Communications Interns Step Into the Real World at PR Conference

Real World PR PRSA (2)

Twain Carter ’14, Leslie Peters ’15, Christie Pearce ’15 and Kai Street ’14

Interns in Pegasus Creative, Oglethorpe’s student communications agency, recently attended the annual Real World PR Conference for college students, hosted by the Public Relations Society of America in February.

During the all-day event, the students were able to learn more about PR careers and to ask questions of industry leaders from Chick-fil-A, Georgia Aquarium, Delta Air Lines, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Power, Cox Enterprise, and CNN, among others. Panelists gave helpful tips and anecdotal advice about a wide range of topics including personal branding, the HR perspective of interviewing and the fast- paced environment of entertainment PR.

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For senior Kai Street ’14, the conference proved to be a compass for his professional path. “I came out of the conference with knowledge, a new network of people, and a new direction to take in terms of my professional career,” said Kai, who  participated in the conference’s career fair, which offered internship and networking opportunities and was “a great place to put one’s name out in the public and connect with professionals.”

Twain Carter ’14 found that the conference gave him a renewed confidence in what he is learning in the classroom, confirming that “once I graduate, I will be prepared for anything thrown my way.” But for Christie Pearce ’15, the conference offered a clear detour sign. “I wanted some guidance on the direction I should be going for my communications career and indeed confirmed that PR is not for me,” she admitted.

Similarly, I also now have a better sense of what a PR career might entail, but I’m not sure that being a part of the fast-paced world of PR fits who I am and my career goals–something good to discover sooner than later.

“Regardless of whether a student plans to pursue PR or not,” said Christie, “the panelists had a lot of insight about professionalism, interviewing, and career etiquette that is valuable to everyone.”

Telling My Story: Lessons Learned by a Psych Major in the PR World

Through my internship with Pegasus Creative, Oglethorpe’s student communications agency, I recently had the opportunity to attend Real World PR, an annual conference held by the Public Relations Society of America (Georgia chapter) for students interested in public relations.

As I waited for the conference to begin, I chatted with a group of students who had traveled more than 12 hours to attend. Fortunately, being in Atlanta afforded me this, and many similar opportunities, without an exhausting commute. When the other students attending began listing their majors, all fell under the communications umbrella. I was the lone psychology major.  I questioned, how does that fit into the PR world? But, as the conference progressed, I began to learn that my major was just one of many angles to my own story I could share to promote my skills and attributes.

The keynote speaker at the conference was Jodie Charlop, an executive coach. She described her seemingly disjointed career path, but went on to explain the common themes in her repertoire of experiences. She encouraged us to work on weaving together our many experiences to create a story—our own story.

Similar to Charlop, my own resume reflects my exploration into what I should do in life and for a living. I have been a circulation assistant in a library, worked as a resident assistant, interned at a consulting company, and currently work with international students at EF (Education First) and in Oglethorpe’s Career Services office in addition to interning at Pegasus. Needless to say, with the exception of my current internship as the Public Relations Specialist at Pegasus Creative, the rest of my resume does not exactly fit the PR mold.

I began to understand how relevant Charlop’s talk was to me and my challenge. Throughout the rest of the day, as I began to attend more sessions, I began to think how I could use my major and variety of experiences as ways to stand out and be memorable.

During a session about PR niches and myths, PR professionals from companies like Moe’s and Children’s Health Care of Atlanta spoke about their stories and experience in PR. When asked about their backgrounds, all stated that they were undergrads in communications, with the exception of one, another psychology major. It was then I realized I was not an odd man out after all. The point of the breakfast presentation began to sink in. PR is about how a company is presented, and as aspiring PR professionals, we can utilize the same strategies when presenting ourselves. We only need to tell our story in a compelling way.

Finding My Way at the Modern Media Conference

As a senior at Oglethorpe, my current goals involve deciding where I want to go with my life, which paths I wish to embark upon and which journeys I will undertake.  Ironically, on a physical plane, my navigational abilities are not exactly “present.”  Maps and signs befuddle me, as do landmarks, and I can find myself getting lost in ways that are so bizarre as to be impressive… from a certain angle, that is.  While my “impressive” skills at getting lost were no different at Georgia State’s Modern Media Conference (it took me half an hour to find the cafeteria), in a deeper sense, there was some direction to be found—the type of direction that every college senior ultimately desires.

Debra Bryant '12 and Marisa Manuel '13 at the conference

I chose to attend Georgia State’s conference because of my editor position with The Tower literary magazine, as well as my internship with Oglethorpe’s Pegasus Creative (the University Communication department’s newly-launched student communications agency that gives us the opportunity to gain real world experience in a collaborative team environment).  The conference, held September 28-29, was packed with more than 20 guest speakers from major media outlets such as CNN, ESPN, WSB-TV, HLN, and WXIA.   I was accompanied by Director of Communications Renee Vary, Assistant Director Debbie Aiken ’12, and Pegasus Creative’s Web Content Development Intern Debra Bryant ’12 (who also came on behalf of The Nightcap, the Evening Degree Program’s newsletter.)

The four of us had numerous lectures to choose from, some headed by photojournalists, others by newspaper editors, and a few by the professors at Georgia State themselves. The variety of seminars offered went far beyond what I had anticipated, and I used up an entire booklet taking notes on what was discussed.

Throughout the course of the day, I was able to attend five sessions, ranging from a passionate lecture called “Get to the Damn Point!” (something which I have admittedly not done yet—read on!) to an informative presentation on what makes student government an exciting body to report on. (As a member of our school’s SGA, this was especially topical for me!).  Journalist and Editor Michael Koretzky ended the conference with several stories concerning his own experiences in the professional world; he encouraged the audience to “be fired for the right reason,” before recounting several situations in which he was fired for just that.

So, what is the “darn” point of me writing this?  Well, there are several points I wish to share with you—I had fun, I learned a lot, and I hope to have more opportunities like this in the future.  Is this where I want to go with my life?  Do I want to work in PR, journalism, broadcasting, or some other form of media?  I don’t know, but I now see them as options, which puts me a step closer to finding my way than I was before.