Our former president, Alexandria Hawkey, has spent the summer as a Harold Burson Summer Intern at Burson-Marsteller, a global integrated communications firm. She let us know what it’s like working in the real world of public relations and how PRSSA has impacted her today.
Alexandria tells us Burson-Marsteller will soon turn into Burson Cohen Wolfe, and for 60 years has combined public relations and advertising to help corporations tell their stories.
“Harold Burson, one of the “fathers” of PR, created integrated communications before it even had a name by partnering with Bill Marsteller, a leader in the advertising industry.” Hawkey said. “Today, the firm works across the globe in a multitude of practices, from consumer and brand marketing to public affairs and crisis communications.”
Originally, she was hired as an intern for the Chicago office’s Corporate and Financial Practice, specifically for the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team.
“In the short ten weeks that I’ve been here, I’ve worked on clients such as Bank of America, Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch, Ford, the U.S. Water Alliance, Clorox, Astellas, Accenture, the Special Olympics and Walgreen’s,” Hawkey said.
Get to know CSR!
“Wait, what’s CSR?” I asked that question on my first day!
CSR stands for Corporate Social Responsibility, a relatively newer form of public relations. As the public demands that corporations are doing their part to better the earth, whether it’s by engaging with the communities they’re located in, having programs to protect and preserve the environment, and/or ensuring that they have diversity on their teams, according to Hawkey.
“20 years ago, all a corporation had to do was send a check to charity and they’d be set. Now, they need to be proactive,” Hawkey said. “The CSR team helps them communicate to the world what they’re doing to create a more sustainable, healthier, corporation.” (Think, the team that helps prevent crises)
Alexandria’s Advice: Take advantage of your internship!
Public Relations and Advertising agencies don’t have the funds to hire on a recent college grad for a full-time position, according to Hawkey. It’s a long process to hire someone, and if they turn out to not be an asset to the agency, then they see that process as a waste of time and resources.
“Internships are a great way for agencies to have a ‘trial period’ with a new college grad to help them grow as a professional and see where they fit in the agency,” Hawkey said.
With that being said, it’s important to take advantage of your internship.
- Show up every day, ready to give your best and be your best.
- Figure out what you missed from your classes.
“I walked in to my internship, knowing that I knew how to write for PR, how to utilize social media, and how to create communication plans. What I didn’t know was media relations. I knew it was important but had no idea how it all worked. When I started my internship, I asked to be put on media relations teams so that I could learn. At the end of the day, if I didn’t get hired, I would at least have built up my knowledge,” Hawkey explained.
An internship is a way to show your talents but it’s also a way to learn. Treat it like a 10 week course at school and soak up as much knowledge as you can. While you’re at it, NETWORK. It’s so important to build relationships with your colleagues. Don’t be afraid to talk to people, we’re all in the business of building relationships, we want to talk! Go to happy hours and after work events, you never know who will be fighting for you to get hired at the end of the 10 weeks.
How PRSSA and the University of Illinois impacted Alexandria
The College of Media has a lot of great courses to help you figure out what your passion is. When I was a sophomore, I took a Crisis Communications course and immediately knew that was what I wanted to do. I spent the next two years doing everything I could to make sure that I could market myself as an asset to agencies working in Crisis Communications. I talked with professors after classes, I joined PRSSA and started a Crisis Communications team, and I worked hard. U of I is what you make of it. Don’t wait until the last minute to start your career. I worked at 6 internships before I got to the finish line.
It’s not luck that will get you a job, it’s hard work.
PRSSA is the best RSO you can join if you want a career in public relations (or even advertising). Though a smaller organization on campus, the network is huge. I got my foot in the door at Burson-Marsteller through a networking trip with the Depaul’s PRSSA chapter.
When networking opportunities pop up, take the time to attend.
If you are having trouble with finances, talk to your professors and advisers. More often than not, they’ll help you out with scholarships and grants to help you. You can even ask the PRSSA treasurer — you paid your dues at the start of the semester for a reason. PRSSA is there to help you, all you have to do is ask. Go to meetings, join organizations within the RSO, and figure out where your passion is.
Thank you, Alexandria, for the helpful words! We miss you around campus!
If you have any questions for Alexandria Hawkey, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org