I had an invaluable opportunity as a Digital Media intern at Grand Rapids Magazine. As they recently launched an online magazine (shameless plugger for my author page), GR|Mag was eager to publish new and exciting content daily about the variety things the city has to offer. My responsibilities as an intern included: writing content regularly for the online publication, conducting interviews (in-person, over-the-phone or electronically), and getting to accompany the best boss ever (hi Charlsie!) to onsite interviews. These interviews consisted of ArtPrize or any new up and coming restaurants (I highly recommend checking out New Hotel Mertens). I even got to help set up and attend the Grand Rapids 40 under 40 event.
So when I interviewed for the role, I was told that this was essentially a journalism internship which consisted of solely media coverage and online magazine writing. I would be dissecting press releases, conducting my own interviews and doing lots of background research to make sure I was asking the right questions. Why on earth would a PR enthusiast like myself want experience in journalism? Well, this ended up being one of the most strategic things I’ve done in my college career.
Taking off my public relations hat and putting on my journalist hat has allowed me to become a better PR practitioner because I can now see the other side of job. As a PR pro, a main role many take on is media relations, which includes, media lists, press releases, and media pitching. Getting to work on the journalist side showed me the contrast between good pitching and bad pitching. My boss and I would work together dissecting press releases and seeing what the most relevant information for a story was. The best way she put it was, “As a PR pro, you’re trying to have the story use as many of your words as possible. As a journalist, your job is to do the opposite and try to change as much of that wording.” On some occasions, the press releases were written objectively and clearly enough to be able to “cut and paste” exact phrases and sentences into a story because we couldn't have said it better ourselves. Other times, the pitch would be a mess. We would have to search long and hard through the press release to find out what the “story” or main point was, with irrelevant persuasive writing littered around.
These are the big takeaways I got when thinking from a PR perspective:
- Prioritize information
The inverted pyramid used in CMJ 256 (Grand Valley’s News Reporting class) was a staple in my completed work. The main point goes on top clear and easily defined, followed by supporting details. This pyramid is important to media writing because it gives the reader all of the essential information on what the story is, in the beginning sentences.
- Write objectively
All of the jargon-y PR talk was eliminated when we were writing the stories, due to it being unnecessary. We would gloss over those sales elements and go straight for the main point. When doing media relations, make the journalist’s job a little easier by speaking their language.
- Use your AP Stylebook
All of our writing was in AP style, so it was a relief when the press release had already fit that format. While I have gotten stronger in my grammar since this internship, the stylebook is still one of my most-used resources.
From my internship, I learned a lot about how to be mindful of who you’re pitching to and how to be the most considerate of their time. Put in the extra effort to craft a well-thought out and concise press release and the media will definitely appreciate it.
Amandari is a senior from Kalamazoo majoring in Advertising and Public Relations with an emphasis in PR and minor in Spanish. Alongside being an Account Executive for GrandPR, Amandari is heavily involved in her sorority, Sigma Kappa. Last summer, she worked as a public relations intern for Gemini Publications in Grand Rapids. Her favorite part about public relations is using different media to creatively problem solve as well as the networking and collaboration aspects. In her free time, you can find Amandari watching reality TV, reading skincare blogs, online shopping and cheering on the San Antonio Spurs.