in DMV grocery stores (yuck!), I’ve been importing grits from home for years. And I’ve introduced my Yankee friends to real shrimp and grits, Geechee style.
Can you give us a quick rundown of your career so far?
I worked at National Public Radio for 11 years before we founded the firm. At NPR, I started out in fundraising – institutional giving. Our team raised funds from private foundations. Later in my tenure there, I managed donor communications and stewardship. One part of the job that I LOVED all 11 years, was my management of on-air credits. My job was to work with the donor on language, make sure that it complied with FCC and IRS guidelines to get the approval from Legal, and work with our awesome on-air traffic team to get it recorded and on air. The best part? I got to hear the results of that work every time I listened to NPR, all over the country. Occasionally, I still hear on-air credits that I created, and it makes me smile.
I also learned how to take unfamiliar and often complicated information and distill it into compelling messages for donors and other stakeholders while at NPR. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was setting me up for success in the next iteration in my strategic communications career.
In 2014, I co-founded RC Communications, a strategic communications firm. We advise a diverse group of clients on strategic communications, crisis communications, and branding strategies. I often say, “I’m the woman you hire if you are either in a crisis or need to nail down your messaging and brand yourself as an expert in your field.” We’ve advised everyone from heads of state to small business owners.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Our firm is turning seven years old on April 4th and I’m extremely proud of us! When we realized that we had an anniversary coming up, I did some research and found some startling statistics. Eight out of 10 Black-owned businesses fail in the first 18 months. That’s 80%! Also, 50% of all businesses fail by the fifth year and 70% don’t make it to year ten. So, we made it to seven years against the odds! And I know this is just the beginning of our success story.
What do you like most about working in the D.C.-area?
I’m a proud native South Carolinian, but DC is home now. I long ago fell in love with the diversity of people, cultures, and food. I’m a huge nerd and news junkie, and I love living in a place where the majority of people know and understand current events. Also, seeing the monuments when I fly into DCA or drive across the 14th Street bridge? It gets me every single time.
What do you like most about being a PRSA NCC member?
I’m a fairly new member, but I’m enjoying the benefits so far. At a time when we all have Zoom fatigue, the Women’s History Month webinar was such a pleasant experience. The fireside chat with Ashley Etienne interviewed by Lisa Nicole Matthews was of the best virtual events I’ve participated in over the past year. It was fascinating to watch a comms pro be interviewed by a journalist. Every time I thought of a question, Lisa Matthews would ask it. It was extremely well done.
Are there any women who inspire you (a fellow comms professional or not)? Could you tell us how they inspire you?
Anyone who knows me will tell you that my personal shero is Harriet Tubman. If I could have a conversation with any person, living or dead, it would be her. I’ve been inspired by her strength and courage since I first heard her story as a little girl. As an adult, I have often reminded myself to be “strong like Harriet” or “courageous like Harriet”.
What career advice would you tell your younger self?
Don’t worry so much! Everything you are doing is setting yourself up for success. Trust the process.