When junior Erika Nichols chose advertising as her major, she added a minor in public relations as a backup plan without ever taking a class on the subject. After exploring her new minor through the Writing for Public Relations class in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and her marketing and public relations internship with the Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Clinton Township, Nichols quickly learned that the public relations industry was for her.
"As a I got further into my internship, I really started liking PR and I’ve learned a lot so far from my mentors and by talking to people," Nichols said.
Nichols was put in touch with the marketing director for the hospital last spring and said she got the courage to call the director and talk about the industry. After a quick interview, Nichols was offered the internship.
As the only intern for the Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, Nichols was responsible for writing press releases and developing social media posts, even creating a few campaigns. She also wrote an article that was featured in their quarterly magazine.
One of her campaigns was called “Wellness Wednesday,” where the hospital partnered with the local mall. Nichols would go to free exercise events and hand out giveaways and pamphlets promoting health. She would then take photos for the hospital’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook channels. The campaign reached a wide variety of people and boosted engagement on the page. Nichols said it was great to see these results.
With tasks like writing article for the quarterly newsletter, Nichols said that in order to tell the best story possible, she often turned to research.
"By doing research and collecting data, I found that I was able to complete the interview and article successfully," Nichols said. "Learning how to complete this process was a great experience."
She also learned important tools such as Google Analytics, Microsoft Excel and the importance of getting to know her co-workers and her office system.
"My supervisor asked me when I first started what I was interested in and at that point I was interested in learning everything," Nichols said. "I really focused on social media and writing. I now understand how corporate social media works and little things, like which hashtag will be more effective. I didn’t realize how important writing was to the industry until my internship. I did everything from writing emails for people to press releases to refine my writing skills."
Nichols stressed that an internship is what you make of it and that it’s important to figure out if you want to work for a nonprofit or for-profit entity. She said she would like to explore more nonprofit experiences in her future because it’s important to her to feel like she is helping someone and making a difference. However, she also wants to find an internship elsewhere that’s a for-profit company, just to view all options.
"I got to do great things during my internship and, most importantly, see results," Nichols said. "I got one-on-one experiences with other professionals, sat down with PR people and I got to personalize my experience. I could see my work directly affecting people and inspiring them to want to change their health. It’s not about a number, it’s about a person and it’s nice to know your work is going to be viewed and affect other people."
Nichols’ advice to other students is to talk to people you know about their experiences.
"That is the best way to learn something,” Nichols said. “Never discredit a connection. Dive deeper into their field or any field you may be interested in. Have a set of questions to interview them. That is what sticks in my mind. Interviewing people in your field will open so many doors for you."