The saying goes “Big surprises often come in small packages.” I found that to be true this summer. I also learned that any experience, no matter how small, is still an experience. May through August, I participated in my first internship in the public relations department at my local hospital. Wyandot Memorial Hospital is a rural, critical access hospital serving one small main town and three very small outlying towns. While I was not in a big name public relations firm or even a large scale hospital from nine to five every day, I gained valuable skills and experience while staying close to home.
At Wyandot Memorial, one person runs the entire PR department. My first thought about being an unpaid intern was that I would be typing mindless documents and filing paperwork to free up the PR Director’s time, but I was completely wrong. Because my internship was unpaid, I was even able to work two lifeguarding jobs to build my bank account as well as manage several projects independently for the hospital while also creating content for my professional portfolio according to my own schedule.
When I was in the office, I could be found drafting a press release about new urologists for three local newspapers, creating Wyandot Memorial gift baskets for local raffles, writing thank-you letters to donors, developing the new website, designing pamphlets for the oncology department, planning the annual Employee Appreciation Dinner or writing articles for the monthly newsletter and annual directory.
Throughout this experience, I learned that responsibility and respect were pivotal. It may have been a small hospital, but the work was very important and was to be treated as such. As I began to show that I was responsible and willing to take on a challenge, the Director of PR gave me projects to do on my own. I produced entire articles from the initial research stage and interviewing to formatting and photography.
My experience this summer definitely reassured me that the world of public relations is where I belong. I added several projects and articles to my portfolio that was otherwise lacking before this summer. I gained strong connections in the professional world including my boss, Ann Kemerley, who has become a great PR resource and mentor.
Ann and I will remain in contact for years to come. In fact, even though I’ve returned to Athens, she continues to email me projects to develop, review and proofread. She mentioned to several people that she appreciated the fresh and innovative view on PR that I was able to provide, especially since I’d already completed classes on strategic communication and writing during my first year at OU. Ann has already offered to be a reference for me in the future and to help with any questions I may have on assignments or pieces I create.
I encourage other PR students to explore small, local internship opportunities even if they’re not at a big corporation or large hospital/organization like you may have been dreaming about. As my summer proved, an internship on a local, smaller scale still provided a terrific learning experience! After all, you can still come out with great content and amazing resources for your future!
Taylor Dilley is a Sophomore majoring in strategic communication, minoring in marketing, and pursuing a specialization in visual communications. After graduating she would like to work for an agency or in corporate PR. Follow her on Twitter @taylor_dilley!