How to Be the Best Intern Ever

February 23, 2017

by Ashley Tinstman

As someone who was once a nervous, timid intern, I’ll admit—internships can be somewhat terrifying.  Your professors constantly stress the importance of getting multiple internships, but the process of seeking and obtaining those internships can sometimes feel overwhelming.

If you’ve ever felt this way, take a deep breath and relax.  Internships are a process of trial and error—they’re designed to help you learn what you like and don’t like, all while getting real-world experience.  And as employers, we’re here to help you grow, and that’s something we love to do.

Here at Curley & Pynn, interns are a valuable part of our team who get to work on all kinds of projects—drafting newsletters, doing research, building media lists and more.  Now, you might be thinking, “That sounds awesome, but what exactly do you look for in an intern?”  Luckily for you, I am here to answer that very question.  Here are five things that make a great C&P intern:

  • Write.  And then write some more.

But seriously … writing is a vital skill in our industry.  As an intern at C&P (and in your future jobs), you will be writing on a consistent basis. Whether it’s a news release, feature story or a media pitch, you must have strong writing skills and know how to tailor your writing to very specific audiences.  If writing isn’t exactly your strong suit, practice!  It’ll go a long way in helping you stand out during your interview.

  • Be a sponge.

Once you’ve landed the internship, be eager to learn all you can.  Observe what others do, take notes, ask to sit in on meetings and seek out advice. We are here to be a resource for you, so don’t be shy.  You can learn a great deal by observing and asking questions.

  • Be a problem solver.

In the PR industry, you will undoubtedly face challenges that require you to think critically.  You may have to do difficult research for a client or write about a topic with which you’re unfamiliar.  In those cases, be resourceful and attempt to work through the problem you’re facing.  But if you get stuck after trying, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

  • View mistakes as a learning opportunity.

Everyone makes mistakes.  It’s an unavoidable reality.  You’ll make mistakes as an intern, and you’ll make mistakes as a seasoned industry pro.  But guess what … that’s OK.  Mistakes may not be pleasant in the moment, but they can be a valuable learning opportunity.  When your internship supervisor offers constructive criticism, view it as a positive.  We want to help you grow and succeed.

  • Take initiative.

One of the most valuable things you can do as an intern is take initiative. If there’s a project you want to get involved with, tell us.  If there’s something you want to learn more about, speak up.  If you don’t have enough work to do, ask for more.  We do our best to get our interns involved in a variety of projects, but we always like when our interns take the initiative to ask first.

If you’re interested in interning at an awesome agency with awesome people, you can find more information here.


Do Good. All the Time.

June 27, 2016

by Ashley Tinstman

In the days since the tragedy in Orlando, our city has experienced immense pain, sadness and shock.  But in spite of our grief, we’ve also experienced something positive—incredible strength and resiliency.  As we collectively come to terms with what took place in the city we call home, the outpouring of love and support has been absolutely inspiring.

While local citizens have come together to give blood, donate money and volunteer their time, the response from dozens—if not hundreds—of companies, both large and small, has been equally as impressive.  Just a quick Google search will yield countless stories highlighting various companies and how they’re supporting the community.

Take JetBlue, for example.  As has been widely reported, the airline is offering free seats to and from Orlando for the immediate family members and domestic partners of the victims.  The company also made a $100,000 donation to the OneOrlando fund.  Similarly, Comcast NBCUniversal, parent company of Universal Orlando Resort, generously donated $1 million to the OneOrlando fund.

In the hours following the tragedy, Publix quickly mobilized to hand out free food, water and ice to first responders and others affected by the shooting.  UnitedHealth Group also showed extraordinary support by opening its mental health counseling help lines to anyone in need—whether they had insurance or not.

I could go on and on with dozens more examples—and that doesn’t even include the many bars, restaurants and local businesses holding fundraisers.  But my point in sharing all that is this:  It’s good to see companies doing good.  But giving back and supporting a community shouldn’t be a temporary thing.  It should be a way of life in business.

