As an intern at any PR agency you are expected to participate and engage, but in addition you have a highly valuable opportunity to observe. I have been fortunate enough to spend some time at offices both in the public sector and in private industry. Being at these contrasting places and observing how the PR role is handled has given me a great deal of insight into the profession and how it achieves results.

During my senior year of college, I found a link in an email from a friend that took me to the email address for Deanne Amaden, the Director for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs in San Francisco. I admit that at that time I had very few ideas about what a Public Affairs office did. After some quick research I determined that this Public Affairs business was related to Public Relations, so being a media studies major, I decided to apply.

Fast forward 2 years and two more internships. As I compare the Office of Public Affairs to my time spent at GlobalFluency in Palo Alto and MSR Communications in San Francisco, I am left with the impression that government and private business face similar communication challenges, but are driven by quite different stories.

Working to advocate the actions of a government agency, I saw that it was necessary to bring attention to problems in society and economics. One of the press releases that I wrote was a case study that identified workers being victimized by a delinquent management that was withholding compensation. The call to action spoke directly to the public, urging them to contact the Department regarding their own labor issues.

Now, in the private sector, I find myself calling journalists and attempting to tell stories about companies and their histories, methods, and products. But even though the subject matter of my work has changed, I find that the objectives are similar. As the Public Sector needs to raise awareness of evils in order that it may solve problems based on the real lives of individuals, the Private Sector needs an advocate that can raise awareness of innovation and excellence because these things are not always where we expect to find them.

While I can claim to have experience (observational and otherwise) in the Public Affairs and Public Relations industries, I like to think of this as one combined exercise in the practice of mass media advocacy. And I have seen that success in both of these facets is a product of the same ability to articulate the good in the product being offered. When you find yourself on the telephone with a magazine or news editor who questions the usefulness of your client (and this will happen a lot) remember that confidence is the best salve.  The willingness to disturb silence with passion and sincere advocacy is what will grab attention and keep in motion the larger social trends you are trying to affect.