June 15, 2021 msuproductions

Getting “Ready” for the Real World

A Reflection on My Experience with Hawk Communications

Brianna Behrens Montclair State University

Written by: Brianna Behrens

When I registered for Hawk Communications at the end of the fall semester, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew the last stretch of my senior year was approaching quickly, and yet I still felt unprepared to enter the public relations field. I had switched my major during the second half of my junior year, which didn’t leave me with much time to acclimate to a new area of study. I wasn’t sure what experiences I would need in order to feel “ready” for this industry after graduation, but in hindsight this course was definitely one of them. Although the past three and a half months seemed to fly by, the time I’ve spent in this class has shaped my perspective of public relations, and of myself as well.

As we received our clients for the semester, I knew the “soft skills” I developed at other jobs would make me an asset to my teams. I figured that even if I didn’t know all there was to know about public relations, I would find a way to contribute. This reminder kept me out of my head and engaged in productivity – my greatest weakness is being my own worst critic, which often manifests as an unwanted obstacle.

What I quickly realized was that I would have to confront elements of PR work that made me uncomfortable. I did my best not to show it, but taking on tasks that I had never done before was stressful – I’m the type of person who likes to be good at everything and despises failure. So when my first assignment for the School of Communication and Media (SCM) was to create a social media graphic, I instantly knew that this semester would force me to overcome many internal obstacles. For some unknown reason, I’d always believed I wasn’t creative, especially in terms of graphic design. But having to step outside of my comfort zone shifted my perspective, and I actually found that I enjoy creating digital content! I took the time to study the brand and allowed myself to design social media graphics without self-judgment. It took a few tries to get it right, but my confidence grew in the process.

For my second client, I worked as part of the Research and Planning team within our larger group. One of the most feasible tasks for my team was media pitching. This was another area of public relations in which I was inexperienced and uncomfortable. But I drafted an email pitch anyway – however awkward I felt doing so – and sent it to local school districts and universities. As expected, I didn’t hear back, and that’s fine. I still don’t feel as comfortable with the process of pitching, but at least this opportunity forced me out of my comfort zone.

Reflecting on my individual contributions to my teams this semester, the work I produced involved many facets of public relations. I designed social media graphics and captions, wrote an article for SCM, brainstormed potential events and B2B partnerships, conducted competitor and market research, and sent email pitches to schools. If I had to choose an assignment of which I’m most proud, it would be my social media graphic for The Montclarion. During our weekly team meeting with the SCM grad students, I was pleased to receive great feedback on my design. This served as confirmation that I am capable of creating digital content, despite what my insecurities had told me in the past.

One thing I know I can improve moving forward is my leadership and diligence in light of difficulty – in this case, a difficult client. With work history in team management, I have always been confident in my ability to give direction to my team. However, being on the other end of the leadership dynamic this time was an odd feeling for me; and the fact that the client was incredibly challenging made things worse for all of us. Our team leads did the best they could with the resources they had to guide our efforts, but there came a point where we were at a loss with how to proceed. Normally, I would have taken it upon myself to bring clarity to the situation, but I felt stuck. Without past experience in an agency or an internship, I wasn’t sure what the next move should be at the time. But in hindsight, any move could have been the right move if it kept us progressing forward.

One major takeaway from working with this client is the need to create a direction when necessary. If the client doesn’t offer guidance or doesn’t have clear objectives, it’s the team’s responsibility to figure it out. The “it” could be anything – media pitching, content creation, or even constant contact with the client until they respond. But ultimately the team needs to do something before too much time passes and opportunities are missed. Luckily we were able to secure a successful connection towards the end of the semester, but considering all of the brainstorming I had done regarding possible events with local businesses, I wish I had tried to coordinate some of them. Even if they fell through on the client’s end, it would have been a great learning experience for me. This possibility does present the issue of collateral damage on a personal level regarding my reputation; but with the opportunity to take chances in a student-agency setting, I wish I had been more aggressive in this context.

Overall, I’m thankful that I had the chance to take this course. It was unlike any other elective I’d taken in the past, and the experience truly lends itself to realistic industry work. I believe that experiences like these – the kinds that force you to get comfortable being uncomfortable – are necessary, especially when flipping to new chapters in life. In terms of being “ready” now that this course is coming to a close, I think a better description is feeling prepared. It’s often said that no one is ever ready for the unknown, or at least for the new elements of life. From my current position, I resonate with this. But after my time spent working for Hawk Communications, I feel more equipped to continue in the direction of public relations. I’ve begun to know myself in a different light and because of this, I have more confidence in my ability to conquer this next step in my career, whatever it may be.