Shadow Day offers students a glimpse into PR career
Journalism | March 14, 2010
In the ever-changing world of public relations, it can be tough for students to figure out where they belong. But in Denver each year, Shadow Day gives students from nine different universities the opportunity to discover how and where they might fit into the field of public relations.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Colorado chapter organizes Shadow Day every spring, pairing students with public relations professionals from varied disciplines so students can gain insight into the tasks that these professionals perform each day. This year, 45 students and 36 host companies participated in the PRSA Colorado Shadow Day program.
Public relations professionals from agency, corporate, government and nonprofit settings from the Denver metro-area offered their time and expertise to interested students.
The students represented a wide range of schools, including Colorado State University, University of Colorado, Metropolitan State University, University of Denver, and University of Northern Colorado. Also represented were four out-of-state schools, including Black Hills State in South Dakota, University of Texas, Kansas State University and University of Wyoming.
Shadow Day coincided with the March PRSA Colorado luncheon at The Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver. The luncheon program featured guest speakers and offered students an added opportunity to engage with other PR professionals and peers from different universities.
Paul Raab, senior vice president and partner at Linhart PR, moderated the luncheon discussion with Mitch Head, managing director of the GolinHarris Engage practice and Sarah Bulgatz, director of corporate public relations for the Charles Schwab Corporation. The speakers addressed crisis and reputation management for two important industries, food and finance.
As a CSU JTC major concentrating on public relations, Shadow Day was the exact experience I was seeking. I was fortunate enough to shadow Tiffany Barnhart, director of communications at Denver Zoo. Shadowing Tiffany allowed me to see how I can put my schooling to use in the real world.
In just the first two hours that I spent on the job, Tiffany responded to co-workers questions and requests, organized the events calendar for the Denver Zoo website, edited several press releases and short stories to be included in the weekly e-bulletin, and gathered information for upcoming zoo events.
Tiffany is responsible for planning and executing media events at the zoo, as well as handling all media relations. In any given week, Tiffany must handle any and all of the crises that are sure to arise when dealing with animals on a daily basis. She also manages the positive publicity that the Denver Zoo receives for its conservation efforts and new animal arrivals.
I learned from Tiffany that being director of communications makes for a very busy work day. The work week usually extends beyond 40 hours, but as Tiffany told me, it’s worth it.
During Shadow Day, I also met several of Tiffany’s co-workers in the marketing and communications department and learned a little bit about what each of their positions entails. I learned that everyone works together to gather and distribute information. For example, one member of the team shoots and edits videos, another person writes the story to accompany the video, and the webmaster puts everything online and makes it look good.
I am grateful for my Shadow Day experience. Not only did I learn more about how public relations skills apply to real-life situations, I met talented professionals and swapped stories with other students at the luncheon. My Shadow Day experience was definitely worthwhile.