Published on November 17, 2020, at 4:40 p.m.
by Bailey Broughton.
As every emerging PR professional knows, internships look a lot different in 2020 than in past years due to the arrival of work-from-home culture. Brainstorming sessions that were once held in collaborative think tanks are now taking place on Zoom, and sales meetings that once took place over a cup of coffee are now taking place over the phone. There are an abundance of pros and cons about working from home, but one of the steepest advantages of remote internships is the ability to work in a city in which you do not live.
This fall, I had the unique opportunity to intern with UA graduate Holly Lollar at her very own agency, The Lollar Group, in Birmingham, Alabama. Given my usual class schedules and extracurricular demands in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, it would have been impossible for me to be able to complete such a fruitful internship in any year prior to 2021. My remote working experience has been incredibly valuable, and recently I had the nostalgic opportunity to supplement this experience with a taste of the in-person agency lifestyle.
On Wednesday, Nov. 11, Lollar invited me to Birmingham for the afternoon to get an in-depth glimpse into the busy daily life of a PR practitioner, and to finally be able to meet my employer in person. In a landscape where Zoom is becoming a prominent workplace, it is important to be refreshed on the daily in-person affairs that public relations professionals navigate during a typical workday. Below is an overview of my incredible first day of being on the job.
King’s Home: Randy Howell Boat Giveaway
I started my day in Chelsea, Alabama, at the headquarters for the locally based nonprofit King’s Home — an organization that provides a home for women, mothers and children fleeing situations that range from domestic abuse to homelessness. WBRC’s Jeh Jeh Pruitt was conducting scheduled, live interview segments with fishermen Randy Howell and Tucker Smith, as well as Lew Burdette, president of the nonprofit.
As a client of The Lollar Group, King’s Home worked with Lollar to execute the 10th annual Randy Howell Boat Giveaway — a perfect example of celebrity endorsement and sponsorship. Randy Howell is a local professional bass fisherman who has worldwide notoriety due to his championships. King’s Home serves as one of Howell’s sponsors, allowing it to brand his boat with its logo. Additionally, each year Howell gives away his $80,000 boat to the King’s Home, which gives locals a chance to win the boat after giving a minimum $100 donation. All of the proceeds of this giveaway go directly to supporting the mission of King’s Home, and this campaign has proved successful for an entire decade.
Being able to see firsthand how interview segments are conducted and produced for television, as a media coordinator, was very beneficial in that it allowed me to turn a classroom concept into an actual application of media relations. To be able to sustain healthy relationships with the media so that campaigns like this gain traction with the media, you must first be able to speak the language of the media outlet in order to better understand how to connect your organizational goals to theirs.
Being able to witness the inner-workings of local network television allowed me to apply my conceptual knowledge to real-life interactions, which is certainly an experience that can not be matched in a virtual setting. I believe that I am better equipped to pursue a career in media relations now that I had the opportunity to be an active participant in a series of interview segments and understand the platform.
I also learned a valuable lesson about the importance of word choice in public relations. In the state of Alabama, gambling is illegal. Therefore, it was incredibly important that the promotion of this giveaway campaign avoided words such as “raffle,” and other keywords that indicate any form of gambling. Doing this was vital in protecting the event and ensuring that it remained consistent with Alabama laws and guidelines.
In just two short hours by the pond at the King’s Home HQ, I was exposed to celebrity endorsements, media relations, word-choice and campaign guidelines.
Taziki’s video shoot
After leaving the interview shoot, I headed to the Taziki’s in Homewood, Alabama, to observe a promotional video shoot that promoted the restaurant’s new holiday bundle. At the event itself, I was mainly focused on expanding my knowledge of video production and of how public relations professionals work with creatives to produce the intended result.
I personally know little to nothing about shooting videos and the technical logistics that accompany the process. However, I learned from observing Lollar that it is not the PR practitioner’s job to be fluent in creative language but to be able to understand how you can work with creatives to further your client’s organizational objectives. For example, Lollar was never behind the camera herself but had a comprehensive understanding of the soundbites and other materials that the videographer needed and centered her interview questions around these needs.
I had the opportunity to become well-acquainted with this client beforehand during my remote internship hours. In fact, one of my tasks the week before was to compile a list of food and grazing board stylists from Instagram who could potentially style and promote Taziki’s new bundles. I saw this task come to fruition when presented with the gorgeous grazing board that was created for the promo video, and even had the chance to meet the food stylist that I helped seek out. Interns often do not get to see the results of their hard work as they typically are not involved in the implementation phase, so it was incredibly rewarding being able to see a tangible result of my research and pitches.
Ad sales meeting
To wrap up my day with Lollar in Birmingham, I accompanied her on an advertising sales meeting with a representative from FOX6 at a coffee shop in Homewood.
I found this portion of my day to be the most compelling and practical, since I am currently taking a course in media sales. In this class, I have been learning the aspects of a client’s needs analysis and have even conducted my own for a project. In the course, I am learning from the perspective of a potential salesperson. In this meeting, however, I was able to sit across the table from the saleswoman and understand how media sales fit into the world of a public relations professional. Prior to this course, I had never considered sales to be a significant component of a PR professional’s job. Even prior to this interview, I failed to see why it mattered for PR students to understand basic media language and the mindset of a salesperson.
I was able to witness how the saleswoman evaluated the needs of The Lollar Group and its clients and actively conjure advertising solutions that would further their business objectives, such as free interview segments with legal and nonprofit clients. This was a particularly unique educational opportunity because I was able to understand both perspectives being presented during the sales meeting. In addition, I got to hear Lollar’s reflections on why sales meetings with advertisers are such an important part of the job.
One of the key takeaways from my day with Lollar is that the life of a PR practitioner is incredibly dynamic and personable. There is no need to worry about workplace boredom if you are working for an active agency like The Lollar Group, because a PR professional is almost always on the move, serving the needs of multiple clients within one day. My workplaces consisted of a pond, a modern restaurant and a local coffee shop — a much-needed change of scenery after months of Zoom.
Additionally, being a PR professional in an agency setting requires advanced levels of compartmentalization. In corporate environments, you are likely devoting all of your attention and time to one client. In an agency, you must be able to seamlessly shift gears between clients within a 30-minute drive from one location to the next. While you have a lot of clients to satisfy, you must treat each as if they are your only and give them your 100% effort when it is their time on your schedule. This requires a great deal of energy and prioritizing — and I must brag on my boss, Holly Lollar, who kicks butt at it.
With just one day out and immersed in the workplace, I was able to multiply the knowledge I had obtained from our clients and work with them in intimate ways that just are not possible in a virtual setting. While it is the reality that most internships are turning virtual, I hope more interns get to experience days out in the field as I did.