Sara’s Internship as a Public Affairs Assistant

SRB_Feb_2012_thumbName: Sara Larrabee

Major: Communication

Company Interned For: Rhode Island Department of Transportation – Public Affairs Assistant

Hometown: Cranston, RI

AC: What was your favorite aspect of your internship?

SL: My favorite aspect of my internship with RIDOT was getting to make roads and bridges sexy through the use of Public Relations…I’m serious! How can you make use of social media to interest the population in Rhode Island to pay attention to construction projects, grants, and work zone safety? I did it by using Pinterest and pictures in press releases to grab Rhode Island residents’ and drivers’ attention.

I also enjoyed learning about governmental public relations which is an extremely difficult area of the industry to get started in. Working for a state department was one of the most unique experiences I have on my resume to date.

AC: What were your day-to-day duties as an intern?

SL: As an intern, I was in charge of keeping track of the media coverage RIDOT would receive with every press release as well as keeping track of fatalities, accidents, and other highway and roadway news stories. I would accompany the directors of our office on media interviews with the local television and newspaper outlets – which was very interesting for me since prior to being at RIDOT, I had interned at the WPRI-12 TV station. I was also tasked with a summer-long video project to highlight RI’s new initiative to cut the number of roadway fatalities in half by the year 2030. The initiative was a part of the new RI Highway and Safety Plan for 2013 and I worked with a video consulting group in Boston to actually conduct the “man-on-the-street” interviews in Providence and put together the final video. That video is actually being used in commercials and other marketing promotions for the new statewide plan!

AC:  What did you learn in your internship and what challenges did you overcome through these learning experiences?

SL: I was able to experience what a typical “9-to-5” schedule was like for a whole summer and how to keep myself busy all day. Time management both long-term and short-term, as well as creating individual tasks to work on, was crucial to having a successful summer. I also learned to not be afraid to ask questions – it is so easy for Rhode Islanders, or any member of a community, to blame organizations like the government or the department of transportation for bad road conditions and not enough money to complete projects in a timely manner. When those types of comments are posted on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Blogger, we as a team have to be able to respond to those users as soon as possible. We always had to make sure a response was correct and check with my boss or the engineers out in the field. It is extremely important to getting the right information to the general public.

AC: How did you find this internship?

SL: I had actually applied for this internship after completing my freshmen year because of an ad the department had placed in a local newspaper and online. I was accepted to the program, but decided that I wasn’t ready to get the most out of the position and wanted to wait until I had a few more years at Bryant under my belt. Come to find out, the Director of Public Affairs for RIDOT, Dana Nolfe, is an adjunct Public Relations Professor here at Bryant! I enrolled in both her classes my Junior year, Basic PR in the Fall and Advanced PR in the Spring, and was able to reapply for this internship for the summer leading into my senior year. I was accepted into the program, again, and had a blast all summer.  It was also paid!

AC: Which classes at Bryant would you say helped you to be a successful intern

SL: Obviously the Public Relations classes I was able to take before starting this summer internship was extremely helpful in getting down the basic terms and principles to practicing good PR. The background I had in video production, based off of my training through the Koffler Communication Complex, was also instrumental in my role to produce the “Towards Zero Deaths” video talked about earlier. As with all the other internships I have had in 4 years, the business classes I did take helped me to understand the dynamics of working in different organizational structures, such as a the state department.

AC: What would be your advice to any undergraduate looking in the communications field?

SL: Network, network, network! Get involved on LinkedIn and search for professionals who have interesting or comparable backgrounds to what you are interested in. Take advantage of the Amica Center’s “Job Shadowing” program that occurs over every Winter Break because it is an awesome way to get your foot in the “real-world” just for a day and to make some great industry contacts. Put your skills to the test on campus…we have a great School of Communication here at Bryant and many clubs such as the Media Production Club, WJMF, the Archway, the Ledger, the Communication Society, and others that will allow you to connect with faculty and alumni to figure out in 4 years which direction your career will take. Lastly, enjoy your 4 years here! Everyone will say time flies by…but it really truly does and you will be walking that graduation stage before you know it.


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