Have you ever wanted to know the facts about what life is really like fresh out of University? We sat down with Tessa Preddy, who is currently an intern with marketing and communications agency Wellington Urban Consulting, to get this information from a recent communications graduate (Tessa graduated in December last year!)
What have you been up to lately?
Working from home! We’re super busy at the moment. I work for a company called Wellington Urban Consulting and we’re an agency of just 3 plus our designer. One of our main clients is a hotel management group, and they own about 2 hotels and 3 different backpackers in Wellington so I’ve learnt a lot about the tourism/ accommodation sector. Some of our other clients consist of restaurants, a housing developer and we recently worked with the Wellington lantern festival. Although obviously over the last few weeks my time has been taken up with a lot of Coronavirus related comms. So my day consists of a lot of different things such as meetings with clients, social media content, writing press releases, media scans, creating advertisements, I do a lot of random stuff and it’s different all the time!
So, how did you get the internship?
Well, it’s about who you know, not what you know! Jk you still have to know some stuff but I heard about the internship through Margalit who put me in touch with my now boss and after some emails and a phone interview I made the move down to Welly. So I definitely recommend networking! One of the big things when I look back at uni is that I think it is important to become like BFF’s with your lecturers! I remember in first-year I was kind of like ‘I don’t want to talk with my lecturer, weird’ but now I am like ‘oh my god, I should’ve gone up to them after every lecture and asked questions’! I feel like you just kind of forget at uni that your lecturers are people who are at the top of their field, people who have worked in your industry for years, and they know people and know how to do things! They’re experts in one particular field and that field is where you want to be. Make friends with your lecturers!
What challenges have you found with being an intern?
The main thing that I have found with the transition from uni to an actual job is that at uni you get to decide your own hours, for example, you have 2 weeks to do an assignment and you can do it in the last two days! But with work, your boss will be like ‘write up this whatever, and get it done in the next two hours’ and you’re just constantly working on a tighter timeline! I was talking to my boss the other day saying that the amount of work I do in a day at work could almost equate to the amount of work I used to do in a week at uni. I was exhausted for the first few months that I was working - I would just go home and sleep. It’s like being in lectures or a tutorial; listening and then going away and actually doing something afterwards, and then going back again and getting someone to look over it! It’s constant, which can be exhausting.
So what’s the key to being an intern?
My main feedback is to be adaptable, push yourself, but not to say yes to things you aren’t capable of! If you don’t know what you’re doing; ask! Go with the flow and learn what you can.
How do you find the lobbying space?
I don’t do a lot of lobbying myself but I’ve watched my team. It’s interesting because my boss is often found talking to the council and media; such as when reporters write articles about something to do with our client, we have to pick out the misinformation in the article and then we will send off letters to the media trying to get things changed or taken out! It’s a whole different side of PR to the social media and press releases; not the generic stuff that people think PR is!
How do you feel when people stereotype PR into just social media and press releases?
It’s very much like ‘Oh you do PR, so social media?’ and well yes, I do create content for socials but that’s a small part of my work (which to be honest is still super important)! Like one of the things I was doing before coronavirus was our hotels were coming up to a qualmark - the star assessment of a hotel (which I found out that you can only be a 5-star hotel with a pool!). So for this, one of our jobs was to help elevate the hotel and to see how we could improve it to increase its qualmark. One of my jobs towards this was to create a new exhibition for the art gallery within the hotel; so I got to look at different artists, start to organise the opening event, coordinate the website and all that jazz! Until COVID took over and all that was put on hold. Another thing we do is relationship management especially with the hotels, since there are so many moving parts that make up a hotel such as hotel management, restaurants, sales, corporate contracting. We have to make sure that these different parts are navigating issues they encounter with each other and ensure that problems can be solved; for example we will often chair meetings and take minutes to ensure problems are sorted and things that need to be done are actioned.
That’s quite full on!
Yeah! There’s always a lot going on but it’s always super interesting.
What are you guys doing at the moment with COVID - 19?
COVID is so intense, oh my god! In the weeks leading up to the pandemic I was doing a lot of research each day into how COVID- 19 was affecting other countries and how their tourism sectors were coping. I think this definitely helped us to understand what was coming. The week before we went into lockdown, we did some crazy hours due to being involved with hospitality and hotel clients; it went crazy with all the cancelled flights and no guests coming to stay. This is where I experienced the side of PR that is crisis comms! And man shits crazy, we did lots of strategy and putting plans together for the hotels. I felt so rushed around and worked about 60 hours that week. It was mental! We had to come up with a whole lot of new hotel policies, signage and processes. We had to decide how we were going to keep our guests safe and our staff safe, what things need to come into action to maintain not only safety but also reputation. We created a limited contact registration for our hotels, came up with a bunch of ways that we could make sure that our hotels stay clean. Also figuring out how to comfort our staff and keeping them happy during this stressful time was hard too! There was a lot of contingency planning and coming up with different scenarios so we would be prepared in any event as well. One of the other hotels in Wellington had a case of COVID -19 in their hotel which resulted in a major drop in occupancy so we wanted to make sure that this didn’t happen to any of our hotels. Like I said before, maintaining reputation is also super important especially for post COVID-19. We came up with ways to minimize the chance of having a case in one of our hotels and also tried to seize opportunities to have our hotels feature in positive news stories. You may have seen our ‘pay what you can’ policy for people who had to cancel overseas trips in the news!
Do you enjoy what you’re doing?
Yes for sure! I’m glad that I did it. At the start I was kind of like ‘This is hard’ and ‘I don’t know what I’m doing!’. You know imposter syndrome? I was like I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m not meant to be here! But it’s turning out alright so far!
Keep an eye out for part two of this interview - where Tessa looks back on her time at University and gives some advice to all prospective and current students!