Study the Local News, Not Just National Headlines

Sometime during my first semester in PRSSA, a PR pro offered our exhausted Monday group a piece of advice: come into the office knowing today’s headlines. If I remember correctly, this advice came from Fahlgren Mortine’s Arron Brown.

March of 2018 was only my second month of being in PRSSA. As a non-journalism student, I hadn’t heard this advice before. Yet, it made so much sense. In public relations (and just about every industry), it is important to know what’s going on in the world. That night, I followed The Post on Twitter and subscribed to The New York Times. Throughout the semester, I read my daily briefings and any articles that peaked my interest.

I figured I was well prepared for my entry into professional work. If I needed to know anything else about a subject, I would simply look it up. Flash forward to the first team meeting of my first internship and to no surprise—I was very wrong.

In May, I began my first internship as a copy editor at the Ohio Department of Public Safety. I took all the good-intern steps: I arrived early, I politely introduced myself to everyone in the office, brought my own (strong) coffee and read my New York Times daily briefing at home while it brewed.

Then, 9 a.m. Monday morning, the communications team meets for a staff meeting.

“Did you see that state trooper accident outside of Morrow County this morning?” a team member asked the director. Everyone begins speaking about The Columbus Dispatch formulating an article and local news stations they wouldn’t want to work with on this topic. In a total intern moment, I have no idea what’s going on.

It’s not until an hour later, that I have the chance to frantically Google what everyone is concerned about. By then it’s too late. I cannot go back and try to engage in the conversation; I certainly will not be working on this project. And not a single person cares that the New York Times updated me on trade deals in China.

In true learn-as-you-go fashion, in the following days, I began to skim through The New York Times and almost completely disregard Athens news. If I wanted to impress the communications team, I needed to know what was important to our office. I now follow the Columbus Dispatch and check the news for the Ohio Department of Public Safety every morning.

Among many other little pieces of information I’ve gathered while being an intern, I would like to pass along to my fellow PRSSA members: Aaron Brown was right. It is very important to know the news. And while national headlines are a good place to start, remember to keep tabs on your city, industry and company at all times.

Kayla Rosengarten is a communication studies major. Follow her on Twitter @kaylarosengarden.

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