Ideally, Internships aren’t just about getting resume-filler. They’re about practical experience, networking, and portfolio-building. One aspect of internships that most of us take for granted is the vital role they play in acclimating young people to office culture.
Don’t laugh. I was fortunate to have worked in my father’s insurance office since I was 13, but most young people don’t have that sort of exposure to the white-collar working world and its various intricacies.
Office culture is so ubiquitous and richly-textured that the sitcom “The Office” has spawned numerous adaptations for the varying office cultures around the world, beginning first in the UK but then moving to the US, Germany, Canada, Chile, Israel, and Sweden.
Virtually every textbook in Communications and Public Relations stresses the importance of cultural competence in effective communication. So many of our paradigms for encoding and decoding messages are culture-specific. Here’s what I mean:
Tips for Students on Maximizing Their Internships
1. Get Something out of the Experience: Unfortunately there are still a lot of organizations that don’t monetarily compensate their interns. The practice is unethical in my opinion (and the opinion of the Public Relations Society of America). The current dismal economic climate isn’t helping matters much, but for students unable to get hourly pay or a stipend (to cover the cost of the credits for the class) for their efforts there are still ways to get value from the experience by ensuring that one of three things comes out of their work:
- A Name: It’s easier to make the case to take an unpaid internship if the organization is one that has a solid reputation that will look good as legitimate work experience on a resume.
- Solid Experience: Another intangible value if a name and money aren’t available for an internship is hands-on experience. Particularly for nonprofits and small companies, the possibility exists for an intern to be given a great deal of responsibility that exceeds the typical student experience. Being able to oversee projects and produce valuable portfolio content also has a great deal of merit.
- Cultural Competence: For the rare student that already knows what field or type of PR that they want to practice, gaining exposure to the networks of professionals and world they operate in is also valuable. Absent a name, cash, or responsibility in return for one’s work – being a fly on the wall in high-level meetings or consuming industry-specific literature on the job can also be valuable.
2. Keep a Diary: Many people find journaling to be valuable while studying abroad and that also applies to “studying abroad” in the office environment. Frequently when we’re in the moment at a job, it can be extraordinarily difficult to process and remember everything we experience. Writing them down helps not only the exercise of processing what we learn, but helping us internalize it so that we can actually apply it to our own careers. Try the following:
- Jot down terms you don’t understand to look up later.
- Keep records of the names of people you meet and the organizations they work for (this may come in handy . Maintain a running list of all of the unspoken “rules” for office behavior that you encounter (email alone is rife with behavioral norms).
3. Stay Open to Unfamiliar Experiences: Just as when traveling abroad, working in an office is a richer experience when you keep an open mind and volunteer for (or better yet, seek out) opportunities to do things or go places we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Looking back now after 15 years in PR, I realize that learning what I DON’T like has been just as valuable as learning what I DO like. The earlier you can develop self-awareness, the more opportunity you have to change your career trajectory toward a career that is fulfilling.
It may not seem like it now when you’re eating Ramen and worrying about affording gas for your car, but money isn’t everything. Contrary to what many textbooks, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and services like Salary.com say – you’re likely not going to get rich doing PR (the “starting salaries” they list are laughably inaccurate) … and that’s okay. What matters more is that you like the work and find it life-affirming.
4. Observe Others Reactions to You: Despite egalitarian ethos espoused by the the US, not everyone is equal in the workplace. Different standards (and in some cases, double-standards) still exist for for race, gender and culture. Understanding this is critical to navigating office politics. I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you that a strong work ethic and quality output aren’t all you need to be successful in the white-collar world.
Given how much of PR is interpersonal relationships (with the media, with clients, with co-workers, with customers), every aspiring professional needs to be aware of how they may be received by the people they interact with daily. Fortunately you have plenty of opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them early in your career – those opportunities diminish as you get older.
Women especially have to be aware of relationship dynamics in the office, as they are more frequently held to a different standard than men. Take the adage “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult” from Charlotte Whitton. Regrettably I’ve found this to be true in the so-called enlightened workplace of the “modern” era.