After tragedies such as this, it’s easy to come together, donate your resources and then go back to business as usual.  But “doing good” should be part of your company culture—all year long.  And I’m not talking about writing a few checks to a worthy cause out of obligation.  This is about creating a culture where it’s a natural part of your business on a regular basis.  Not only will those you support benefit from it, but so will your employees, your reputation and, ultimately, your brand.


A Lesson from Taylor Swift

November 2, 2015

by Ashley Tinstman

Last week, I had the privilege of seeing Taylor Swift in concert for her 1989 World Tour.  (Full disclosure:  Before I get too deep into this blog post, I should probably warn you that I am a devoted Taylor Swift fan.  I could talk about T-Swift and her music for hours, but that’s another conversation for another day.)

Now, you’re probably wondering, “Why are you writing about Taylor Swift on a blog about communications?”

Well, believe it or not, Taylor Swift can actually offer some valuable lessons for companies and professional communicators.  While you may know her as the chart-topping artist who writes break-up songs, she’s also developed a reputation for being incredibly loyal and generous to her community and her fans—arguably her most important stakeholders.

For instance, following the release of her hit album, 1989, Swift announced that she would donate the proceeds from the sale of her single “Welcome to New York” to New York City public schools.  And earlier this year, she quietly donated $50,000 to a young fan battling leukemia to help pay for her medical expenses.

Swift also gained international attention last Christmas when she personally took the time to peruse her fans’ social media pages, getting to know them and their interests.  Ultimately, she selected a group of lucky fans and sent them individualized Christmas packages filled with presents and handwritten notes.  She made a similar gesture a few months later when she sent a fan a personalized care package along with a check for $1,989 to help pay off student loans.

I could go on and on with countless anecdotes, but the main takeaway is that Taylor Swift’s actions serve as a prime example of how to develop lasting relationships with your stakeholders.  This doesn’t mean you have to donate $50,000 or send care packages, but acts of corporate social responsibility can go a long way in building and maintaining a strong reputation.

Ask yourself:  “Who are your key stakeholders and how can you strengthen your relationships with them?”  Perhaps that means investing in a cause related to your organization’s mission or coordinating regular team-building days for your employees.  Or maybe your goal is to form stronger connections with community leaders and local organizations.

No matter what type of investment you make in your stakeholders—monetary or otherwise—the end result will be stakeholders who make a greater investment in you.  Taylor Swift is proof of that.


#PrimeDayFail

July 17, 2015

by Ashley Tinstman

Everyone was talking about it.  There were ads on TV.  The buzz on social media was building.  Amazon Prime Day was coming, and it was going to be bigger than Black Friday—the sale to end all sales.  Consumers excitedly waited for July 15 to arrive, filling up their virtual shopping carts with all the items they expected to go on sale at midnight.  And then …

The deals never came.  Shoppers searched through Amazon’s website looking for the sales they had anticipated.  But as they were looking for tablets, phones and fashion accessories, what they found was much different.  Instead, they came across “exclusive” deals for duct tape, a VHS rewinder, a shoehorn and a bunion regulator.  (Seriously?  I don’t even know what a bunion regulator is.)

And as you can imagine, the social media world exploded.  People likened Prime Day to a giant, mediocre yard sale, and then, the #PrimeDayFail hashtag was born.  The ensuing tweets were as snarky as you might expect:

Tweet 1

Tweet 2

I was laughing so hard reading the #PrimeDayFail tweets that people probably thought I was crying.  But through my laughter, Prime Day also made me pause and think about the value of honest communication. Regardless of the tactic you’re implementing—whether it’s a social media campaign or a massive sale—effective marketing requires upfront and honest communication.

This doesn’t mean that Amazon intentionally tried to dupe people, but as a whole, that’s what consumers perceived.  They felt frustrated, as if Amazon had lured them in to sign up for its $99 per year Prime service, only to turn around and try to sell them dishwasher detergent for 20 percent off.  It felt dishonest for a company that is known for its excellent customer service and loyal customer base.

