I’ve heard the phrase “everyone switches their major” so many times it's ingrained into my mind.
I’ve switched my major three times over the course of the last two years, finally landing on two that stuck: PR and digital journalism.
The hard part isn’t choosing a major, it’s ultimately choosing which field to pursue post-graduation. The decision could alter the course of your career and arguably your life.
Looking for a summer internship this year, I had to decide between agency experience or writing for a publication. I wanted to expose myself to PR and its creativity, but I also wanted to strengthen my writing abilities and learn about the internal business of brands and agencies.
I stumbled across the opportunity at PRWeek on my university’s career website and was immediately hooked. Interning at a publication that held knowledge of the top agencies and PR pros was like finding a unicorn.
I knew that being an editorial intern would not only mold and shape me to become a better writer, but would be the real determinant in my internal conflict between PR and journalism.
The first few weeks of the internship I wrote and absorbed news daily. One of the stories I was assigned was about winning campaigns at Cannes Lions, an international festival of creativity highlighting work across comms, advertising and PR.
I explored the 13 winning campaigns in the PR creative category. Going through each portfolio, I became enamored with the creativity and impact of the work, most notably the Dove #LetHerGrow campaign.
Working with Edelman, the agency of record for the Unilever brand, Dove enacted real change through its campaign, convincing Thailand officials to abolish a long-standing rule forcing haircuts upon young women in the country’s schools.
Seeing the influence a campaign could have, I knew I wanted to be part of the team behind it. I wanted to be in the rooms where these campaigns are in the beginning stages — where I can help with execution, creative and strategy as it’s going into motion; not writing about it after the fact.
Stradling the worlds of journalism and PR during my internship, I’ve learned that both industries aren't exactly interchangeable, but accompany one another.
PR practitioners work with the media every day to help get ideas out. Journalists, especially covering business, rely on PR contacts to loop them into exclusive happenings, new releases, ever-changing and evolving products, people moves, account wins, layoffs, etc.
Having worked under strict deadlines, I’ve learned the importance of a phone interview versus email responses and how original content, whether it be quotes or new information, can elevate a story. I now know never to ask — or demand — that a journalist share a story before publication and to be available for follow ups after pitching an idea or expert insight.
My time at PRWeek taught me many things about myself, editorial and the PR industry as a whole. I’ve strengthened my writing, made lasting connections and accumulated a few bylines.
Writing is one of the most beneficial skills a PR pro can have and I’ve gained immense respect for journalists during my time here. While writing will always be a passion of mine, this experience has shown me that I want to pursue PR full time in the future.
As I wrap up my time here, the most important thing I’m walking away with is the importance of originality — both on the PR front and as a journalist.
Journalists want to be pitched content unique to them with each publication fighting for a creative edge and angle to a story. PR as a profession exists because agencies create distinctive content for their clients.
Both parties are looking for something fresh and exclusive. In simple terms, no one wants a half eaten Jersey Mike’s sandwich.
M.K. Kalenak is an editorial intern at PRWeek U.S. and a Jersey Mike’s enthusiast.