Denver’s Jessica Nelson loves to tell stories. She has been employed in the public relations/communications field for about a decade. But in June, she was laid off from her position in the …
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Denver’s Jessica Nelson loves to tell stories.
She has been employed in the public relations/communications field for about a decade. But in June, she was laid off from her position in the entertainment and film industry because of hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As she searched for a job, Nelson came across the Taproot Foundation, which is a national nonprofit that connects organizations with volunteers who provide their professional services pro bono.
“I wanted to give back and make an impact,” Nelson said. “There is always something to learn and something you can teach others.”
Through Taproot, Nelson provided free public relations work for a New York nonprofit called Harlem Film House, which provides “services and resources to filmmakers and content creators in underserved communities interested in building careers in film, theatre and related pursuits,” states a news release. Its services and resources include workshops, theatre productions, live events and film and music festivals. When Nelson got involved, the film house needed a public relations professional to help promote its fifth annual Hip Hop Film Festival, which took place Aug. 6-9 for the main event and into September for the festival’s virtual watch parties and awards ceremony. Proceeds from the festival benefit the participating filmmakers and the film house’s mission, and Harlem Film House particularly needed help promoting the event this year because it took place virtually.
“I was able to assist them with press materials, messaging and pitching, as well as securing coverage with outlets like IndieWire, Forbes, Evening Standard, Bloomberg and more,” Nelson said. “I am so proud of the passion, dedication and hard work that Harlem Film House puts into everything they do. I’m so thankful to be a part of their team and hope I can continue doing pro bono with them for a long time.”
While working with Harlem Film House, Nelson continued to search for a fulltime job. With no luck, however, she eventually decided to open her own firm and launched Persist Publicity near the end of October.
“I didn’t know if I’d fail or succeed,” Nelson said. “But I feel lucky that it is going well so far.”
Persist Publicity focuses on Colorado businesses and Nelson has been working with businesses in the wellness and health-care industries, technology and community events -- although Nelson feels there are no limitations to what types of industries she can work with.
“Businesses are realizing there’s a need for communications,” Nelson said. “Especially in crisis situations.”
Nelson enjoys helping businesses tell the stories of not only their mission, but also of the people the business impacts.
Despite the challenges of starting her own business -- such as learning new skills not related to public relations work like building a website -- Nelson enjoys working independently, she said.
Nelson, 32, has been living in Denver for nearly seven years and currently resides in the Washington Virginia Vale neighborhood. She and her husband Kenny have been married for five years, and they have a two-year-old son named Elias and a rescue dog named Oliver. The family enjoys hiking, cooking and trying new restaurants in Denver’s dining scene.
It is hard to think about what the future may hold, especially in these unprecedented times, Nelson said.
“Life has gone in unexpected directions,” Nelson said of her layoff, doing pro bono work and opening her firm. “But it is exciting.”
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