The curious thing I’ve observed is that women need to worry less about sexism from men than they do from other women. Throughout my career, the majority of my supervisors have been female and I’ve watched as a female colleague many years my senior in experience and ability has her view challenged where I am not even though I’m making the same contention.
As far as race and ethnicity go, the sad reality is that most organizations put the “White” in “White-Collar.” There isn’t nearly as much diversity in most offices as there should be. The upside is that this creates a great deal of opportunity for minority PR students: savvy firms and companies are looking to hire them. Naturally, PR pros know the intrinsic value of a diverse range of backgrounds and viewpoints in generating creative ideas as well as in relating to the increasingly-diverse US population.
The Public Relations Society of America asked me to write a little piece on Brand Journalism for a series they’re doing on trends for 2012 (“#PRin2012: 12 Trends That Will Change Public Relations“).
As a follow-up, I’d love to hear from journalists who recently made the jump to public relations who perform a similar journalistic role for their company/organization – reporting on its “news.”
If you’re a news professional who now reports on a company/organization’s news in a PR role and you’re interested in sharing your insights, please visit this form (I will gladly keep your personal information confidential and attribute your comments anonymously if you request).
If Jack O’Dwyer’s journalistic credentials were ever in question before, let all doubt be removed with his recent flurry of scandal-mongering.
Responding to PRSA’s thorough documentation of O’Dwyer’s unethical behavior and rationale for his lack of press credentials at the latest PRSA International Conference, O’Dwyer has ramped up his campaign against the organization and is now incorporating students in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).
Unlike Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who have taken an objective approach to covering the US Government in their careers, Jack O’Dwyer is much more like Statler and Waldorf – the comical gadflies on the Muppets who criticize the performers no matter what they do.
It’$ All About the Benjamin$
The economic backbone of O’Dwyer’s operation is, like much of the traditional media, based on “eyeballs” (ie subscribers, traffic to his website, etc). In order for it to be financially-viable, O’Dwyer needs to be perceived as being an important figure in the public relations industry where his trade is plied, and to have attention-grabbing material to write about. Read more…
It’s important to preface this post by noting while I’m a PRSA member – I’m no shill for the organization.
I support PR Watch and the Center for Media and Democracy – in fact, I believe I’ve even contributed financially to them in the past. I enjoy their Media Minute (and I’m glad it’s once again being produced), and I’ve frequently recommended their tool sourcewatch.org to colleagues and students (and contributed to it). I own all of John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton’s books (and my copy of “Toxic Sludge is Good for You” is even autographed from when I met Rampton at a lecture he gave in Grand Rapids). I’ve also frequently criticized PRSA.
That said …
… this analysis by Anne Landman of PR Watch (“The Battle Between O”Dwyer and PRSA) is completely misguided and full of fatal flaws and it seriously impugns PR Watch’s credibility – something I’m truly sad to see.
Here are some of the problems:
- Landman failed to note in the initial publication of the piece that Jack O’Dwyer is a member of the PR Watch staff (a fact only corrected when Arthur Yann, VP of PR for PRSA pointed it out).
- Landman falsely identifies PRSA President & COO William Murray, CAE as having previously worked for Phillip Morris (as a way of tarring his reputation by association) – confusing him with R. William “Bill” Murray. I was disappointed to see that grievous and sophomoric error is still in place on SourceWatch.org.
- Nowhere in Landman’s analysis does she mention that PRSA has hard evidence demonstrating O’Dwyer’s organization illegally accessed internal PRSA conference calls AND hacked into the PRSA members-only website.
- Amazingly, nowhere in Landman’s editorial does she mention O’Dwyer’s strident claims that PRSA owes him money because it duplicated some of his content as part of its clippings-sharing service many years ago (which is the primary motivator behind his aggression toward the organization).
- Landman attempts to bolster O’Dwyer’s credibility by citing a Forbes Magazine article which was also seriously deficient in its analysis.
- Landman name-checks Wendell Potter, but doesn’t note that PRSA made him a featured speaker during its 2009 International Conference.
