During my junior year at University at Albany, I was fortunate enough to get an internship for the New York State Senate Democratic Conference. That’s when I began to form my love for public affairs and advocacy work.
I remember how excited I was that I could sit in the New York State Chamber with all these Senators and watch them defend the bills that they worked so hard to develop so they could be brought to Congress. I admired their passion for making a positive impact on the world, and it made me realize how much I want to be able to affect change in the same way.
In my last semester of undergrad, I participated in a Semester in Washington program, in which I was able to intern at the Democratic National Committee. Now, I had the opportunity to experience politics on a national level and see how these big decisions affect the entire country.
Both experiences gave me a sense of purpose that I was called to be a woman of the people. I found that through public affairs and public relations, I could play a key role in influencing the world around me.
To do this well, I’ve found a foundation of identity, audience and day-to-day operations are key:
Define your brand identity
Whether it’s for a political leader or an organization, your brand tells the world who you are and what you’re about. For example, I have branded myself as a The Office fanatic. Now, if I wanted to build a brand around that, I could make The Office references in my content and otherwise start associating with the show through my work. Since I know the characters and popular taglines for the show, I could brand my business using social media therefore seeing who would be interested in working with me and target my content to that demographic.
Whether you are trying to promote yourself as a The Office fan, a legislator, or a business, you have to figure out who you are, and how to communicate that through an image that connects to your intended audience.
Know your audience
With public relations, organizations are seeking meaningful ways to engage their core audience. For example, if you are seeking media coverage for a video game company, you wouldn’t reach out to reporters at Cosmo, because that outlet’s readers aren’t seeking content about video games. Knowing your audience is critical both in public relations and public affairs it makes the difference between being effective or counterproductive.
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Day-to-day actions with strategic vision
A good public relations partner helps organizations fulfill their long-term goals, not just day-to-day actions. Individual wins of media coverage are good, but for truly meaningful for growth, each outreach effort should align with an overall strategy for how an organization wishes to present itself and connect with its audience.
If it wasn’t for being an intern, I’m not sure if would’ve landed on the path I am now. Opportunities like those foster so much more than just a potential job but character development as well. If there’s one thing I would say it’s that I think every college or even high school student should do at least one internship. Because of mine it led to me where I am today working in public relations and I can’t have imagined it any other way.