Making the Most of My College Internship at Communication Solutions
By Jonathon Deddy, Intern
It often seems like yesterday that I was a fresh-faced 18 year old at new student orientation at Penn State Abington. One part I vividly remember being said by an administrator was to, “take a good look around you and remember this day. In four years’ time, you will all be graduates!” Interning is a rite of passage for most recent college graduates, or those on the cusp of graduating, and was a facet that has helped me to build my experience in the field of public relations. Even though I have learned a good amount of the technicalities of PR at the university level, I never really had a good chance to put these skills to use. My time interning at The Communication Solutions Group was the place where I could put these skills – messaging, branding, scheduling and more – to the test. I have really enjoyed my time here as an intern; it was here where I have met some of the kindest, most hardworking, and most professional individuals I have ever come across, and they have really taught me a great deal of what it means to be a PR pro!
Now, when most people think of an internship, the film The Devil Wears Prada comes to mind: people who retrieve the boss’s morning coffee, make reservations at a restaurant, and make photocopies of documents. While there was, indeed, photocopying and document sorting here, I truly felt I was an actual employee here at Communication Solutions with all of the skills I have learned. For starters, my first day on the job didn’t even start at the office! It began on a humid August morning, where I was assigned to work with Public Relations & Marketing Specialist Kellie Dietrich. I photographed the process of the recording of the “Hat Chat Minute,” a short; one-minute style video detailing any important district updates and events for students and families.
Of course, that trip to Crooked Billet Elementary School was only the first of the places I would go for field work. My second trip involved going to Keystone Elementary School in Bristol Township School District to cover an event involving the Police Youth Alliance, a group involving both the local police of the areas they serve, and the Pennsylvania State Troopers to build a positive relationship with the younger members of the communities they serve. The highlight of this day was seeing a State Trooper helicopter land in the adjacent baseball field, seeing all the first graders’ faces aglow with excitement and awe. This was the first event that I covered by myself, so I was a little bit nervous. Yet, after the event concluded, I felt more confident than ever, confident that I could cover an event in the future with little trouble.
Another event covered was the Keith Valley Challenge at Keith Valley Middle School. First held in 1978, one year after a Keith Valley student had died from congenital heart failure, the Keith Valley Challenge raises money for the Make-A-Wish foundation. Students do this by pledging to play hours of floor hockey. Being able to cover such an event was definitely a heartwarming experience, especially seeing how proud all of the students were of their achievement: raising over $25,000!
I also learned about various software programs that I otherwise would never have heard of. Namely, Hootsuite. One concern I had coming into this internship was figuring out how to post and write copy to the various social media accounts we manage. Learning about how a program like Hootsuite gathered all of the accounts into one, easy-to-use space really allowed me to make the most of my time here, without having to have multiple tabs and accounts open when doing social media scheduling for our clients.
One major skill I learned was writing press releases. Throughout most of my academic career, we were taught to write in a very formal, very academic fashion, with large vocabulary and long paragraphs. Transitioning from that style to a more media-based one was a little awkward at first, having been used to writing a certain way for the better part of a decade. One of the more challenging areas within this was creating a title for the releases; it had to be both eye grabbing for the media, and short enough to use so as not to overwhelm the reader at first glance.
Perhaps my most favorite thing about interning with Communication Solutions was being able to see how my work here was making an impact in the community. For instance, photographs I had taken, or press releases I had written were published in the media. Or when my research on energy trade publications led to a national article placement for a client.
So, prospective interns, what advice do I, a graduating senior, need to impart on you? Well, one of the most important bits of advice I can give is don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone. Being an intern, whether here at Communication Solutions, or anywhere for that matter, is all about gaining experience! Part of which involves doing things that you never thought you could do. So take that leap of faith, ask to do field work, ask to write that press release! These are all experiences that you will never forget. Which leads me into my next piece of advice: ask questions! Again, interning is a learning experience, and you won’t learn if you’re stuck on something. So don’t be afraid to ask for help or clarification, that’s what your coworkers are all here for. Lastly, expect the unexpected. Sometimes, things don’t always go according to plan. As such, it is imperative that you are prepared for what may occur, and to be flexible. We are all human, and mistakes do indeed happen.
In closing, I would like to thank Leza Raffel, Founder and President of The Communication Solutions Group, for giving me this incredible opportunity to intern here, and to all of the other employees who have helped me along the way. I have learned some truly invaluable skills here; skills that I will most certainly use in the future.
Jonathon Deddy is from Lansdale, Pennsylvania. A graduate of the Pennsylvania State University with a BA in Corporate Communication and a minor in Business, he is a studious individual who enjoys writing essays in the library, travelling around from city to city, and knows quite a thing or two about cars.