- Landman incorrectly describes O’Dwyer’s criticism of PRSA as going back “a few years” – but O’Dwyer has been a caustic opponent of PRSA ever since I was an undergraduate student in the Public Relations Student Society of America back in 1999 (that’s more than ‘a few’ years ago).
O’Dwyer isn’t barred from attending the PRSA International Conference because the organization fears he’ll produce unfavorable reporting. They’re barring him because he’s NOT A JOURNALIST. He has routinely violated the Code of Ethics prescribed by the Society of Professional Journalists (of which O’Dwyer is a member).
O’Dwyer is a profiteer with a financial vendetta who has found it valuable to criticize PRSA (which is why he focuses disproportionate attention on them, virtually ignoring all other professional public relations organizations). He’s also turned his criticism to any organization he feels owes him money (like the PR firms that declined to pay to be listed with his service) – using his faux-journalistic enterprise to criticize them as a way to extort money from them.
I urge PR Watch to reconsider this line of attack. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms to make of the PR industry and PRSA – but Jack O’Dwyer is not the horse you want to back in doing so.
A while ago, Jack O’Dwyer continued his “PRSA Smear a Day” campaign with another digression into the bizarre. Here are some of my favorite parts:
[In an attack on PRSA Ethics Chair, Prof Deborah Silverman] “Teachers and scientists do not turn their backs on information but seek every last scrap of it with zeal. They prize the historical record of anything and listen to all voices. Facts and knowledge are revered, not feared.”
- This is a standard O’Dwyer tactic: to attempt to besmirch a target of an interview with their employer by calling co-workers and supervisors and even writing about the employer themselves in an attempt to bully the subject into talking to him. It’s easy to understand why very few people return O’Dwyers’ calls.
[Describing the limitations placed on his coverage of PRSA International Conferences] “Freedom of the press is a right granted by the First Amendment to the Constitution and in America an accused person has the right to face his or her accusers.”
- Among the numerous problems with this sentence are:
- PRSA is a private organization, not required by law to allow any news media to attend (nor subject to the Freedom of Information Act or the Open Meetings Act).
- No one is infringing on O’Dwyer’s First Amendment rights – he’s free to probe and blog to his heart’s content.
- The “Confrontation Clause” (the right to face accusers) is part of the Sixth Amendment, not the First – and it only applies to persons charged with a crime. But then O’Dwyer never claimed to be a legal scholar.
[Describing his further grievances against PRSA] “Withholding transcripts of the Assembly since 2005 and refusal to provide transcripts of teleconferences. These are like the “slow-motion” replays that are common in sports journalism that give fans needed details.”
- Why would PRSA send transcripts of meetings to someone who mines them looking for dirt? Just look at the “reporting” on Gail Baker that O’Dwyer dredged up from previous columns – there’s no proof of wrongdoing or anything more than a clerical error but the assertion made is that there was foul play involved. I think I speak for the majority of PRSA members when I say that I would find it difficult to speak candidly if I knew a scandal-monger was going over everything I said with a fine-toothed comb.
- Transcripts are available to members of PRSA, so it’s not as though they need O’Dwyer to provide that service.
- Besides – PRSA has evidence that O’Dwyer’s company has hacked into the phone calls and the organization’s members-only website. He should have all of the information he needs from those illicit activities.
[Another of O'Dwyer's Grievances] “5. Blocking PR reporters from accessing the audit or quarterly reports. They are in the members’ area and reporters are not allowed to join the Society. No reason is given for this. Reporters are members of PR groups including IABC and IPRA.”
- Does the “Public Relations Society of America” really have to explain why it discourages people who don’t work in “public relations” from becoming members?
- I wonder if O’Dwyer is a member of the International Association of Business Communicators or International Public Relations Association – if so, he might want to read the codes of ethics he signed on to uphold.
“14. Refusal to investigate or disavow threats of physical violence made in person and in a letter to Jack O’Dwyer by an Assembly delegate following the 2010 Assembly. VP-PR Arthur Yann has e-mailed that a national director witnessed this incident.”
- If O’Dwyer doesn’t know the name of the person who threatened him, how does he know that person was a PRSA assembly delegate?
