The PR lady at Our Lady of Lourdes knows how to get it done.
When Elisabeth Arnold was pregnant with her son Daniel, she was asked to serve as president-elect of Boys and Girls Club of Acadiana. At the time, she was mother to 3-year-old Meredith and had a full-time job. Her initial response was, “Are you kidding?!” But then, she thought about the kids at the club and developed a new personal motto: Tell me what you can do; don’t tell me what you can’t do.
It was that philosophy that spring-boarded Arnold’s career to the top community relations position at the new Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center.
The Metairie native came to Lafayette on a scholarship to UL Lafayette. Once she arrived, she fell in love with the Hub City and never left. While working on her degree in mass communication, she shuffled among several jobs — waiting tables, laying out ads at Abdalla’s, working at a PR firm. “I’m definitely of the mind set that while you’re in college, you need to find part-time or intern work in the type of field that you are interested in to get a hands-on feel of what goes on in the day-in-the-life of that type of position,” she says. “If you have some type of work experience, it really does give you a leg up when you interview out of college.”
The latter job launched her career in advertising/public relations/marketing. At the tender age of 25, Arnold joined a newly formed ad agency called aka owned by Kiki Frayard (another of this year’s honorees). There, she learned the PR business from the ground up. “There was no, ‘This is your job, this is someone else’s job,’” she recalls. “I learned about copy machines, printer bids, making sales calls — I was soaking everything up at that level, because anything they would let me do, I would do.”
It was this early experience that proved the most valuable. After aka was bought out, Arnold got married and landed a dot.com job. That business eventually went bust. “I learned to take risks,” she says. “You can always brush yourself off and start over.”
In 2001, she landed a marketing job at Lafayette General Medical Center. Seven years later, she took on the demanding position of community relations director at Lourdes during its transition from the old St. Landry Street location to the sprawling new center off Ambassador Caffery Parkway. “It was such an amazing opportunity to do something that I may never have had another opportunity to do in a market this size, unless I wanted to move,” she says. “And I love Acadiana. I love Lafayette.”
During the 18-month process, Arnold served on the 14-member transition team, working with the architects and design team to open the hospital. “I worked on everything from the marketing and communications to the signage to the events we rolled out to open the hospital,” she says. “It was a phenomenal experience. We walked away with such a sense of accomplishment of what we were able to do for the future of Acadiana. Because this hospital is going to be open for many, many years. So, I think that for me and for the folks who worked on this, we are just really proud of the fact that we were able to get it done — on time.” — Lisa Hanchey