It’s been five days since my fellowship ended, and I can already say that my experience has had an impact on my future.
Before this fellowship I doubted my ability to make a difference as a communicator. After working with the communications department at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights for eight weeks, I’m proud to say that that doubt is gone. It has been replaced with confidence and a firm belief in the power of messaging.
As a public relations major, I have known for a while that messaging is important. Yet, I didn’t really know how to craft an award-winning message. Thanks to my amazing supervisors at The Leadership Conference, Scott Simpson and Tyler Lewis, I do now.
Not only did I learn the art of messaging, I witnessed it in action. During my last two weeks at The Leadership Conference, I helped coordinate the press roll out for a product that we were re-launching. The product is a scorecard that evaluates the civil rights safeguards of body camera programs in 50 cities against 8 criteria.
As you can see from the overwhelming amount of red X’s shown above, no department met all eight criteria and only a few met more than two. These findings reveal that body camera programs across the nation currently fail to protect the civil rights of recorded individuals.
The good news, however, is that the scorecard got a lot of media attention. Just to give you an idea, we got more than 100 news clips in less than a week. I even got to do my first TV interview with Telemundo! Best of all, police departments, like Aurora and Pittsburgh, started changing their policies as a result of the scorecard.
While there is still a lot to be done, it was fascinating to see our communication efforts translate into tangible change. Being a part of this project and this fellowship has taught me to take pride in what I do.
I hate to admit this, but before this fellowship I was sort of ashamed of studying public relations because I didn’t think communications was THAT important. I wasn’t saving lives like doctors or making huge technological advancements like engineers. Since the impact of communications isn’t always as direct as it is in other professions, in the beginning it was hard for me to gauge its value. Thanks to this fellowship I was finally able to see how powerful and influential communications can be.
As I get ready to start my senior year at the University of Florida, I’m looking forward to being one step closer to becoming the public relations professional I want to be. Come graduation I will proudly grasp my degree with both hands and hold it over my head for all to see. Then, with confidence and conviction, I will step out into the “real world” and … we’ll see what comes next.