How Kiara Powell of Virginia Union University started a career in marketing

Kiara Powell is the Assistant Director of Marketing and Branding at Virginia Union University. Kiara is responsible for the university’s digital communications strategy, solidifying Virginia Union’s status as the oldest Historically Black College in Virginia.

An alumna of Virginia Commonwealth University, Kiara is passionate about marketing and branding. Prior to her role at Virginia Union University, Kiara worked in broadcast media as a brand ambassador to WLFV-FM, WWLB-FM and WBBT-FM.

Kiara shares how she started her career and the best advice she’s received along the way.

I was educated at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia, and graduated with a degree in Mass Communications and a concentration in Public Relations. VCU gave me many opportunities to network among executives in the PR and advertising industries during my time there. When I graduated, I was able to get a highly coveted internship at a local PR firm.

In high school I was in a Mass Communications program as well. I learned the basics of journalism, graphic design, and video production. My senior class did a marketing campaign for the Virginia Department of Health, and we also had a news show called “The Freelancer” where I was one of the news anchors. I also became a news anchor on a show for a Chesterfield County cable channel.

My first job was an internship for a dog treat company called Best Bully Sticks during my senior year of college. This was my first time creating a voice for a brand. I wrote blog posts every day, and I created content to grow their Facebook and Twitter accounts. My boss helped me become a stronger writer, built the foundations of my career, and taught me how to create a strong brand voice online.

My first big break was getting the opportunity to freelance with a woman for her company after I was laid off from my job. I was lucky enough to work with her for about a year while I was getting myself together. She introduced me to software to help me perfect my craft, in addition to showing me the ropes of entrepreneurship.

During the time I was freelancing, I was also able to work out of a co-working space while doing the company’s digital content as well. Being blessed with a network of women who wanted me to succeed helped me a lot while I was looking for a stable job.

I start the day by going to the gym in order to get the mental clarity I need for the day. Once I step into the office I check and respond to my emails, then check all our social media outlets for news articles that feature Virginia Union University (VUU), or if there’s any mentions of VUU online.

From there, a variety of things can usually happen including me going on campus to film a promotional video, having meetings to discuss upcoming campaigns, or working with a student on a project.

Right now, I’m busy planning the campaigns for the academic year. I’m also working on becoming more organized with my time in order to give myself more time to prepare.

When I’m not working, I love to travel, especially going to state parks, and to concerts. I will travel to almost any city to see my favorite artist. I love doing road trips with my friends or even by myself. I also love to go to the movies by myself and going out to eat.

I’m always inspired by my mom. She has a great personality and so many achievements that make me believe that I can succeed just as she has.

I’m inspired by the women in my professional network. They help guide me through the workplace by mentoring me and pushing me to become a leader. I’m also inspired by Rihanna, who has succeeded in her career by being herself.

I’m a really good cook. My favorite thing to do on Saturday nights is research a recipe to make, or even come up with a recipe from scratch. Some of my specialties include gnocchi, Chinese scallion pancakes, and right now I am working on making the perfect broth for soup.

The best career advice I ever received is “always be authentically yourself.”

My biggest achievement was when Virginia Union University was named as the most active college in Virginia on Snapchat in 2018. It came as a total surprise for me. I opened our Twitter account and saw a local media outlet tweet to VUU about it. I was excited.

I challenge myself by setting number focused goals. It’s always fun when I reach a high engagement number on our social media outlets. Sometimes I’ll have a post that gets a high level of engagement that I would never expect to be so popular.

Looking ahead I’ll be focusing on going back to school and learning a new language in order to expand my career internationally. Right now, I’m looking to obtain a master’s degree in a country outside of the United States.

I love working at Virginia Union University because I love the prestige that comes from working at a historically black institution. I love working in my field because I enjoy using my creativity to tell people’s stories.


Interview by Octavia Goredema 
Octavia Goredema is an award-winning career coach, writer and the founder of Twenty Ten Talent. You can connect with her on Instagram, LinkedIn or over on Twitter.

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