By Dan Haggerty
This past fall semester, through Westfield State University, where I am a senior, I was lucky enough to intern for Beetle Press. This was my first internship, and I came into it not really sure what to expect. I’m leaving with a sense that I want to continue to explore public relations. (Next semester, I will be interning in the Westfield State Public Affairs office.)
At the start of the internship with Beetle Press, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my future or what career paths might best suit me. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to be writing on a daily basis, and I was open to every opportunity and was willing to try my hand at all that Beetle Press could offer.
Janice and her company more than delivered on teaching me skills that I could put to use in a professional environment that valued writing.
Under Janice’s tutelage, I learned how to craft press releases to promote events and businesses. I wrote articles for Westfield State University’s alumni magazine, Focus; I created blogs for the Beetle Press website as well as JaniceBeetle.com, on which Janice blogs about writing; I wrote about the work of community leaders and business owners in the area, and I also reviewed a book and wrote about several classroom learning.
I was most proud of writing an article about the Cancer Connection that was published in the Health section of the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
These are all accomplishments that I am glad to call my own. However, possibly more important than the finished products themselves are the skills I learned in completing them.
The Beetle Press internship afforded me the opportunity to test out multiple career fields – PR and journalism, for instance – as well as different writing styles, all at once. I was able to get a feel for what being a journalist might entail as I worked on the story for the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the articles for Focus. The press releases and blogs I worked on allowed me the chance to see what a career in public relations might be like, and they also challenged me to convey similar messages in different writing styles; press releases being formal and professional, whereas writing blogs is more relaxed.
I learned the most about how to conduct an interview. When I first started the interview process for my Health page story, I admit I was a little nervous and hesitant to meet with the four people I was to interview; instead of meeting live, I preferred to just converse over the phone.
The sources for the story were all touched in some way by cancer, and they were volunteers in a new Cancer Connection program. Janice helped me to overcome the nerves that come with talking to a complete stranger about such a sensitive topic. She helped me to practice my interview skills and showed me what questions to ask and in what order the questions should come.
We ran a role-playing exercise, in which Janice acted as the interviewee and I the interviewer. This practice helped me to get comfortable with asking sensitive questions and allowed me to ease into the real interviews for the story. I still learn more and more about interview skills and techniques every time I’m at my internship, especially when I am privy to hearing Janice conduct a phone interview. I learn how to phrase questions, how to ask follow-up questions and how to get the most out of a short conversation.
My nervousness and anticipation while conducting interviews has slowly melted away. I’ve realized that there is nothing to be anxious about. An interview is really just a conversation.
I enjoyed all the writing that I did this semester during my internship. Beetle Press is advertised as a public relations and communications firm with heart, and after spending a semester in the middle of the company I find that the phrase is one that is hard to argue with.
Note: Dan Haggerty is a senior at Westfield State University who is interning with my business, Beetle Press, this semester.