Megan Pettit
Eastern Kentucky University
Guthrie/Mayes Public Relations

When I got the call telling me I had been chosen for the Guthrie/Mayes Public Relations internship my surprise was evidenced by my courteous reaction: “Are you serious?” I asked Ashley Schaffner, an Associate Account Manager. Ashley’s infectious laugh put me at ease as she reassured me. Nevertheless, I was bordering on terrified when I arrived for my first day at Guthrie/Mayes. I spent nearly an hour that first morning talking to Dan Hartlage, a Principal at Guthrie/Mayes and by the time my day started I felt much more relaxed.

My biggest concern when I began my internship was how little I knew; in my mind, I knew nothing and could do nothing. I felt like I had played a great trick on everyone and now was going to be exposed. However, entering the final few weeks of my internship has made me introspective; I see how graciously the staff (especially Ashley) eased me into things. My first projects were small, harmless: researching contact information, checking websites for articles, learning to use the mail meter. Within a couple of weeks I was given more responsibilities and more advanced projects. I’m sure I knew more than I thought in the beginning but my progression at Guthrie/Mayes gave me confidence in my skills.

A few times I felt like I was in over my head. Ashley was very sick during my first week at Guthrie/Mayes. She was also working on a big event at Louisville International Airport. One morning she called from home and asked me to locate contact information of vendors for the event who she would need to call later in the day; no sweat. Then she needed me to email the vendors to get pricing estimates; I could handle that. Finally she threw in the towel; she was too sick to come in. I felt lost at sea. I depended on Ashley; I could ask her questions and advice, she had been an intern at Guthrie/Mayes and knew what I was going through and didn’t seem to mind interruptions. She asked me to send emails to vendors, and then to clients (something she later assured me interns never were allowed to do), make phone calls, send faxes, get contracts approved, change orders…it was an exhausting day.

I managed not to mess anything up and Ashley invited me to the actual event at the airport where I met Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. Afterward, Ashley sent an email to the staff at Guthrie/Mayes about what an asset I had been at the airport event. I confessed to her later that I saved that email in a separate file and sometimes reread it when I’ve had a particularly hard day— she confessed to having a similar file.

My internship at Guthrie/Mayes has given me the chance to attend a variety of events. Not all have been of the same magnitude as the airport event, but each has offered me another peek at what exactly public relations practitioners do. I attended the Louisville Forum luncheon in June where I observed Ashley mingling with business leaders and laymen. I attended a planning session with a client who intended to have a press event for a new program. On the 9th of July I took part in a teleseminar on social media and journalism. I’ve been allowed to sit in on several client meetings and have even ventured an opinion or comment a few times.

Other than events, I also have been able to participate in campaigns, projects and meetings. One project in particular stands out in my mind. The account manager for this project allowed me to attend the brain-storming session which jump-started the project. I participated from start to finish— vetting ideas, proposing the idea to the client, drafting and rewriting the story, receiving client approval for the article and soon I’ll get to see it in print. Watching the entire process gave me a more cohesive idea about how the process works.

On a day-to-day basis what I do as an intern isn’t exciting. I email press releases, do mountains of research, make follow-up calls, proof-read and draft copy, monitor media websites, “clip” articles to show clients later and constantly update the all-mighty media list. But I’ve learned the value of those activities. I love interning at Guthrie/Mayes; I feel that I’ve learned a lot, gained valuable insight into public relations careers, and been able to attend really fascinating events. Most of the staff has taken the opportunity to mentor me a little; share some advice and give me a few pointers. There has been a great deal of debate (in EKU’s PR department) about which is better; working at a public relations firm or in a public relations department. I’d count myself as very lucky to end up working for a firm like Guthrie/Mayes and I feel like I’ve been given the tools to enter the job market confidently.