Reblog of a guest post I wrote for the Minnesota PRSA Perspective Blog.
While I was sitting in PR classes and going on agency tours with the campus PRSSA group, I dreamt of working in an agency. Everything about it seemed fast-paced, diverse and exciting. Now, I am nearly three years post-graduation, and my career has taken a much different route than the one I imagined.
Generally, when you think of government, what comes to mind? Terms like “slow,” “old-fashioned,” “out of touch,” and “non-transparent” are usually thrown around. It’s not exactly where most people want to start – and continue – their careers.
I came into my communications internship at the City of Edina in 2010 with those same perceptions. I quickly came to find, at least on the communications side, that the work reflected that of a PR agency than that of a stereotypical government department. I really enjoyed my time as an intern and was lucky to be hired full-time when a position became available a few months after my internship ended.
The City’s Communications Division, and the City itself, is quite unique. The City not only operates as a normal government, but also runs ‘enterprise facilities,’ which are entities meant to run like businesses, such as Edina Liquor, Centennial Lakes Park, Edinborough Park, Braemar Golf Course and other golf operations, Braemar Arena, Edina Senior Center, Edina Art Center and the Edina Aquatic Center.
This is what makes it fun. Not only do we work with the City and individual departments, but we also work closely with the enterprise facilities. The Communications division, in which I work, serves as in in-house firm and oversees the City’s communications, marketing, media and public relations, advertising and video production for the City, its public safety and enterprise facilities.
While in a different setting, we still do all the same things mainstream PR professionals do: write stories, pitch to the media, plan events, update social media and website, etc. However, we have a few wrenches thrown into the mix.
One of the biggest roadblocks we run into is tight budgets. Our internal clients don’t have the budgets of the companies that use a traditional PR agency. We must be creative and strategic in our planning and execution to get the best bang for our buck. It’s not easy to do $1,000 worth of work on $100.
Secondly, residents expect news that affects them in real-time. This is a challenge across the board. Though, this seems to have emerged as a new trend in government communications. We are always looking into new technologies and tactics to get the message out as quickly and accurately as possible to as many residents and we can, again, on a budget. Add the need for transparency into the mix, and we have an interesting concoction.
I love what I do and am very proud of our work, from our article writing and website to our graphic design and video production. We have been nominated for more than a dozen regional Emmys and won once. We have also won many awards from the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators (MAGC), the National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC), and from the City-County Communications & Marketing Association (3CMA). These awards, coupled with recent resident quality of life surveys, tell us we are succeeding at our goals of producing high-quality work and keeping residents informed.
For new professionals, recent grads and current students, I encourage you to consider government communications as a career. You’d be surprise how an internship can change your perceptions, and even your career path. I hope that you would find the experience as fulfilling as I have.
The City of Edina offers a communications internship and a video production internship three times a year – winter/spring, summer and fall/winter. Keep an eye on www.EdinaMN.gov/jobs for openings.