By Daniel Henderson
I have spent this summer as an intern at the Council on Foreign Relations in the Council’s Washington External Affairs Program. CFR is a nonpartisan think tank, membership organization and publisher. It is the single most referenced and respected think tank on foreign policy issues in D.C.. Managing this reputation falls on the Washington External Affairs Program because the program’s function is to take the work of CFR’s experts, fellows and members and put it in the hands of policy makers.
My part in this has been helping to manage the planning and logistics of events, including tracking RSVPs, setting up before hand, creating rosters and formatting accompanying CFR material in a briefing packet. I also assisted with creating and tracking our electronic distributions to Congress. I spent the vast majority of time reading and editing documents prepared for the Hill, or for distribution at our events, in proper CFR style.
I have loved my experience at CFR, and as I look back over the years I believe I will come to see it as a transformative one. I have had the opportunity to connect with policy makers, ambassadors, national security experts and all-around brilliant and world-renowned scholars. I would not trade those moments for anything. This internship has also helped to clarify for me the expanding role of PR, not just as managers of a brand or crisis experts, but as constant contacts between an organization’s publics and the central mission of that organization. Without the work of external affairs experts at CFR, the work of our brilliant fellows would probably not have the effect that it does.
My advice to future interns is to be really, really, REALLY strong editors, since the quality of your work, and your boss’s reliance on you, hinges on it. Also, know something about the field you are interning. If you’re interning for an organization that works in politics or healthcare, having solid PR skills will only get you so far if you don’t understand at least a little about politics and healthcare. Finally, taking an internship in cities outside of Ohio can be hard, but that’s usually how you make connection with the leading experts in a field, so throw your hat in the ring and really try to intern in a great global city.