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Hitting The Ground Running: An Intern’s Perspective

When I first interviewed for PondelWilkinson’s internship program earlier this summer, I was told that it would be a hands-on and immersive experience. I nodded politely and expressed my interest. I laid out what I had done at school, which I thought made me capable. While I was not completely wrong in my “qualifications,” I learned fast that the real world cannot be taught.

On one of my first days, I was tasked with writing a pitch letter for a client’s new product launch. Easy enough, I did this in class, I thought to myself. So, I found my old professor’s template and went ahead to write an email pitch. I polished it up and sent it along to my supervisor expecting minor feedback. I was not expecting the entire letter to be edited and rewritten. Oh, this is not like school.

As the internship went on, I was tasked with more pitch letters, calls to reporters, and updates for clients. I was not getting the perfect latte ready or organizing file cabinets (although the internship was virtual so that would have been hard to do). I was acting as an associate on client accounts, working behind the scenes.

One element that took some time adjusting was the virtual format. While there are many positives for working remotely, including the flexibility of making my own schedule, there are downsides as well, particularly learning each other’s “schedule” when there is no real office. I am happy to report that the teamwork aspect was not lost. I also got to work alongside my fellow intern where we helped each other on projects and still felt connected, even if she lives in Pennsylvania and I in Maine.

Below are a few tips for new interns on what I found to be successful when transitioning from class to an internship:

Organization. In school I always had a planner where I would write down what I had to do, and then cross it off as it got done. This worked well for my internship, too. I would write down client activities planned for the week and then begin by checking them off once completed. This made me feel productive and helped keep what I was doing organized. What differs from school is there might be urgent items that come in at random times. While school and class have a schedule, the business world does not. What I think I might do during the day could completely change. You must stay on your toes but keep organized while doing so.

Communication. I admit it. I am the student who annoys the professor with emails to make sure I am doing the right thing. I have learned that communication looks a little different in the workplace. A lot of the time management responsibility is left up to me. I must take ownership and trust myself and my work. The good news is there are no grades, and things can always be changed and edited. Communication is still important, but its purpose is to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Work hard, play hard. This is the mantra at my university. Students are expected to produce high quality work, but also relish their college experience. I think this phrase can still be applied to an internship but tweaked just a little. Working hard does not change. I always want to put my best foot forward and exceed expectations. To play hard in an internship, however, means taking a step back and enjoying the experience. I have been able to work with some cool clients who are doing eye-opening things, and also become friends with Lauren O’Neill who was not just “the other intern.”

While an internship is certainly not like school, there are qualities that can be applied to both. I have learned so much more about public relations, even if I have had great classes about it. George was not lying when he said this internship would be immersive, and I am so glad it has been.

Rachel Peterson


Rachel Peterson interned remotely at PondelWilkinson for the firm’s 2022 summer program. She is a student at Wake Forest University studying communication, integrated strategies, and film. When she’s not working or studying, Rachel enjoys going to the beach, watching the sunset, and dancing. After graduation, she hopes to put her skills to use in Vancouver or New York.

How I Thrived as a Liberal Arts Major Interning in the Business Sphere

In my three years as an undergraduate, I have never once taken a business course. So, you can imagine how I felt when, during my first week as an intern at PondelWilkinson, the conversation at the weekly staff meeting quickly turned to non-deal roadshows and corporate access. 

I have been studying as an English major, and I felt that my only skill was being able to edit papers and read quickly. I immediately doubted my abilities and thought I had made the wrong choice. 

But I was wrong. 

One of my first tasks was writing a pitch letter for an AI robotics company revolutionizing the culinary industry. After all the journalism classes I had taken, I thought I had this down. I knew about the catchy introduction, and the importance of making the story seem timely and relevant. The difference was this pitch letter would not be sitting on my computer in an endless list of documents. It would be sent to actual reporters.  

I quickly realized that writing the email was not something that could be done with the snap of my fingers. I needed to fully understand the client and spent a lot of time looking at press releases and news coverage. I also had to research reporters and their outlet perspectives, which helped ensure my pitch letter was reaching the right audience.

Suffice to say, my pitch generated media interest that resulted in a client Q&A published in an industry trade outlet. But it didn’t stop there. There were press releases, client strategy calls, social media programs and even SEO work, among many other of my day-to-day activities. Throughout it all, PondelWilkinson provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate the skills I acquired as a liberal arts major that were applied to corporate communications in the real world.

After constantly going through college, hearing “What are you going to do with an English degree,” I finally feel confident in my decision as PondelWilkinson provided me with the opportunity to do real and meaningful work.

Lauren O’Neill

Lauren O’Neill recently completed her internship at PondelWilkinson and is a rising senior at Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College majoring in writing and communications. 

Continuing the Legacy of Cecilia Wilkinson

We recently had the pleasure to meet with Andrea Gomez, a graduate student at USC and recipient of this year’s Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship.

USC Graduate Student Andrea Gomez is the latest recipient of the Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship.

For the past 15 years, the Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship has been awarded to a first-year graduate student at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism with an interest in corporate/investor relations and reputation management.

“I can’t thank you enough for your generosity!” said Gomez, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public relations and advertising. “The financial support has allowed me to attend USC without being burdened by financial stress. The Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship has helped pay for a large amount of my tuition.”

Gomez shows strong passions in graphic design, marketing and civic engagement. She developed her unique concentration in working for service-driven organizations and is inspired to start a nonprofit organization for foster children one day.

“My dream has always been to work in a nonprofit, advocacy or social justice sector,” added Gomez. “Following and developing my passions led to my career in public relations. Corporate communications is a field that is quickly evolving. I’m so excited to enter this profession that will challenge me and push me to grow.”

Gomez also maintains high grades and already has begun making substantial connections with her professors who have founded nonprofit organizations. It is nerve-racking to enter a new world of education, but Gomez shows great talent, strength and aspiration to become the next front runner in the public relations realm.

“With their passion, purpose and skills, these students truly embody the hope and possibility of the future,” said Willow Bay, dean at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journal about PondelWilkinson’s memorial scholarship. “Your generosity has made a difference for our students today and tomorrow, and I am truly grateful for your enduring support and partnership.”

Best of luck, Andrea!

Aimee Wong, awang@pondel.com

‘Social Media’ are Two Words IROs Shouldn’t Fear

Social media probably are the two most revered words in investor relations today.  Although the medium is no stranger to consumer brands, social media is just now being tested by corporate communications departments as they look to engage investor audiences.
 
SEC rules post-financial regulation reform have created an onslaught of new communication channels for companies, social media being high on the list.   These new channels provide a robust platform for companies to listen, share and engage with multiple audiences like never before.
 
Most publicly traded companies can benefit from some type of social media engagement.  Consumer and investor audiences are being influenced by social networks and the blogosphere.   The trick is adopting a strategy that resonates with an organization’s key audiences and objectives.
 
Programs can be large or small in scope, but never implemented because of the status quo.  A good rule of thumb is to determine if social media fits into a company’s communications objectives, rather than how the communications objectives fit into social media.
 
Adopting effective social media strategies can be quite daunting, since these platforms are “new” to investor relations audiences.  But companies cannot ignore the influence of blog posts, tweets, video and conversation threads.  Engaging in these new media builds social capital, a valuable network that ultimately can enhance reputation, not to mention shareholder value.

 

George Medici, gmedici@pondel.com