Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm intern Taylor Hatch.
Last week, all seven Peppercomm New York interns (or, as we like to call ourselves, the PeppSquad) had the opportunity to attend InternFest, an annual event hosted by the Council of Public Relations Firms. InternFest gives NYC’s interns the chance to learn more about public relations and network with industry all-stars. To put it simply, the event was fantastic.
The presenters included Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, Renee Wilson, President of MSL Group North America, and Jim Joseph, President of Cohn & Wolfe. In addition, the event featured a panel discussion lead by entry-level PR professionals that covered strategies to stand out in a mass of eager interns.
While I’m no expert on intern events, I’ve attended enough of them to know that InternFest is special. Rather than advice on fluffing our resumes and schmoozing our way through interviews, InternFest deemed us worthy of real industry insight. The three hour event emphasized where public relations is headed and how we can jump onboard. Read on for three points that stuck with me—and one tiny criticism.
Takeaway 1: PR is a 10-Way Street
Ms. Wilson’s presentation answered the question that should be on everyone’s mind at these events: Where will this career take me? With her 10 potential paths leading from public relations, she completely shattered my perception that a PR career requires a certain type of person (i.e. outgoing, persistent…). Not so, it turns out, as Ms. Wilson’s list included “Creative Guru” for those who prefer to create content, direct videos, etc. and “Insight Creator” for those who enjoy breaking down and applying big data.
Takeaway 2: High Risk, High Return (or Disaster)
Mr. Joseph welcomed us interns onto an emotional rollercoaster of marketing strategy. When I say we laughed and we cried, I mean it literally. In his discussion on emerging trends in Public Relations, Mr. Joseph gave examples of huge marketing risks—including companies who cashed in on their unconventional branding as well as those who paid for it. Examples included Bodyform’s hilarious and snarky video and the incredibly moving Jeep “Whole Again” commercial (FYI: Peppercomm’s interns weren’t the only ones tearing up)
Takeaway 3: Privacy? LOL
In a world with social media, public relations has transformed dramatically—so, too, has the landscape for PR professionals and applicants. Mr. Joseph explained how, as a result of increased transparency, brands are often expected to take a public stand on political issues, for better or worse.
Likewise, in a reality where interviewers check your Facebook page before they shake your hand, hyper-strict privacy settings are no longer the best strategy. Hiding your online presence does nothing for you as an applicant, whereas promoting a positive online presence does everything. As PR professionals, if we can’t manage our personal brands, why would we be hired to manage a client’s brand?
Room for improvement? Perhaps the networking session
After two and a half hours of inspiring and motivating us, InternFest dropped that ominous word: Networking. While this final half-hour was perfectly fine, it could have used more organization to lessen the inherent awkwardness of networking. The non-interns stood in the back of the room and a table of water bottles and candy stood near the exit. Not to be picky when it comes to mingling, but the environment was less natural and more “Ready, Set, Network!”, with interns scrambling to get business cards before everyone mingled their way out the door. In addition, with some professionals missing a nametag, we were left to distinguish Junior Account Executives from interns, which can essentially come down to who looks more nervous.
All in all, I was extremely impressed by InternFest and the meaningful insight that we took with us. Thank you to the Council of Public Relations Firms for putting on such a fabulous event, and I hope to see you again—as panelist rather than nervous intern.