Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

Posts Tagged ‘internship’

Monday Morning Intern: Keeping up with change

Posted by thecastlegroup on August 3, 2009

We asked our summer PR intern, Emily Grund, to write a weekly column talking about her internship experience at The Castle Group. Please read Emily’s posts on Mondays to hear about her latest intern adventures. This week, are your interns exposed to change — and do they have the ability to roll with it?

Internships are important for a number of reasons. You get work experience, college credits, networking opportunities and if you’re lucky, compensation. Another important factor some interns may not expect to experience is adjusting to change. After all, interns are temporary and it is easy to assume you will come and go while everything at the company stays the same. So far, however, I have experienced some form of change at every internship I’ve had. This lesson at times has been the most vital as it has taught me a great deal of what to expect in the “real world.”

Change happens suddenly. Whether it is layoffs, resignations or promotions, such changes often happen overnight. Before interning anywhere, I assumed that changes at work were gradual or half expected. I have learned that is not always the case, and changes in responsibilities need to be quick and smooth in order to keep a company going. Though I have experienced abrupt changes more than once, it is still hard to see them coming, but overall seeing these changes has taught me to keep an open mind and know that anything can happen.

There is a silver lining. Change, good or bad, can be a difficult transition. People fear the unknown. It is no different while working. The cliché “when one door closes another one opens” often proves true. Whether it’s a new project or working with new people, I have seen the benefit of change even if it means losing something else. By watching people I have worked with, I have learned the trick is to be confident in knowing the silver lining exists.

Moving on is essential. “The show must go on” and so must business. The biggest difference I’ve seen between personal change and change at work is how people cope with it. For personal change, there is more time to reflect and assess a situation, but at work “coping” sometimes needs to wait until work is done. As an intern, I still feel I’m a beginner at separating the personal and professional, but learning this early on is necessary for success in the future.

In the end, interns come and go but it’s an important lesson to learn that other things happen in between. Though at times it seems interns see only a snapshot of what a company is like, being there during times of change show a great deal more.

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Monday Morning Intern: Responsibility Reaps Rewards

Posted by thecastlegroup on July 27, 2009

We asked our summer PR intern, Emily Grund, to write a weekly column talking about her internship experience at The Castle Group. Please tune in Mondays to hear about Emily’s latest intern adventures. Are you giving your intern enough responsibility?

A common issue discussed about interns today is how much responsibility they should have when it comes to social media. Some people believe interns are a great resource; companies like Pizza Hut have put their 22-year-old intern in charge of their Twitter handle. Others argue, despite college students’ knowledge of social media, that companies should have a more experienced employee in charge of online company branding. I agree with the latter, but also think this raises an important issue of intern responsibility overall.

Fortunately for me, my internship at The Castle Group has been a great example of balanced responsibilities even when it’s not social media-related. Below are suggestions I’ve found helpful throughout my internship.

Meet halfway. A common tip for interns is to take initiative. This is a valuable lesson in order to get projects you’re interested in and get answers to your burning questions. After all, your superiors aren’t mind readers. However, as someone who has had multiple internships, it’s not always as easy as one would expect. Many times interns do not want to bother anyone who looks busy and fear of rejection keeps many interns in a “don’t speak unless spoken to” mode. At Castle, I have had the luxury of having constant communication with everyone. They have told me that their doors are always open, and have encouraged me to ask questions. Others check on me to see what I am working on and how everything is going. Building that open relationship has been key to making sure everyone’s goals are being met.

Leave room for mistakes. The main issue for those who don’t agree with social media interns is that one bad tweet could ruin the company’s reputation. This doesn’t mean you can’t let the intern write the tweets, rather make sure someone sees them before they are posted. At Castle, I was given the opportunity to write a pitch letter, but by no means was I responsible for sending it out to the press after I was done. Instead, I was able to see the edits they made and how I could improve if I were given another opportunity. This does not excuse interns that continually mess up a task they have been taught to do, and interns are expected to have a certain level of skill when they are hired, but internships are ultimately learning experiences. The staff here has been willing to give me tasks they could probably do better by themselves the first time around, but their patience has allowed me to learn things I would never learn in a classroom.

