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What Three Months of Working at a PR Agency Looks Like

By Mubashira Nusrat Farooqi

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This year has been challenging to say the least. When I wrapped up my graduate certificate program at Centennial College back in April, I had no idea where I would end up just a few months later.

In the midst of keeping up with volunteer work, networking and being awarded IABC/Toronto’s Student of the Year 2020, I received a message on LinkedIn from an account manager at Strategic Objectives (SO) – one of the most awarded PR firms in North America, asking if I would be interested in interviewing for an internship position.

Interview Process

The entire interview and hiring process was super quick, taking place within about a week. The team was clearly in need of urgent support, and I was available to start immediately.

The process consisted of sharing my resume and credentials, followed by two virtual interviews with an account manager and a senior account manager at SO. The questions were pretty standard - they asked me about my previous communications experience, interests and skills to gauge what accounts may be the right fit for me.

Work Environment

Interning at SO gave me a first-hand experience at what agency life looks like – especially when working from home. With the exception of the three days I spent in office helping host an event, my internship took place virtually. All reporting, meetings and work was done through Microsoft Teams and Outlook.

Every day was different, but most days I was working somewhere between 7.5 to 12 hours. I had to ensure I was communicating frequently with the various teams - giving them an idea of what’s on my plate. Needless to say, the days were packed, but that’s part of why I was able to learn so much in such a short timespan.

There’s a reason SO is so highly awarded, and it’s because their staff are all exceptionally hard working, focused and talented individuals. It’s no easy feat to pull off national campaigns during a pandemic, and I was able to watch SO do it over and over again. My role as an intern fed into the success of these campaigns by ensuring I was producing high quality work and keeping up with daily media monitoring and reports.

Technical Skills

My college education helped in preparing me for some of the technical skills required during the internship, but the ones most integral to my work at SO were:

  • Developing media materials and research: This was the majority of my role and included searching for media contacts on Cision, preparing media lists, reviewing media coverage on Meltwater and Google and measuring impressions on MRP.
  • Professional Writing: Developing media pitches, outreach notes and summaries for campaign wrap-reports.
  • Influencer research: Utilizing Klear to source statistics, reach and audience demographics of influencers based on the platforms they use.
  • Graphic design: This was an added skill that I was able to contribute to the development of SO’s website and social media channels.

Soft Skills

The three major soft skills that I was able to really hone at SO were time management, internal communication and organization. These would all feed into each other as I managed each day by prioritizing tasks and deliverables, communicating those effectively to the teams, and staying on top of ongoing accounts.

As an intern at SO, you have to be comfortable with working in a fast-paced environment, with high work turn-over. You have to ensure you are keeping track of work and expectations and share them with your teams, as often as possible.

What Surprised Me The Most?

Aside from the fact that the team is highly engaged and supportive, going above and beyond to ensure they are being inclusive and understanding of each other’s timelines and responsibilities, SO showed a genuine interest in - and commitment to - diversity and inclusion.

On the second day of my internship, I joined their SOAR (Strategic Objectives Alliance for Representation) committee, where staff were given the opportunity to discuss and share resources on equity related issues and potential action that the agency could take.

The agency provides each team member with four paid hours per month to dedicate to listening, learning, dialogue and experience. They also regularly invited special guests to speak on diversity and inclusion through a PR lens, and what we, as communications professionals, can do to be more equitable in our practices.

SO also goes out of their way to avoid working with clients who were publicly racist or homophobic, and also ensure they only partnered with organizations that share their values of respect, trust and equality.

Best Part

Hands down, having gotten the experience to work in small teams to put together and execute national, award-winning campaigns with a reputable agency was the best part of my internship.

I was able to learn so much about the Canadian media landscape and stay up-to-date on what stories the media is looking for and interested in - especially during a global pandemic.

Advice For Future Interns

ORGANIZATION. Plan your days ahead of time, communicate as much as possible, and remember to take frequent breaks. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk to your teams and make sure you are only taking on as much work as you’re able to handle within 7-8 hours a day.

And, don’t forget to drink lots of water.

Final Thoughts

As someone who never thought they would go into agency, I have to say this experience really felt like the best-case scenario. If you’re looking for an understanding of what agency life looks like, SO will help you experience that – and then some.

At the end of my internship, I successfully earned personal recommendations from both of the co-founders and partners of SO (one of which is also the Chair of CCPRF), an accomplishment I never would have thought possible otherwise. Their recommendations will go a long way in helping me establish myself as a reputable communications professional.

I look forward to taking everything I have learned at SO and applying it to my career, going forward.

About Mubashira

Mubashira Farooqi is a dedicated communications professional from Toronto with a passion for equity and inclusion. She is IABC Toronto’s Student of the Year 2020 and has also received the Gold Award from CPRS Toronto for Student Campaign of the Year. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

About Strategic Objectives

Headquartered in Toronto and co-founded by partners Deborah Weinstein and Judy Lewis, Strategic Objectives is Canada’s most award-winning PR agency, and regarded as one of the country’s most creative, innovative, passionate, and successful communications firms. Named Best Mid-Size PR Agency in the World at the IABC Gold Quill Awards 2019, as well as IABC/Toronto Agency of the Year 2020, for eight of the last 11 years, we create results-driven programs integrating PR, social media, digital, experiential and influencer marketing strategies that achieve outstanding measurable results. Global experts in social responsibility and cause-related marketing, we are the only Canadian communications company to ever receive the exclusive United Nations Grand Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Relations, and the only all-Canadian agency to be named to the PR News Top Ten CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) A-List.

Canada is our space. Our national, bilingual team includes an all-star roster of more than 30 top PR pros, strategists, storytellers, content creators, trend-spotters, trend-setters, designers, social media experts, video and graphic artists, digital developers and pop-culture junkies. We are obsessed with providing outstanding client service and doing things differently to deliver impactful, measurable results.

Visit www.strategicobjectives.com and follow us on Instagram and Twitter: @SO_pr.

Please click here to learn about our current internship opportunities, and how you can build your PR career at Strategic Objectives. For more info please contact us here.

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