“15. Refusing to compensate numerous authors after selling hundreds of thousands of copies of their articles from 1980-94. An expose by O’Dwyer’s ended the practice.”
- The only “author” requesting compensation is O’Dwyer, and despite his above discussion about jurisprudence he has not filed suit against PRSA. As I said earlier – fish or cut bait, man.
A Rhetorical Question
O’Dwyer insists he’s a journalist and that his rights are being infringed by the Public Relations Society of America. If he really is a journalist covering the public relations world, wouldn’t that mean that he devote proportionally the same amount of investigative and editorial attention to all of the professional organizations that represent public relations professionals?
After all, PRSA isn’t the only game in town. There are other groups also advocating on behalf of the public relations profession:
- International Association of Business Communicators (www.iabc.com) | 15,000 members
- International Public Relations Association (www.ipra.org) | >1,000 members
- Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (www.case.org) | 64,000 members
- National Investor Relations Institute (www.niri.org) | 3,500 members
- International Association of Business Communicators – 18 entries
- International Public Relations Association – 7 entries
- Council for the Advancement and Support of Education – 0 entries
- National Investor Relations Institute – 7 entries
- Public Relations Society of America – 236 entries
Are you ready for a Jack O’Dwyer hypocrisy trifecta?
1. In his latest anti-PRSA screed, Jack O’Dwyer again regurgitates his accusation that the organization owes him money because their research library distributed copies of his work (something most intellectual property law experts would call “fair use” – which is likely why O’Dwyer never bothered to take the issue to court).
What’s particularly hilarious is that O’Dwyer includes an image in his blog post of a dodo in reference to a slight against PRSA: Read more…
I checked my email the other day and found an item from Jack O’Dwyer in response to my rebuttal of the Aaron Perlut piece about the PRSA/O’Dwyer conflict in Forbes.
I’ve found that no one does a better job of undermining the arguments of Jack O’Dwyer than Jack O’Dwyer – so I have little editorializing to do except to point out the following things:
- The use of the third person. I actually kind of like this because it’s a very old-timey journo sort of thing to do. Kind of like wearing fedoras and rushing to find payphones to call in copy.
- No rebuttal of the charge of hacking the PRSA website. Jack continues to deny that his office accessed the teleconferences without authorization, but insists that they have every right to do so (if they had). The charge that someone from his offices hacked into the members-only section of PRSA’s website, however, he remains completely silent on. (That’s saying something because as you can see Jack can’t keep his mouth shut about anything).
- The hoary copyright claim chestnut. Again, Jack demonstrates why he’s ethically-obliged to hand over coverage of PRSA to someone else in his ‘organization’ (which I imagine to be a bunch of underfed cats scurrying around a studio apartment, the walls of which are covered in newspaper clippings connected by red yarn and pushpins). He’s “reporting” on an organization he has a grievance against, which the Society of Professional Journalists deems a conflict of interest. Notwithstanding the reality that PRSA’s circulation of O’Dwyer content likely constitutes Fair Use, Jack should file a copyright infringement lawsuit or shut up about it. Fish or cut bait, man. Read more…
Today, Aaron Perlut penned a piece for Forbes magazine titled “The Case of Jack O’Dwyer vs. PRSA” that explores the titular conflict. Unfortunately it’s woefully incomplete and devolves into an exercise in false equivalency.
Here are some of the major problems with the Perlut piece:
1. Though he discloses his connection to both sides (being a PRSA member and actually writing for O’Dwyer’s isn’t a legitimate enough equivalency to establish neutrality), Perlut goes to heroic lengths to paint the conflict as a wash with both sides sharing blame: Read more…
Regarding “journalist” Rupert O’Dwyer’s recent screed about the Public Relations Society of America:
“Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. Journalists should: [...] Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.”
Writing a prescribed course of action and then listing the names and email addresses of the “Top 50 Society Chapter Presidents” is “advocacy” – not news reporting. Just sayin’.
In other news, the crickets who have been chirping during O’Dwyer’s non-response to the phone and website hacking allegations against his organization are getting really tired.