|Michael Mallon, Intern|
I’ve had lots of different internship experiences in my three post-high school years. I interned for the morning show at 103.5 KTU here in New York; I handled marketing strategies at a startup that made financial mobile apps; and I worked for Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12)
down in Washington, DC.
Now I’m in PR.
Although most people might link the marketing experience with my current PR internship at Feintuch Communications, my internship with Congresswoman Maloney was actually the most similar to what I’m doing now. From the view of an intern who had many press and writing-related tasks on the Hill, and who is now working at a full-fledged communications and PR firm, there are many similarities in both tasks and mindsets between doing political press and working in private sector press relations.
There are certainly differences as well, but I will save those for a later date. From what I’ve learned so far, here are the top similarities between government press operations and a PR firm’s operations:
- Master Media Relations – The absolute basis of professional press relations does not change. You still need to put out press releases, you still need to coordinate with journalists, and you still need to serve the client’s (or politician’s) interests.
- Manage Crises Efficiently – There are times, both in government and PR firms, when crises must be handled with great poise. Whether the politician made a comment that is making headlines as a gaffe, or a corporation’s product must be recalled, there’s a need for communications professionals to attempt to counteract the sudden ‘bad press’ that arises. Writing a story that is favorable toward the client, stirring up positive news articles in important publications, reestablishing your client’s credibility, and other techniques are necessary in either field when crises inevitably arise.
- Develop Clear and Concise Messaging – PR firms and political press experts must both communicate the message of their client in a coherent and compelling manner. This may be through any number of means, but whether you are working for a politician or a corporation, you must make sure that the message and image that they each are trying to convey to the media and to the public are being conveyed effectively. That could mean a politician who wants to be seen as one of the leaders of the immigration reform efforts in Congress, or it could mean a client who wants to be positioned as having the best customer service in their industry.
- Manage Your Databases – It’s important in either field to make sure that your databases are up to date and filled with the most relevant contacts. Journalists move from publication to publication or from one focus to another with increasing frequency, making it necessary to constantly update your databases. That way, when news breaks or it’s time to send out a release, it will go out to the proper people.
- Handle Difficult Clients – Some clients can be difficult to work with in both fields. Whether it’s a Senator who does not want to do interview and media training but consistently fumbles on television, or a company that is a bit too capricious with its marketing plans, it is a PR professional’s job to advise as best as possible. This means that you are constantly walking a thin line between pushing hard for something because you believe it is strongly in the client’s best interest, and serving the client based on what they want.
- See the Big Picture – In political press and more general PR, you always need to understand the client’s “big picture.” The more you understand a client and their overall vision, the more you can effectively cater to it and provide the right services to achieve the client’s objectives. In politics, that may mean publicizing something that a Senator did even though it may be unpopular with constituents in order to show that the politician is a team-player within the party – the end goal being a specific committee assignment (which is determined by the party apparatus). In PR, you may have a great plan to get publicity in some well-respected publications which would certainly boost the company’s product sales, but if those publications don’t cater to the marketing plan that the client has, then it does not fall in line with the company’s big picture.
Michael Mallon is the 2013 Summer Intern for Feintuch Communications. He attends Cornell University, class of 2014.