I am a 31 year-old intern. In fact, I am simultaneously the oldest and least “experienced” member of the growing San Francisco office.
Unlike most interns, this is not my first time up the “company ladder.” Instead, I’m in career-change mode after spending the first
8 years of my working life as a professional hockey referee with NHL ambitions. But when one dream falls flat (like those involving quarterbacks, astronauts or professional princesses) you have to find another.
Most interns are college students or recent grads, and MWW offers them a unique opportunity to learn about accountability, professionalism and work ethic – in addition to relevant P.R. and communication skills. My challenge has been different – to adapt my unique and varied skill set to a whole new industry.
For example, players, coaches, media and fans often ask tough questions: “Why didn’t you call that?” “Are you telling me that wasn’t a [freaking] elbow!?” “How much did [insert opposing team] pay you before the game!?” As a result, I’ve learned to be calm, honest, forthcoming, respectful, and firm in stressful environments.
These tools were used recently, when the MWW San Francisco office pitched new business to a company in the health and fitness industry. In these meetings, it’s the prospective clients asking the tough questions: “Why MWW instead of other PR firms?” “What can you provide that others can’t?” “How do we know you can deliver on your promises?” My ability to remain calm, think rationally and respond appropriately allowed me to be an active participant in this new-business pitch.
As a referee, there’s no substitute for the right words. A frustrated player can become irate if an official recites the rulebook, rather than offering a clear, honest explanation. Similarly, journalists ‘tune-out’ a pitch when it includes ‘buzzwords,’ ‘marketing jargon,’ or ‘sales-speak.’ Like hockey players, they need clear, concise, honest explanations. This is yet another area where old skills have found new meaning.
No two PR professionals are the same. They each possess unique and individual skills and style. And as I look forward to my next few months, I’m excited to blend my previous experiences with my new skills to create a style all my own.