English Literature and American Studies Double Major
Laura Pochodylo interned at Highlights for Children in Columbus, Ohio,
where she assisted with public relations for the Highlights family of publications.
Her primary projects included planning and executing a new magazine launch in
New York City and tabulating results from the annual State of the Kid survey.
Describe your day-to-day experiences.
Each day changed with the wide variety of projects.
My first few weeks I was focused on reading surveys sent in for the State of the Kid survey, with written answers from young readers. With more than 1,000 surveys, it could easily be an arduous task, but as soon as I would start to get tired of it, a kid would write a really funny or inspiring answer that made me realize how insightful kids really are. It also really made me appreciate how great it is to have a publication like Highlights to enrich their childhood, and how cool it was that Highlights actually cared to hear what kids thought on certain issues. There were lots of fun questions about what kids would do if they were president and how they related to their favorite book characters. I loved seeing the differences in the answers, geographically and by age. The data will be analyzed and presented in Columbus at a press conference.
I also worked on researching the people who attended the magazine release party in New York City. Highlights launched its new baby magazine at a BlogHer event, which is an annual blogging conference for women. Many "mom bloggers" attended the magazine launch, which is what the name suggests: moms who blog. It was very interesting to learn about the subculture of blogging mothers: what they blog about, their huge community, and how many of them have become professional bloggers through pairing with different companies. I do think new media education is important, especially in the public relations field, and I am glad to have gotten a lot of great exposure to integrating new media with event planning and product outreach.
I was also able to do fun things like notify the parents of children who had their artwork or poems published in Highlights, and was involved in the day-to-day planning of the New York event. I was able to observe the challenges of hosting a press event aimed at non-traditional media, like bloggers, which is something that will probably become increasingly more common. And it was fun to be hyping up an adorable product like the new magazine for babies.
What was the coolest part of your internship?
The coolest part of my internship was being able to work for a brand that had a real impact on my life as a child, and that I associate very fond memories with, and not being disappointed on the other side. Nothing Highlights has done has jaded my childhood impression of the magazine, and after learning about the inner workings and history of the company, I love Highlights even more!
How did your experiences at Knox benefit you in the internship?
The critical thinking skills that come from a liberal arts education and the style of learning at Knox have been very beneficial in all of the jobs I've had, this one included. When you're taught that there are many different ways of approaching a task or an idea in the classroom, that mindset transfers easily to a work setting. For example, I would have been pretty bored if I had just been entering the survey answers without thinking about them, the same way I would be if I just regurgitated information on a written exam in school. Knox demands more personal investment in your learning process, which after two years, I have learned leads to greater rewards. Looking at the answers kids wrote and asking why they wrote a certain thing, trying to find out what answers their parents might have written or influenced and why is something that comes from the inquisitive culture at Knox, where nothing is taken at face value. I felt I was successful at being able to communicate an analysis of the answers to create an angle to pitch the results as interesting findings to the media because of my familiarity with being held accountable for my analysis of information in the classroom at Knox. The culture of critical thinking is something that can't be quantified with a test score, but is something extremely valuable that makes a Knox student a great asset in a work environment.
As for a beneficial out-of-classroom experience, the leadership experience I have gained as being a member of a sorority at Knox has been helpful. If I can manage planning and executing recruitment for all of Knox's sorority women and all of the women interested in joining a sorority, which I did last winter, I can more confidently help plan an event for more than 100 mom bloggers. I have practiced understanding and managing a positive public relations image at an event after helping plan and participate in Tri Delta's philanthropic fundraising events for St. Jude. Being in a sorority has definitely helped me improve my interpersonal and conflict resolution skills, which are definitely relevant to an office environment, as well. And, while I certainly don't want to insinuate that the sorority experience is all about event planning and decorating, when I was asked to come up with ideas for centerpieces for the New York event, I already had a few ideas from decorating for Tri Delta events.
How do you think this internship will benefit you in the future?
This internship gave me great insight into the public relations field. I can't say yet if I want to pursue a career in public relations, but it is good to know it is always an option. I always think it is important to leap at any relevant opportunity that comes my way, and it is always helpful to get professional experience to pair with my Knox education.
What did you learn throughout this experience?
This is the second internship I've had where I was able to prove to myself how beneficial having an English degree can be. (I had an internship as a web content copywriter at Moosejaw Mountaineering last summer.) I think students pursuing a liberal arts education often worry about job placement or the practicality of studying something they love that doesn't automatically translate into a job field. With the right effort of searching for jobs and previous professional experience, that's a myth. English majors, just like any major in the humanities in a liberal arts setting, are very versatile.
I also learned more about the public relations field and the challenges of working for a children's publication, as well as what responsibilities would be expected of me in a professional public relations setting.