But for Amazon’s part, they were extremely pleased with their “subpar yard sale,” saying Prime Day was a success with sales surpassing Black Friday 2014.  But if Amazon is evaluating success from multiple angles (as it should be), it might want to take into account the sentiments of its shoppers.

Tweet 3

Amazon Prime Day may be coming back, but I have to wonder, will its customers come back too?

 

 

 


Is Editing Dead?

June 30, 2015

by Ashley Tinstman

This morning, I was reading a news article online, when I noticed that the writer had missed a very big error:  the exact same sentence was written in the story twice.  As I continued reading, I came across a few other sentences that had typos as well—missing words, grammatical errors, misspellings, you name it.  By the time I got halfway through the article, I had grown so annoyed that I quit reading it and thought, “How did nobody catch this?”

Then, as I thought about it for another minute, I realized just how often I had been seeing these major typos lately.  And it’s not just one newspaper or website—I’ve noticed it happening more frequently in a number of publications.

Personally, I am a big stickler when it comes to grammar and attention to detail in my writing, so I initially dismissed my frustration as me being too nitpicky.  But once I started seeing this trend on an almost-daily basis, I had to wonder, “Is editing dead?”

As I’m sure many of you all remember, there was once a time when journalists were very serious about putting out a polished product.  But since the emergence of the 24-hour news cycle, it seems that the rush to be the first and the fastest to get the story has trumped the importance of editing and proofreading that story.

Of course, this isn’t true for every publication, but it has unfortunately become a somewhat common trend among media.  However, for public relations professionals, this should serve as a reminder that editing is equally as important in our line of work—and it should never be a practice that falls by the wayside.

Similar to the media, our industry is very much a deadline-driven world.  It’s fast-paced, and in that kind of environment, it’s easy to let the quality of our work slip.

So, if you’re one who’s prone to typos and grammatical errors in the name of rushing, take the 10 extra minutes next time to read through your work—or have someone else give it a second look.  It could be the difference between sending the client a polished product and something that’s less than your best.

And if you’re ever unsure about how to write something, try consulting your AP Stylebook or Grammar Girl, who I am convinced knows everything there is to know about grammar.


Start with the “Why”

March 2, 2015

by Ashley Tinstman

Today, you have to write a news release.  Tomorrow, you need to finish two blog posts.  Next week, you’re planning a major event and managing a photo shoot.  You’ve got a list a mile long of things to do, but have you ever stopped to think, “Why?”  Why are you writing that news release?  What’s the goal behind that event you’re planning?

There’s a great TED Talk by Simon Sinek on this topic.  He illustrates it through what he calls the Golden Circle.  Take a moment and imagine three concentric circles on a sheet of paper—or better yet, draw it out.  The outermost circle is labeled “what,” the middle circle is labeled “how,” and the innermost circle is the “why.”  In other words, the “what” is your tactics, the “how” is your strategies and the “why” is your goal.

For most of us, our natural instinct is to start with the “what.”  It’s easy to tell people about our tactics and what we do.  Though slightly more challenging, many of us are able to define our strategies—the “how” of what we do.  But there are very few who start with and remember the “why.”

But when you do, it makes all the difference.  It impacts how you write the story, plan the event, pitch a journalist and the myriad other things you do as a communications professional.

So, how do you make sure you’re starting with “why?”  My suggestion would be to do what Simon Sinek does—map it out.  Draw an actual road map for your project, starting with your goal.  And if you don’t know what the goal is, it’s OK to ask or even be the catalyst that helps figure it out.  But once you build that road map, you can make sure that your strategies and tactics are always tethered to the “why.”

So, ask yourself:  Are you guilty of leading with tactics or strategies, rather than the goal?  If so, challenge yourself to go through this process.  You might find yourself looking at things through a wider lens.


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