I think it is safe to say I started my internship at Freestyle Public Relations with a fair amount of trepidation. The word “intern” had my mind instantly conjuring up images of how my summer would be spent: making coffee, trying to figure out how to translate that skill to my resume and working for someone who would probably mispronounce my name for three months. As my internship wraps up I am glad to say my preconceived notions have been proven false. Now when I hear the word “intern” another word comes to mind— “opportunity”. Contrary to what I had previously believed, I spent my summer learning about the PR industry, furthering my skills, acquiring new real-world techniques and immersing myself in the industries of Freestyle’s clients. Also, my name was pronounced correctly every time.
The Top 5 Things I Learned from Freestyle
1)Lots of work and RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH, go into everything
One thing that particularly struck me while working at Freestyle was just how much work goes into a successful public relations effort. When I see a company profile in a magazine, or an interview on TV, I now realize just how much work must have went into securing that placement. Meetings with clients, research on reporters, digging up statistics and drafting and re-drafting a pitch, are only some of the steps I learned I must go through before finally receiving the satisfaction of a response. And even then, success was not always guaranteed. When we didn’t reach our goals, the answer was simple— do more work, more research.
2) Don’t be a cookie-cutter image.
Walking into my interview at Freestyle I kept repeating in my head the slogan I had read on their website, “communication without boundaries.” I was trying to think of a way to tell them that is exactly the type of work I would like to be able to produce. Over the next few months I was able to witness how this was done. The agency didn’t just use the same plan with every client and they didn’t copy other PR firms. Instead they looked at their clients and came up with a plan that would suit their needs in a unique way that was right for them. This is something I want to emulate as I continue on my career path, and I hope I can stay mindful of not falling into a mold.
3) Keep learning.
I’ll admit that at times it is hard to find the motivation to work an unpaid internship. But while I rolled my eyes at my parent’s and teachers’ comments about the invaluable gift of “experience” and “opportunity”, they could not have been more right. I was able to work in an environment in which I felt comfortable asking questions, but was still given independence in completing and managing my assignments. David would occasionally sit us down and talk to us about the industry or about hints that would be helpful in our work. I can’t imagine many company presidents mentor their interns in this way.
4) Confidence is key.
The first time I had to pitch to reporters on the phone, I was terrified. Sure, I can write a good e-mail, be either persuasive or eloquent in a given situation, but on the phone I’m fairly certain I sound like I’m five. And what if I was asked something I hadn’t looked into yet? David gave me some sound advice to match my tone, volume and speed to the person I was talking to, which would at least give me some fake confidence. As for the not knowing something, the answer was again that I had to have done my research. After a few pitches my fake confidence grew into real confidence, a lesson I’m guessing will be repeated throughout my life.
5) Sometimes you need a break from work in order to produce good work.
Whether it’s a game of ping-pong or just a time-out to share funny stories, I learned that sometimes focus comes after some planned un-focus time. I’m sure there’s some research about how releasing endorphins helps you think more clearly, but it wouldn’t really pertain to me since my ping-pong skills were one thing that did not improve during my time at Freestyle.
More than anything else this summer, I learned that being uncomfortable can be a good thing. I don’t ever want to settle into a routine at work or in school or in life. If I don’t continually challenge myself, I won’t learn anything new. And it’s all well and good to say these things, but working as an intern and seeing what I want to do, everyday, in front of me, gave me the backbone to not just say what I want but to strive for it.
–Hayley Mason, Intern