72 Hours in PR: A Columbia Extern’s Experience
Columbia University Bachelor of Arts student, Elyse Cox, joined the DGC team during her Spring Break to learn about the dazzling world of PR/Communications as part of our company’s participation in the school’s 2013 Extern program. Here’s what Elyse had to say about her experience…
Public Relations is a dynamic industry and working at DiGennaro Communications was like being in a perpetual motion machine for me; fascinating and a little confusing. As the name would indicate, my Public Relations externship would involve relating to the “public,” as in “the media.”
As a first-year college student with limited business experience, I started my 3-day externship at DGC armed with a list of duties I envisioned for a PR firm and a separate list of “mystery terms” I had found in my research. B2B? B2C? Thought Leadership? These terms hinted at an overarching goal central to DGC’s role in communications, media, and marketing that I was somehow missing.
After a tour of the office to meet everyone, I stepped into a meeting to learn about social media at the firm. Thirty minutes later, I walked out with an understanding of the incredible power of social influence. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs aren’t just for scrolling through in idle moments. They require strategy and incredible dexterity, all focused on building a quality base of followers who are interested in a certain topic or a company’s message. In social media, relevance is key, and the most important part of building positive relationships in the ever-expanding world of social media is distributing messages that resonate.
With this lesson still reverberating in my head, I dove into account management. My first responsibility was developing a local contact list for one of DGC’s client companies, which was hosting a major industry event in a matter of weeks. In making the list, I had to think about why certain outlets would be interested in covering the event. Another consideration I was taught to keep in mind was thinking about the media outlets that would have a genuine interest in sharing the client’s message with the people who trust them for information.
In one standout experience of my externship, I had the chance to sit in a conference room with a team of account directors and executives, including the company’s founder Samantha DiGennaro, to brainstorm on behalf of one of their clients. I knew that marketing firms change perceptions of products, but I had never thought about who handles the way marketing companies are perceived by other companies. Perhaps that’s because DGC aligns so well with their clients’ desires through brainstorming sessions like the one I witnessed. They delved deep into their client’s perspective, sending thoughts volleying across the table to develop a word, a song, or an image into an idea with incredible creativity.
Some of my most interesting experiences at DGC were speaking with its employees. They came from different careers and backgrounds; some had been journalists, others had worked at marketing firms, and others have worked in PR during their entire careers. Yet they all bring essential viewpoints to their work based on these experiences.
After three busy, exciting eye-opening days, I left DGC exponentially more enlightened about PR. In a way, I had seen the key to their work in the very first item on my agenda: “Introduction to the team.” DGC is about connection. The staff builds trust with their clients, they seek positive interactions with the media, and they collaborate with each other. So, while I had entered DGC’s offices under the impression that I was entering the PR perpetual motion machine, I emerged intact from the multifaceted, dynamic, exciting world of PR.