By Abby Cousineau
“School can teach you a lot, but nothing beats real-world experience.”
I’m sure you have heard this phrase more than a few times in your life. And while it sounds cliché, there is a ring of truth to it.
This past summer, I spent my days working for an awesome non-profit, Make-A-WishÒ Michigan. While I learned a ton about PR and communications at a non-profit, here are the top four things I got out of my internship:
- Being a good writer is crucial
I can honestly say I wrote something every single day at my internship. Whether it was an email, a press release, a feature story or social media copy, it felt like I was literally always writing. At most non-profits, Make-A-Wish included, there is a small communications department that is responsible for pretty much everything PR/marketing related, so being a strong writer is important. You learn a lot of these writing skills in school, but nothing truly prepares you for your boss telling you she needs social media copy, a feature story and a press release by the end of the work day. Being able to write well, write quickly and being capable of taking one topic and translating it into multiple stories fit for different mediums is essential.
- Having solid research skills is almost as crucial as being a strong writer
During the summer, there were many times where I had to write about something I had no clue about. Being able to gather information and apply it to your project is a very good skill to have. Your boss will expect you to be able to find out what you need to complete the task on your own, and they will want you to be able to take that information and put it into something organized & clear.
- Event planning is tedious
Make-A-WishÒ Michigan puts on multiple fundraising events every year and I got to be part of & observe one of their largest events: the Wish-A-Mile Bike Tour. This event lasts three days, participants ride over 300 miles and there are multiple “mini” events that take place over the course of the weekend. I won’t get into the whole thing, but I got to see first-hand how event planning works at a non-profit. SO much goes into this process & it is extremely tedious. Communication between team members and extensive preparation has to be more than solid to pull off large-scale fundraising events. The weeks leading up to the Wish-A-Mile tour were hectic, but seeing everything come together in the end was truly magical and made all the stress feel worth it.
- If you want to work in PR, you have to be passionate about the company you work for
I think this is especially true if you choose to work for a non-profit, but working in PR in general can be exhausting. At my internship I saw my supervisors put in 15 hour days, push themselves physically and mentally for three days during the Wish-A-Mile Tour, and spend countless hours planning events, writing stories and working on design projects. PR can be draining, but if you work for a company you truly believe in it makes everything easier. There were a few times where I questioned why I was going to school for PR, but when I saw a kid get their wish granted, or talked to a parent on the phone and heard them cry about how grateful they were for the wish experience, it made me realize how powerful and meaningful the jobs we do every day really are.