Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Life of an Intern at Kurman Communications

by Trisha Trinco

The Kurman staff really knows how to show their interns a true public relations experience. I’ve had a wonderful journey which comes to an end as I write this blog entry. Spending close to four months in the trenches, I worked side-by-side with great individuals who mentored me and helped me to better understand the public relations industry. With their guidance, I got hands-on experience with interesting clients and media that, in the end, provided me with real life PR experience.

While 15 weeks may not sound like a lot of time, I have no complaints. I couldn't have paid a university any amount of money to teach me what I learned here. Let's talk about skills... oh my.

Write right
The benefits of doing an internship at a small firm are endless. Feedback is key. I received it with every piece I wrote, rewrote and wrote again. I learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, along with finding the spell check button in record time. There's always another way to express a thought and in the process, I learned what to do, and often, what not to do. If learning how to effectively communicate, at any level, was my goal, then my experience with my supervisors and, even the company president, Cindy, Kurman clients and the media, taught me how to think, re-think, create and re-create.

The Master Plan.
What should one hope to achieve by doing an internship? Kurman emphasizes learning behavior that will "follow me the rest of my life." Sounds scary for a 22-year-old. Beyond the massive improvement in my writing, seemingly simple things like being organized, creating and following a plan, staying on a time schedule and actively reporting EVERYTHING that we do, is part of the Kurman master plan for interns (and everyone else, for that matter). Being accountable and, of course, getting results for our clients. Bottom line. Work hard. Do your best. Do what you say you're going to do. And, have fun.

What does it mean to be part of the "team."
I really like my colleagues at Kurman. While, this may sound simple, I understand that having chemistry with whom the people you work isn't always a given, it's a luxury. There isn't a lot of division between responsibilities at Kurman. No task is too small. Nothing is unimportant.

Remember, they are just people.
Corresponding with media is a definite learning experience all on its own. Jump in with both feet and hope all goes well. My first call to the media was quite frightening. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Was I going to get hung up on? Screamed at? Or was I going to faint? Once I had a couple phone calls under my belt, I realized that it was nothing to stress about. As long as I kept my facts straight, took the advice of my superior, Catherine, and thought of the call as a conversation rather than a pitch, the rest followed suit. The fun part came shortly after I started when the reporter with whom I was talking, actually was engaged, interested in what I had to say, and I secured my first real placement.

Friend me, tweet me.
Social media plays a huge role here at Kurman. I learned a lot about how to take advantage of new media, Web sites like Facebook and Twitter, where large amounts of people visit obsessively. Let me tell you, research rocks. I don't know what people did without the internet and I'm glad that I'm of the generation that affords me this luxury.

Creating buzz about clients is the goal of public relations, and social media has had a huge impact on how Kurman goes about doing it. I posted and updated information on Facebook, Twitter and the KCI Got Buzz blog. Although I have used these sites in the past, I didn't know as much about them as I do now. For example, I have had a personal Facebook account for years and never knew that fan pages existed or how to update them. I've had a personal Twitter account for about a year, and never before thought about how a business could use it to their advantage. Bottom line. Social media may well be the new wave of the future, and thanks to Kurman, I know how to contribute to it.

Free food!
Ok. Let's get real. If you follow or read Kurman's Got Buzz blog regularly, you know that among our specialties are food and restaurant marketing and public relations. You have to know that one BIG advantage of working here is FOOD. Dining is Kurman's mantra.

All work and all play.
I don't know if interns elsewhere get to plan, attend and work events, but at Kurman, we're thrown into it all. Early on at Kurman, I was offered the opportunity to attend the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show. We were scouting and networking. Oh. And did I mention -- eating free food! Have you ever been to the NRA. I highly recommend it. OMG. If it's a food product or equipment to make food products, it's there. Miles of exhibits. Thousands of people. I had no idea of what went into making a restaurant. Hell. All I had ever done was order. Needless-to-say, between Kurman U and my Kurman field trips, this wide-eyed girl was in awe.

Bedazzle your dog.
The second event that I helped plan was the BARQUE fashion show. This client introduced me to the fashion world. Oh. Did I mention, dog fashion? Who knew that there were people who would plop down a Benjamin Franklin for the most gorgeous designer dog cloths, ever. And, adorable...the clothes and the dogs. Thanks to our hard work (and my persistent follow-up calls), there was immense media exposure, in print, online, and TV. At the show, I helped WGN’s Marcus Leshock with his interview of Gay Roberts, owner of BARQUE. Schmoozed with Bill Zwecker, the show's emcee, and watched CBS shoot b-roll. Needless to say, I was in heaven. It was gratifying to see all of the media exposure that the event had gained due to our dedication here at Kurman (and my hard work!)

Poker face.
The third event I attended was incidentally on the same day as the BARQUE event. (If you think pr is a 9-5 job, think again.) Chicago Gateway Green hosted its 4th Annual Texas Hold ‘Em charity tournament at Galleria Marchetti which had more than 300 attendees and raised nearly $35,000. This event was many months in the making and it was exciting to be a major contributor. This event received a lot of attention from local media and was, without a doubt, a huge success, in part due to Kurman's great media exposure. We secured more than 40 media placements with a combined 58 million impressions.

How I got here.
Up until now, I haven't mentioned how I got here. Since there may be future intern wannabee's reading this, I think that it's worth mentioning. My intro to Kurman was during a "field trip" organized during my senior year at Western Michigan. A large group of us ventured to the "big" city to tour a couple agencies. Our first experience was a visit to Edelman. You can't help but be swept away by the "bigness" of the world's largest pr agency. The 15 of us were herded into their massive conference room and promptly given a briefing by their HR person who explained their internship program. She was followed by a panel of employees representing the many areas they cover. Don't get me wrong. It was awesome. But, by contrast, Cindy Kurman and her entire team greeted us with Gino's East Pizza. The afternoon was so intimate and relaxed. The company, so approachable. It was an eye opener. The Kurman team talked about what they did, showed us examples and fed us. What a great combination! They were genuinely interested in what we had to say and asked each of us what we wanted or thought we wanted to do with our life (and if we were doing an internship). This is where it got really interesting for me. Not one to mix words, I promptly raised my hand and said that "I was going to do an internship at Kurman." The rest is history.

One door closes, another one opens.
In my interview with Kurman, I stated that my goal was to find an internship that would give me the chance to learn the ins and outs of the public relations industry. I am sure there is a lot more for me to learn, but it is safe to say that my time with Kurman was a home run. My experience at Kurman is one that I will never forget and will be sure to take with me as I begin my career in public relations.

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