PRSSA Kent State University
by Caitlin Potts
As an intern at the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley this semester, I feel I’ve gained a great amount of experience. I was lucky enough to get a variety of responsibilities, which I think has made me even more well-rounded in this field.
At the start of my internship, the main focus was research and evaluation. Every year in January and February, the United Way reviews and evaluates past programs it helped fund through various local agencies. I managed its logic models about these programs and Annual Report card for 2013. My role during this project was researching the effectiveness of these programs, how much funding they called for and deciding what could be done differently. I found myself using skills I learned throughout Kent’s PR sequence. We’re taught early on about the importance of evaluation. I was commended on my work, and I feel good about it.
Additionally, I assisted in planning several events like the Annual Meeting and a large fundraiser with famous golfers Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam. I really enjoy planning events, and I made great contacts throughout the process. I also gained some media relations experience. I attended a conference with several other United Way employees where local media inquired about the Nicklaus and Sorenstam event. It was very interesting to get a first-hand look at the type of questions that are asked and the way an organization communicates with the media.
I learned a lot about thinking on your feet and making executive decisions. Those types of things have always been a bit of a struggle for me. I also learned the importance of asking questions. There is no right or wrong question, especially as an intern. Additionally, I found it interesting to observe PR outside the classroom.
I would advise future interns to understand the people at United Way are very kind and will be great mentors if you spend your time wisely as an intern. I would also tell them to avoid being afraid of getting involved at work. Employees love it when you walk around and see if anyone needs help or has a project for you to work on. It shows you care and want to be there. That’s really what this experience is all about.
by Aubrey Johnson
I had opportunity to work as the public relations assistant at Chautauqua Institution summer 2013, and I am thankful to have hadan internship at such an amazing institution.
Chautauqua Institution is a non-profit summer community located in southwestern New York on Chautauqua Lake. It offers a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship, educational programs and recreational activities.
As the PR assistant at Chautauqua, I had two bosses who I worked and completed tasks for. One of my bosses is the editor of the Chautauquan Daily, the daily newspaper at Chautauqua, and my other boss is the chief marketing officer. Most of the time, though, I was completing tasks without their involvement or guidance. I was given a great deal of responsibility and a lot of independence.
When I first started the internship, the amount of responsibility I was given scared me. After writing my first couple press releases, I was told they didn’t need to be edited because they were very well written. I was trusted to send out press releases to local and national media with only my eyes looking at them. It was refreshing to know they had confidence in me, even though I doubted myself at first.
Since then, I have learned to be confident in my work, and I have gained excellent problem solving skills because I have to figure out things on my own. I typically wrote at least three press releases a week, coordinated interviews for various media events, wrote copy for newsletters, answered questions and requests from the media and more. My name was also listed as the media contact on the press page of our website, so I was constantly receiving calls and requests. It is safe to say that my ability to multitask increased immensely.
I’m excited to say that I was able to coordinate a visit from a Japanese magazine, SOTOKOTO, completely on my own. I planned interviews for the Japanese journalist and photographer and helped them develop ideas for the story on Chautauqua that was featured in the September issue of SOTOKOTO. I can’t wait to receive the copy we are featured in! (Although, I haven’t mastered how to read Japanese yet.)
Overall, I am shocked at how much I grew as a PR professional during that short summer job experience. My confidence in my work skyrocketed, and I know it’s because of the independence and amount of responsibility I was given at Chautauqua. My advice to interns is to not be afraid of a lot of responsibility and independence—embrace it!