Have daily tasks. A sense of routine is good to have in any job, internships included. On a project-to-project basis, there is bound to be down time, so having continual responsibilities gives an intern an idea what working there would really be like. At Castle, my first job every morning is to assist the PR team by searching for client coverage. This responsibility keeps me in touch with what projects the teams are working on, while helping them get a task done quickly and efficiently. I am always on the lookout for awards submissions relevant to clients or trends in news topics to see if a client could contribute. Having these tasks, aside from giving me something to do, make me feel apart of the team and benefit the other employees so they can focus on important deadlines.  

I have always been the one to say, “I wouldn’t mind if I made photocopies all day because I believe just being in a company’s environment can teach you a lot,” but if you have an intern why not use them to their best ability? It may mean taking a few extra minutes to explain something or taking more of a chance on a project, but as long as the expectations and responsibilities are clear, interns have a lot of potential in and out of the social media world. The Castle Group has found a balance with me and I feel confident with my responsibilities.

Do your interns feel the same way?

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Monday Morning Intern: Lessons Learned From a Broken Foot

Posted by thecastlegroup on July 20, 2009

We asked our summer PR intern, Emily Grund, to write a weekly column talking about her internship experience at The Castle Group. Please tune in Mondays to hear about Emily’s latest intern adventures. And a big welcome back to Emily who is finally back in the office after surgery on her broken foot. Which leads nicely to the post below. Read on!

After breaking my foot, I was sentenced to two weeks of bed rest and during that time I realized something some may find surprising – I really missed working.

Many joked with me that it must have been nice to not have to go to work and to be waited on hand and foot. Well, it was not as glamorous as it seemed, at least not for me. Let me enlighten you on why I’d rather work at The Castle Group (even on weekends!) than lay in bed all day.  

I am a people person. Unlike at my house, at The Castle Group I am surrounded by people. The office has a fast-paced environment which I enjoy, everyone is always in and out of meetings or making sure everyone’s on the same page with projects. E-mails go back and forth revising pitch letters and press releases, and quick questions are answered by visiting the next desk over. Besides just the presence of people, I enjoy being around these people. Their personalities alone make coming to work enjoyable. Not only is everyone hard working and helpful, everyone also has a great sense of humor. Whether it’s Scott and Jason picking on one another or Linda singing along to “The Safety Dance,” the friendly atmosphere throughout the day keeps everyone motivated and in high spirits.

I like hands-on projects. While stuck in bed with an elevated foot, I tried to keep as busy as I could by reading, and writing. I even tried to teach myself how to play the guitar. However, it just wasn’t the same as working toward something bigger. I thrive on deadlines and seeing the results of my hard work. I like having a variety of things to work on as well as perfecting my time management skills. Since the start of my internship, everyone at Castle has given me multiple hands-on projects, so it was no surprise to me that I found myself painfully bored at home. Even at school or in my social life I keep a busy schedule. Some say the down time should be good for me, but I much prefer being back in the office.

I love the city. “Boston you’re my home,” as The Standellsand Red Sox fans around the world sing. Though the commute is lengthy, it’s a part of the experience. Plus who else can say “For work today, I’m handing out flyers for an event outside Fenway, and then going to the Red Sox vs. Yankee game after?” I love the opportunities in the city presented to me by working at Castle, whether it’s a social media project, an event, places to eat or meeting new people. The office is located in the beautiful Charlestown Navy Yard; due to my injury, I now miss the walk over the Charlestown Bridge I once used to dread. To be honest, I just miss walking in general. No doubt my commute is now trickier, but getting back into Boston has been refreshing.

I missed working because I missed valuable opportunities to learn at my internship. I realize many others would be happy to miss time at their job, and that has made me appreciate my experience here even more.

Now, go take a walk, because you can!

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Monday Morning Intern: Yes, there are journalism majors in 2009

Posted by thecastlegroup on June 29, 2009

We asked our summer PR intern, Emily Grund, to write a weekly column talking about her internship experience at The Castle Group. Please tune in Mondays to hear about Emily’s latest intern adventures. Extra credit to Emily this week as she writes this post from home, suffering from a broken foot!

