Intern Profile: Alison Coffa

alisoncoffaAlison Coffa is a 20-year-old who will soon complete her Bachelor of Arts degree at Deakin University. At her internship with Pesel and Carr, Alison has been able to have a more ‘hands on’ experience. Alison also credits interning with helping her have more confience in her ideas and abilities.

The Basics

Alison Coffa, 20, Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) majoring in Public Relations and Journalism at Deakin University.

Dream job?

I haven’t quite figured that one out yet, but if I could combine my passion for communications and the media industry with my love for music, theatre and the arts, then I’d be pretty happy.

Tell us about your internship at Pesel & Carr

I’ve been at P&C for six months now, gaining an insight into life in an agency and working with a variety of clients on a whole range of different projects. From media relations, to copywriting and collateral development, to publicity campaigns, to investor relations, and to visual identity projects, I’ve had a chance to experience many different aspects of the industry within the one company.

What do you do on a daily/weekly basis? Being an agency, it is hard to describe an average day because every day is so different. First thing in the morning, I catch up on my emails and sort out anything that urgently needs to be worked on, then turn to my trusty ‘to-do’ list. I picked up a habit from a colleague at P&C to have a running list on a notepad that I just add to and change around as I need. This allows me to coordinate tasks that run over multiple days in the office. Some of the regular tasks that happen more frequently are media monitoring of the major daily papers, internal account meetings and keeping up to date with industry news. Other activities can include anything from compiling media lists, writing media releases, following up inquiries to journalists, attending events, client meetings, writing copy for websites and collateral material, coordinating third parties like designers and photographers, and administrative tasks like meeting reports and campaign evaluations.

Pesel & Carr is a small firm of around seven employees, have you found it beneficial for you as you’ve gotten to be more ‘hands on’? Definitely, I really believe that a major reason my internship has been so beneficial is because I’ve been able to have such practical experience in my time there. This is my first internship and I’d heard horror stories from students at other companies doing nothing but photocopying and coffee runs for weeks on end, but from the outset P&C made me feel welcome and like a valuable member of the team. I’ve been able to work on real client projects and more recently I have even been able to take responsibility for some tasks myself. The smaller staff group at P&C has also helped me in developing really positive working relationships with the others.

What has been the most valuable learning experience you’ve had while interning at Pesel & Carr? It really is difficult to narrow it down to one event as the most valuable. I think simply the experience of being in a firm and experiencing the daily ‘ins and outs’ that happen in the office is a major learning curve. Studying PR can only teach you so much about developing key messages, writing in a professional style and preparing media releases, but it’s not until you experience it yourself that you realise – sometimes the journalist doesn’t answer the phone. Sometimes no one responds to your media release. Sometimes some major news breaks the day you’ve sent your release out. There’s a lot that can just happen in the daily life of a PR practitioner that you don’t really learn until you come across it.

I can say that I’ve probably developed more than anything a greater sense of confidence in my own abilities and ideas as I’ve successfully called journalists out of the blue and arranged media opportunities, crafted my own media releases and seen them have an effect, or seen my own ideas come into fruition in a campaign. Uni has helped prepare me

in a theoretical sense for the industry but the practical skills and ability to apply this theory has really only developed since I’ve been working with P&C.

Tell us about your volunteer position at Theatrepeople maintaining their social media channels: Theatrepeople is a national website based around the Australian theatre and performing arts scene; posting audition notices, show reviews, feature articles, photos and videos from professional and amateur theatre companies. I came on board with Theatrepeople in 2011 as Communications Manager. My role involves the upkeep of the Facebook page and Twitter account, and since I’ve been working with them, the Facebook page has gathered around 3,000 more followers (reaching over 11,000 total). Engagement has always been key with the Facebook group, and many of our posts revolve around asking questions of our followers and starting discussions between them. The Australian amateur theatre scene in particular is very community focused so it is great to see people making connections and having real discussions and debates over relevant issues on the TP Facebook page.

What’s next for you? Will you do more internships? I finish my degree this year (seven weeks of classes left) so at this stage I’m not entirely sure what next year is going to entail. I will probably be job searching from this point but I won’t rule out another internship if a good opportunity presents itself. Over the last few years, I’ve been working a number of jobs as well as interning and uni, so I’m hoping that whatever next year brings my way, there will still be some scope for flexibility and variety.

Alison gives her intern advice:

You just have to keep your eyes and ears open and put yourself out there. It’s tough, but the truth is that there are probably quite a few students in your course, so anything you can do to differentiate yourself from your classmates will put you in good stead for the future.

Go to networking events (and talk to people), take a short course, read industry news, write a blog, or volunteer in something completely unrelated to your degree! I’ve been doing a lot of this in 2013 in particular, but I often wish I’d started earlier.

Also ensure you have the basics sorted. Employers in communications are always on the lookout for strong writing skills, so find any opportunity you can to practice and hone your writing – especially if there is the potential for publication. Writing an article for your uni magazine shows you can fit a brief, work to a deadline and put together a coherent piece – and it also gives you something to add to your folio when someone asks you to bring a writing sample to an interview. 

Follow Alison on Twitter.

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