Behind the Headlines: Q&A with Raychel Lean + Melea VanOstrand


Meet Raychel Lean and Melea VanOstrand, the latest additions to Schwartz Media Strategies’ team. Former Managing Editors for the Daily Business Review, a national publishing company with media outlets covering law and real estate, they’ve seamlessly transitioned from journalism to public relations, bringing a wealth of storytelling expertise.

In this brief Q&A, delve into their motivations, background, and discover how their editorial acumen uniquely positions them to serve the firm’s clients, especially in the legal sector.

After several years as a journalist, why did you decide to switch careers? 

Raychel: Growing up in the U.K., my mom insisted I become a journalist due to my writing skills. I dismissed the idea, believing I wasn’t good at writing and had no interest in chasing celebrities or shouting at prime ministers. Turns out, my mom was right, and being a journalist was different than I imagined. 

Moving to the U.S. at 19, I joined ALM to cover South Florida litigation for the Daily Business Review, despite not knowing what litigation meant. Talking to lawyers and judges daily for five years served as an excellent crash course, teaching me about various legal issues. Above all, I mastered explaining these issues in a way everyone could understand. 

As a storyteller, I sought new avenues. Now, at Schwartz Media Strategies, I assist community and business leaders in sharing engaging and insightful stories, contributing to vital conversations on contemporary issues. Switching careers is a challenge, but apparently, I enjoy inflicting that upon myself now and then.  

Melea: After several fulfilling years covering a multitude of topics as a reporter across radio, TV, and as the managing editor of a newspaper, my transition to Schwartz Media Strategies stems from a desire to further leverage my skills in a dynamic manner. While my journalistic journey equipped me with a wealth of experiences, I felt ready for a change that would allow me to expand my skillset beyond reporting.  

Joining a PR firm provides me with the opportunity to not only represent clients in the law, real estate, banking, and construction industries—similar to my recent role at the Daily Business Review—but also to contribute my storytelling proficiency to shape narratives that resonate within these sectors. This transition signifies a deliberate move to broaden my impact, combining my storytelling proficiency with my industry knowledge to offer a multifaceted value-add to both clients and the community. 

What are you enjoying most about SMS? 

Raychel: Our clients are leaders in many sectors, including law, real estate, insurance, finance and public affairs. This means they’re often at the forefront of the issues shaping Florida and the U.S., which makes for fascinating discussions. And some clients are even former interview subjects.  

I’m also working with a team that has extensive experience in PR and marketing – and many of them have collaborated with me in my former life as a journalist. I saw firsthand how good they are at getting results, so I’m excited to learn their tricks of the trade.  

Melea: As Raychel said, it’s great to work more closely with leaders in the community who are at the forefront of issues shaping change in Florida, especially many that we’ve interviewed ourselves. What adds an extra layer of excitement to this professional journey is the privilege of learning from some of the finest PR and marketing professionals I’ve encountered throughout my career. It’s a remarkable experience to work closely under the team’s guidance, tapping into their wealth of knowledge and expertise. The diversity of sectors our clients represent ensures that every day brings forth new challenges and opportunities, fueling my enthusiasm to grasp the intricacies of strategic communication in these dynamic fields. 

What’s been the biggest challenge? 

Raychel: If I had a dollar for all the emails and calls from PR professionals that I didn’t answer, I’d probably have $1 million and I’d have to donate it to charity out of guilt. I now have more empathy. As a reporter, you get so used to people picking up your calls and dropping everything to talk to you that it can be jarring when you realize … you’re not actually special! This is why it’s so important to build and nurture relationships – and, of course, write killer subject lines. 

Melea: My primary challenge post-transition is adjusting from a journalistic observer to an active participant in narrative crafting. Embracing this shift and broadening my definition of success beyond impactful stories have been positive challenges. Adapting to PR’s faster pace and multitasking has invigorated my efficiency, and aligning work with organizational goals brings a deeper sense of purpose. Continuous learning defines my evolving identity, making this transition a fun journey. 

How has your journalism experience prepared you for this role? 

Raychel:Journalism teaches you to act with urgency and always be thinking ahead to the next story, the next big idea. PR and marketing roles call for the same approach; you must be nimble enough to switch gears and adjust strategies based on market trends, client feedback or unexpected events. Experience conducting interviews is also helpful for extracting meaningful insights from clients and building relationships. Both roles require similar skills, but they’re applied differently. 

Melea: My journalism across mediums such as print, TV, and radio, uniquely positions me for success in PR and marketing. The skills acquired—meticulous research, effective storytelling, and adept media relations—are invaluable assets. Managing editorial responsibilities has honed my strategic thinking, while on-air experience ensures compelling communication. Navigating tight deadlines and adapting to diverse roles have cultivated resilience. The skills I acquired equipped me to craft impactful narratives, build strong relationships, and navigate the dynamic landscape of PR with a seasoned perspective, providing a solid foundation for success. 

The two of you have worked together before – at ALM’s Florida publication, the Daily Business Review. What makes you a good team? 

Raychel: I knew as soon as I met Melea that we’d be friends. This friendship also became the foundation of a fruitful working relationship, as we both felt comfortable bouncing ideas against each other and trying out new strategies. I also learned about real estate through Melea, as she took on the South Florida real estate beat and made it her own. Melea is curious, creative and efficient, and her experience in broadcast journalism adds another dimension as she’s unflappable under pressure. I’m happy to be colleagues again! 

Melea: Raychel has been a constant source of guidance, evolving from a colleague to a friend to a forever mentor. Her insightful approach and openness to collaboration complement my curiosity and creativity. What I deeply admire about Raychel is her commitment to being open and her dedication to advocacy and inclusivity, which sets a powerful example. Our relationship thrives on constantly sharing new insights, exploring innovative strategies, and using our problem-solving skills which ensures a high level of productivity. As colleagues, our synergy elevates our work dynamic through shared experiences and mutual support.