“What’s your major?”


“Oh, so you want to write for a newspaper?”

“Not necessarily.”

This conversation happens in my life often, along with looks of pity for picking a major the world believes is dying. I usually spend the next part of the conversation trying to convince friends and family why it is a good major for me, but it seems they’re stuck on the word “journalism” and nothing I say can persuade them to think more positively.

First, it is important to remember that journalism is not dying, it’s changing. Secondly, the skills learned in journalism can be applied to many other professions besides working in the news industry. After all, Sandy Lish, co-founder of The Castle Group, was a journalismmajor at UMass Amherst as well.

“I entered the major backwards, I knew I didn’t want to be a journalist but I knew I liked to write,” said Sandy. The skills she learned in school were useful, she said, but that having internships was what helped her decide what she really wanted to do. This is a similar path I have taken, and my education so far has been very applicable to this internship.

Since public relations deals with reporters, it helps to know what reporters are looking for. Researching publications is key to making sure you pitch stories to the right people.

This real-world experience shows the relevancy of my course load. Similar to pitching stories for a client, in Magazine Writing I learned how to write successful query letters from my professor Mel Allen.  

In Newswriting and Reporting, a requirement for journalism majors, I learned how to write and edit in AP style, the style used at The Castle Group, from my professor George Forcier. I also learned reporting skills which has made me more comfortable asking questions, speaking on the phone and doing online research.

As discussed in my last blog post, social media is an increasingly important part of all businesses. In Multimedia Journalism taught by Steve Fox, I learned how to successfully build profiles on these sites. I also learned how to make effective news packages including video, audio, photography and writing. These are all skills reporters must know now in order to succeed in the news industry. These skills are also useful when helping clients promote their products or services.

The list goes on, and it is clear to me that the journalism classes I’ve taken have helped me reach my goals. Although I have never taken a class specific to public relations, I still have an understanding of the skills needed to work here. What I learn here is also something I could not get out of a classroom, and thankfully the journalism department at UMass is very aware of the importance of internships.

Sandy, who said she often felt like “a fish out of water” for being a journalism major who did not want to be a journalist thinks that perhaps the journalism department should change its name. Since the communications department at UMass focuses more on the theory of communication than the industry of communications itself, for people like Sandy and me, this major did not fit what we wanted.

“Maybe it’s a branding issue, maybe it shouldn’t be called journalism anymore,” said Sandy. However, despite its name, she said it is more about what you take from your work experiences than the name of your major that determines your success. Her advice is to take any opportunity available and make the most of your skills, and apply them to your ultimate goals. “Don’t lose sight of what you want. Everything leads to something else.”

When I picked journalism as a major, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I knew I liked to research, write and talk to people. The classes and internships I’ve had so far have helped me further shape my goals and ultimately made me realize the possibilities are vast. With Sandy as an inspiration, I now know that those who question the practicality of journalism are definitely mistaken.

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Monday Morning Intern: All play and no work? Social media for business

Posted by thecastlegroup on June 22, 2009

We asked our summer PR intern, Emily Grund, to write a weekly column talking about her internship experience at The Castle Group. Please tune in Mondays to hear about Emily’s latest intern adventures.


There is a common misconception as social media becomes the new medium to gather and share information for businesses that younger generations must lead older generations to understand the importance of this phenomenon. To be honest it has taken me, a 21-year-old senior at UMass, a lot of convincing as to why Twitter is so great, while Mark O’Toole, SVP of The Castle Group, has hundreds of followers.

Until working at The Castle Group, I also had trouble envisioning how I could actually apply Facebook to work. After all, since its inception, teachers, advisers and the like have warned us against the dangers of mixing these social websites with the professional world. Now, we must use them for our jobs, just in different ways than what we’re used to.

In other words, I am familiar with social media and its functions but still need advice from experienced employers on how to make it work for their company. This is a transition for everyone and we all need to work together through this ever-changing platform.

