Jul
07

Taking the Plunge

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1Hello from Peppercomm’s favorite (and only) male intern! If we haven’t yet had the chance to meet, my name is John Tompkins, and I’m a rising senior at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. But I’ll leave any further introduction for my next post, because for now, I’d like to briefly talk about one of the biggest transitions of my life—from the art of journalism to the “dark side,” as my professors often refer to the profession, of public relations.

Until I arrived at Peppercomm’s doorstep just six short weeks ago—after taking the wrong train to work and aimlessly wandering along the Hudson River, of course—I had never taken a formal PR course or worked at an advertising, consulting, or public relations firm. I’m a journalist at heart and spent last summer covering Capitol Hill and the White House for McClatchy’s Washington, D.C. bureau. So let me tell you, while I’ve had the time of my life working at Peppercomm with one of the best intern groups I could possibly imagine, the tasks haven’t always been easy. Not surprisingly, this has been compounded by the fact that I’m probably the clumsiest person on the face of the planet—inept enough to personally total two different cars in two separate accidents on the very same day! So, in the hopes that a future intern or employee finds him or herself in a similar position as I, I thought I’d share a few tips to smoothing the transition, if only a bit.

 

1) Don’t be Afraid to Copy and Paste

When I first came to Peppercomm, it took me about 2.2 seconds to realize that “Thou shan’t write what they can simply copy.” might as well be the Golden Rule of public relations. However, after years of having the Cardinal Rule of journalism (i.e. Never, ever plagiarize. Period.) drilled into my head, it took me far longer to accept the easy way out. I’ve since learned that this simple function can only be a gift, especially when compiling lengthy briefing books or internal research documents. So, as long as you’re not drafting original social media content or thought leadership for a client, save yourself time and hassle. You’ll be glad you did.

 

2) Learn to Cope with a more Rigid Schedule

For most journalists, each day is different, and that’s something I quickly learned last summer. There were slow news days when I found it hard not to check Facebook every five minutes, and there were insane days when I found myself (literally) running from one end of D.C. to the other working 11 hours at a time. But one of the benefits of being a reporter is that you can largely tailor your schedule to your personal work style. I could work late into the night or at the very crack of dawn, as long as I met general deadlines. Suffice it to say, life at Peppercomm has been much different, and switching to a rigid “9 to 5:30” daily schedule that’s always packed to the brim has been a huge (and somewhat difficult) adjustment. Try your best to set personal time goals and calendar deadlines early on, or you’ll find yourself falling behind. And that’s never a good thing, especially when your co-workers rely on you to complete your assignments in a timely manner.

 

3) Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

I can’t stress this enough—though keep in mind this piece of advice comes from a guy who was routinely called a “nervous wreck” by his freshman year high school biology teacher. Given my lack of a traditional PR background, I’ve had to ask my team members about 5 million questions since I started at Peppercomm—apologies to Brooke, Carly, Ali, Rose, Yue, Olivia and anyone else I constantly harass via Skype and the phone. But I’m always reminded that it’s better to ask a lot of questions and get something right than to assume you know what you’re doing and leave a team member to amend the many mistakes you left behind.

Well, that’s my two cents on transitioning from journalism to PR. As challenging as the last few weeks have been, I honestly count myself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to take my first steps at a firm as welcoming and supportive as Peppercomm.

Lastly, if you’ve recently taken the plunge from journalism to PR, I understand exactly how you’re probably feeling. And I’ll leave you with the words my seventh grade social studies teacher emphatically stated before each and every one of our tests: “Good luck. God Bless. And may The Force be with you.”

 

By: John Tompkins

 

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