Guest Post By: Andrew Wortmann, UCM PR PRogram Alum
During your time in the PR program, you will undoubtedly work with a “real-world” client. The benefits of having students do “real-world” work are obvious for the client – an accessible test audience, extra sets of hands to work on projects, a fresh set of eyes, etc.
If you’re a student going through the program, you might have a bit of trouble seeing the benefits. Here’s one for you – a job! I wouldn’t be in the position I am today if it wasn’t for the work I did for my class client.
The first semester of my senior year, I was enrolled in Magazine Design and was assigned Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC) as my client. Little did I know that my client would offer me an internship, then an interview and ultimately a job post-graduation.
Our Service Learning Project
Our team put together a 16-page publication for Fight Colorectal Cancer full of survivor stories and awareness messages that was used as a leave behind on Capitol Hill during Fight CRC’s annual Call-On Congress event.
We named the magazine STRONG, after the One Million Strong campaign that recognizes the more than one million colorectal cancer survivors living in the United States. The work done on this project earned the program a Silver Anvil PRISM award from the Greater Kansas City Public Relations Society of America.
Throughout the project, I worked closely with my team and our contact at Fight CRC, Danielle Burgess. Danielle is the Director of Communications at Fight CRC and is also a UCM PR Program alumna. Once the project was finished, I talked with Danielle about internship opportunities with Fight CRC.
Open Doors to Opportunity
In January 2015, Evan Whittaker and I joined the Fight CRC communications team as interns. That spring, the whole communications team was made up of UCM PR Program alums – Danielle, Shawna Snyder, Evan and me. You never know who you’re going to end up working with, so be sure you don’t burn any bridges! Evan and I joined right at the beginning of busy season for Fight CRC, leading up to March – Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
In April, the four of us presented for PRSSA on Fight CRC’s #StrongArmSelfie campaign. In March, that campaign reached 57 million people with more than 25,000 #StrongArmSelfie submissions. In addition to the #StrongArmSelfie campaign, in March we had 57,000+ visits to our website, 6,000 views of our patient webinar content and distributed more than 3,000 copies of our Beyond Blue newsletter. This internship was my first taste of what “busy” truly meant.
Once my internship ended and I was getting ready to graduate, I was lucky enough to be hired for a full-time position at Fight CRC. It all started because of a class project I did earlier that year.
So, what’s in it for students? More than you think.
Tips for Working with Class Clients
- Treat your project like an interview. In every aspect of communication you have with them, be professional. Write with clarity. (If you don’t know how, Mr. Heapes will be happy to help you.) Professionals are busy and they don’t have time to read through emails that are poorly written and don’t have a point.
- Don’t tell a professional you’re busy. Before graduation I thought I was the busiest person I knew. Then I got a job. Being busy isn’t an excuse for missing a deadline, having poor communication or dropping the ball – so don’t treat it like one.
- Work hard. If you do solid work on the client’s project, they’re going to be impressed and remember you when you are looking for a job. The same rings true if you do sub-par work – which would you rather be remembered for?
- Stay teachable. No matter where you are in the program, you’re going to learn a lot from working with a client. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a client that treats you like a colleague. Sometimes they might say something you don’t want to hear. The truth is, you probably needed to hear it and you should feel lucky you got to hear it (and hopefully learn from it) while you’re still in school. Don’t get down on yourself because of it, grow from it and don’t do it again.
- Make the most of it. I promise you if you work hard, ask questions and truly work to get something from the experience, you’ll end up being rewarded because of it.
Who knows, you just might end up with a job.