Public Information Officer
Windy City & Golden Gate Ducks
Senior, Public Relations Major
Dream career: Public information officer for a fire department
Best aspect of faculty-led public relations trips to Chicago and San Francisco: The really neat thing about both trips is it included an alumni social, so we got to meet a bunch of alumni that we met at those firm visits. It’s a great networking experience.
Best advice: Show up on time. Hear what firm life is like outside of a classroom, see it for yourself, and then ask a bajillion questions. You can never be fully prepared for anything. And that’s OK. The point of getting an internship and getting into these agencies is that they want you to learn.
What she learned on the trips: Kim Duyck thought she had a pretty good grasp on what she’d like to do professionally after graduation, but it wasn’t until she spent five days in Chicago visiting public relations firms and agencies that those ideas changed.
You need to see it for yourself, talking about the work culture and atmosphere she was given access to while on the trip. It’s a point of view she most likely wouldn’t have gotten any other way.
I want to feel like I’m in a team setting, and you really need to see yourself being there. That was something I hadn’t thought of before going to Chicago and San Francisco.
“I think that you can never be fully prepared for anything. And that’s OK. The point of getting an internship and getting into these agencies is that they want you to learn. No one’s a professional right off the bat. You should always be learning, and you need to put yourself out there.” — Kim Duyck
Public Relations Networking Trips Reveal the Breadth of Possibilities
In the course of two different trips to two bustling cities, public relations students can get a first-row insider seat to the industry that they would normally not get access to until their first day of a new job.
Kelli Matthews, public relations senior instructor, has a thick digital Rolodex of agencies in San Francisco and Chicago she has partnered with in the past and outlets where alumni are now working.
“Then I look at the gaps,” she says. “If we have students particularly interested in health care, or sports, or food PR, but we don’t have any specific contacts, I will reach out ‘cold’ and find someone willing to host us. I did that last year when we went to Chicago, and the agency we went to ended up being a student favorite.”
The trips—four working days in Chicago and two in San Francisco—are opportunities for students to see a working agency up close, ask questions, and get a better idea of what type of public relations they’d like to pursue.
“San Francisco is more of a tech town. Many of the agencies have a client roster that’s pretty tech heavy. We also visited Twitter and Salesforce, which are unique opportunities there,” Matthews said. “Chicago has more lifestyle and consumer brands. For example, we visited three large agencies that each had a piece of the McDonald’s business. That was fascinating to see how a brand works with multiple agencies on different pieces of their business.”
The bonus is that, in addition to getting an insider’s look at the industry, students also land internships and jobs after visiting the agencies. While the most recent Chicago trip yielded one direct internship, there were several indirect connections, which is essential for networking.
Matthews’ favorite part of the trip, however, is showing the students public relations in action.
“They get to hear the language, feel the culture, see how the company works from entry level through executive,” she emphasized. “They start to develop a vocabulary about the industry that’s really hard to teach.”
Students see how wide the public relations spectrum is and what doors are open in agencies of different sizes and focuses. Matthews recalls a student who came to her office last year who was having a hard time trying to figure out what to do with her degree.
“A trip like Chicago or San Francisco is eye opening!” Matthews explained. “It would give her the language to say, ‘I want to start my career with a midsize PR agency in a city like Chicago or San Francisco that works with clients from a large consumer brand.’ That she’d have an idea about what that means and what it might look like.”
Visits to agencies and workplaces also provide the students the opportunity to discover jobs and careers that they didn’t even know existed.
“Last year, one of our students stood in the lobby of the Field Museum in Chicago after meeting with the PR marketing team and said, ‘I didn’t realize this was a possibility!’” Matthews said. “That’s why we do it.”
Choose Your Own Adventure