Advice from Ex-Intern, Now Agency Head

   Tom Ciesielka   

Our agency just had its fourth intern finish her program with TC Public Relations.  Jessica’s leaving was bittersweet.  Bitter because our interns do very important work that helps the account executives get the job done and sweet because we celebrated her time here.

I remember my first internship.  I was finishing a degree in audio-visual communications (read slide shows, not PowerPoint, and 3/4-inch video decks, not Flip cameras) with an internship at the local ABC television station in Rochester, New York.  One of my jobs as a production assistant was to carry around a video deck that must have weighed about 35 pounds (or about 50% more the current weight of my 16-month-old daughter).  Part of that job was to guide the camera person when walking backwards for walking interviews.  Often I had to make sure the camera person did no step into a pile of dog poop.  These dog poop avoiding skills have helped throughout my career.

So what does this have to do with public relations interns of the 21st Century?  Let me share the connections:

Interns still need to do heavy lifting:  While our interns may only know Flip and Web cameras, they need to wade through tons and tons of social media opportunities (think YouTube as the second largest online search outlet) for our clients to find just the right connection points between our clients and their future customers.

Interns still need to follow (and lead) the people who have the experience:  I’ve been in public relations for more than 20 years, so I know that when I take the time to mentor the interns, I can give them valuable insights into the business world that transcends technology and share life experiences that they can take to their next job.  In exchange, the interns that grew up in a digital world can lead me and help me learn what it’s like to have a life that is more centered on social media than the society pages of a print newspaper.

Interns Still Need to Dodge the Poop:  Yes, I know the public relations industry is changing rapidly, and yes, I know that much of the economy is still on life support, but so what?  One of the last things I shared with the intern before she left was the quote “These are the best of times, these are the worst of times.”  And despite the media’s year-long obsession with the 10% unemployment rate, 90% of people ARE working!  So I want good interns (we’ve always had the best thanks to our internship coordinator) to know that when they do a good job at TC Public Relations they should be able to pursue the 90% opportunity not the 10% of poop.

While I am still learning what public relations 2.0 or 5.0 should look like for our agency, the value of interns that meet the demands of the times are priceless.

Tom Ciesielka heads Chicago-based legal boutique agency, TC Public Relations. 

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