How my real-world class project turned into an internship
This spring, my advanced public relations class at Elizabethtown College combined with peers in the advanced video production class to complete real-world projects for our client, the WebstaurantStore, the largest online restaurant supply store worldwide. Throughout the semester, we participated in client meetings, presented our ideas, managed projects and completed a review process with our contacts from WebstaurantStore, which resulted in 10 completed projects to be published on their website.
E-town’s relationship with WebstaurantStore began last year when students in Professor of Communications Kelly Poniatowski’s advanced public relations class worked on a similar project. The students coordinated to complete a Hot Dog Equipment Buying Guide, which has since been uploaded to their website to generate traffic and inform potential consumers. This year, the scale of the project increased dramatically. We combined with Professor of Communications Kirsten Johnson’s advanced video production class and divided into groups to complete five buying guides and five videos to add to the website.
The project began with a tour of WebstaurantStore facilities, including their content department, photo studio and video production facilities. We were introduced to the organization’s history, value and goals. Team members from the WebstaurantStore discussed their expectations and goals for the project, and we were given the opportunity to ask questions.
After this overview, we were assigned group members and buying guide topics. I was assigned the role of project manager for the food service chemicals group. We immediately began brainstorming creative ways to communicate key information and engage consumers through the buying guide. Our video group members chose several video ideas that fit the topic. We researched competitors and analyzed existing content to figure out how the information could be presented better. Our best ideas were compiled into a presentation for our client.
After presenting our ideas and receiving feedback from WebstaurantStore team members, we jumped into the project. We immersed ourselves in the challenges of the food service industry, learning the best ways to clean commercial kitchen spaces and finding the answers to frequently asked questions. We figured out which characteristics were most important to consumers and were sure to highlight them in our buying guide.
Through the project, I had the opportunity to apply the skills I had been learning within my public relations courses. I also gained hands-on experience with the company. I learned about several of their departments, including content, search engine marketing and video production and the many roles it takes to operate their business. When I began searching for summer internships, I naturally turned to WebstaurantStore to look for openings. I applied for a site maintenance internship position with their content department, and I ended up interviewing with two of the team members I had worked with throughout the semester.
Throughout the interview process, WebstaurantStore took the time to learn more about my interests, which included search engine optimization. Not only did they offer me the position with the content department, but they actually created a hybrid position tailored to my interests. They altered the typical structure of their internship program to allow me to spend a portion of my time with the search engine marketing department.
What started as a class project quickly turned into a real-world experience that would open a world of career opportunities. Through the project, I gained key writing, presentation and client relations skills that are essential in the public relations industry. More importantly, the project provided me with networking opportunities, allowing me to connect with local professionals in the industry.
Kristen Wade is a senior communications major with a concentration in public relations and a minor in graphic design. On campus, she is involved with Jay Firm, a student-run public relations firm, and Her Campus Elizabethtown. She also serves as an online public relations and internet marketing intern with the Office of Marketing and Communications.