When my journey as an intern at DRS and Associates started back in December, I knew that I could write well and that I wanted to learn more about this business they call “PR.” Well, little did I know that being in the public relations industry requires a lot more than just basic writing skills. Fresh out of my first senior semester at Cal State Northridge, I applied for the internship position at DRS, with some serious writing boot camp under my belt and self-confidence that went through the roof. I felt ready to take on the world – sick and tired of homework, lectures and 8 a.m. classes all I wanted to do was work with a real agency, real clients and in a real office.
Previous DRS intern Lucia just happened to be in one of my writing classes that semester and she told me about the opportunity at DRS and how much she learned while working for the company. Wasting no time, I cleaned up my resume and put some writing samples together. Before I knew it, I found myself in the DRS office interviewing with President David Schlocker. My self-confidence quickly receded into its shell. Why? At that point I figured out that my skills were limited. Successful public relations work requires more than just being able to string some words together into a coherent sentence. Who would have thought, right? Anyway, I must have impressed David on some level because a week later I had my own desk, computer and email address. Professional little old me. Feeling intimidated does not even begin to describe my emotional state that first week. However, the amazing team at DRS and Associates welcomed me with open (and very patient) arms even though they were busy wrapping up the year’s work.
Fast forward to January 2012 – I was writing press releases. Yes, actual material to be distributed and published. You would think that I would feel confident now that I was able to use and abuse the one skill I knew I was good at right? Wrong. DRS and Associates works with prominent clients in the architectural products industry who produce very high-end luxurious, sustainable and drop dead gorgeous products. I knew nothing about the industry; I was a fish out of water trying to learn the ins and outs of decorative plumbing. So yes, it took me an entire day to write a one-page press release. At that point, I took a step back to really dig deep into learning more about the clients. It is a publicist’s job to know their clients better than the clients know themselves.
Once I fell in step with the rest of the team, it was a piece of cake…sort of. Public relations and a positive image of a client requires the hard work, commitment and creativity of an entire team of people. It requires good writing skills, communication skills, creativity, industry knowledge, networking, some charm and definitely a backbone. My skills increased ten-fold in the past six months. I’ve tracked a copious amount of coverage, written press releases, creative product HTML’s, pitch letters, comprehensive editorial opportunities, media lists AND I phone pitched to editors. Phone pitching is the scariest thing EVER.
Here’s a little story. I had a list, a notebook, pen and a script of what to say. My hands were shaking as I dialed the first number on the list. As the phone continued to ring, I think I lost the ability to breathe – and then – voicemail! Hallelujah! Too bad that was one out of 150 contacts on the list. Some editors answered and listened patiently while others would hang up. It was scary but at the same time a very good learning experience. As I went through my list of 150 contacts, I felt more comfortable. I read through my script a couple of times and I did my own research as to why we were doing these calls. When I familiarized myself with the facts I was able to have actual conversations with well-established editors at very well-known publications. GO ME! I still think phone pitching is the scariest thing in the world but at least I know how to do it.
The best thing about my experience at DRS is that it was an eye-opener. I came in bursting with confidence only to have the rug pulled right out from under me because of my lack of experience. In this high-paced and busy environment, you can’t expect to be provided with comprehensive training and to be babied. However, DRS employs very bright and intelligent people – so with a little common sense, a nudge in the right direction and the desire to learn and be better you can figure it out. For example, with my phone pitching fiasco – the account managers provided me with a script (training wheels if you will,) but once I swallowed my fear and figured it out I wrote my own script.
I’ve learned how to be a professional, how to put a value to PR work and I’ve learned that working for a boutique agency is a wonderful experience. Some people may prefer to work for a large corporation where you barely know the guy’s name at the far desk in the corner. David and Natalie Schlocker lead a team that is passionate, loyal and beyond talented. And as the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, although the team may not genetically be a family, there is cohesion, a common goal and purpose and they work very hard (and with barely any sleep – ahem…David) to produce the best results possible.
The DRS team provided the training wheels for my journey into the PR world and now it’s up to me to ditch the safety net, take all the knowledge and wisdom I’ve gained during my internship and go on to write my own script. I’m sure I’ll run into some bumps and get a few bruises along the way, but if I could do it all over again, would I? Definitely.