For a long time people have written about social media – how it’s changing, what the future holds and so on. In fact there is a whole website, Mashable, dedicated to relaying such news. My biggest question while reading these articles or learning these new technologies is how will they apply to my job? When is this “future” going to happen? The most current example is the Iran election; the impact that everyone had written about is finally coming true in both positive and negative ways.

For me, it’s been an ongoing learning process at my internship. Below are a few examples of how I’ve used social media so far.

Mom Blogs – For my first project, Stacy Nartker, account executive at The Castle Group, assigned me to clip and compile all the coverage for Friendly’s Free Ice Cream Day. To my surprise, much of the coverage came from mom bloggers who post coupons and freebie deals. Before this internship, I did not know such a community existed in the social media world. Now I’ve learned they are practically running the show! Many of the moms have Twitter handles as well, in essence making them viral marketers, passing on information useful to them in a resourceful way. The lesson learned here is that bloggers are an efficient way to pitch stories to a specific audience.

Facebook – Also connected to Free Ice Cream Day was the Friendly’s “What Ice Cream Treat Are You?”quiz. This got a lot of attention for the Friendly’s page on Facebook, including yours truly (I’m a Fribble!). With hundreds of quizzes available to take on Facebook, most of them appear to be for fun, but what I learned is if you can tie it to a marketing campaign it can definitely pay off.

Twitter – As I mentioned before, it didn’t settle well with me at first. However, in the work world, this is the head honcho of professional social media and has quickly become a part of my daily life. The Castle Group uses it to help promote clients, and to pitch and find story ideas, while simultaneously helping clients build their Twitter feeds as well. One assignment I had recently was to help research interesting and useful people for a client to follow. By constantly knowing what’s important to The Castle Group’s clients and their audiences, it helps us in PR know how to reach those audiences successfully.

It is still a strange feeling to have work assignments employing social media sites that I once used for purely social reasons. However, through each assignment I learn valuable lessons about how the company and I can use social media to share information in order to reach business goals.


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Monday Morning Intern

Posted by thecastlegroup on June 15, 2009

We asked our summer PR intern, Emily Grund, to write a weekly column talking about her internship experience at The Castle Group. Please tune in Mondays to hear about Emily’s latest intern adventures.


Here it is: the intern blog, a once forbidden concept now encouraged by more employers as the social media world expands. When company blogs first emerged, the idea of posts by interns may have been seen as irrelevant due to a misunderstanding of how much their interns had to offer. The Castle Group has always been an exception in that regard and other companies should take their lead. They utilize their interns to the max and encourage us to utilize them, not just for “grunt work” but for ideas. For instance, this very idea of an intern blog came from a social media meeting I had with the senior vice president, Mark O’Toole. Interns at other businesses would be lucky to even meet the SVP, let alone exchange ideas. Yet, here I am, with a fantastic opportunity to write and in turn help The Castle Group expand on their already fabulous blog. I can’t help but point out this matches perfectly with The Castle Group’s mission of “two-way street” communications.

The internship program has been around since The Castle Group was founded in 1996 by University of Massachusetts Amherst alumni Sandy Lish and Wendy Spivak (Go UMass!). They appreciated students’ need for experience before entering the business world and have made a permanent place for students to come and learn. As their website says, many interns have stayed for multiple semesters and in some cases found employment upon graduation. This is a clear sign of a symbiotic relationship.

The orientation that Kristina McSharry, the events intern, and I went through together set the grounds for a successful relationship to build upon. While each internship that I’ve had has been a great experience in its own way, none of them started off with a day full of meetings with almost everyone in the company. We were introduced to everyone in small groups, learned which accounts they worked on, what kinds of projects we would assist them with and, most importantly, were encouraged to be as involved as possible. From there not only did it make it easier to remember everyone’s names, but also to not feel as intimidated to ask questions or reach out to others.

In blog posts to come, I plan to write about the abundance of things I am learning. In addition, I hope to reach out to other intern bloggers to get an idea of what their readers find important or interesting. Ultimately, I hope to further expand a positive image of The Castle Group through social media so that I can give back to the company that has given me a priceless opportunity.

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