A young woman wearing a watch types on a laptop with a legal pad covered in notes on her desk

This guest post was written by Veronica Plohoros, the DeFazio Communications intern of summer 2019, detailing her experiences and lessons learned in the field of PR.

Like many of my peers at the Newhouse School of Public Communications, I took my first steps into the real world this summer; I pursued a summer internship. I was able to learn and grow as a public relations practitioner by working hand in hand with a consummate PR professional. I have no doubt this experience will give me a leg up in the classroom as well as in my future career pursuits. 

My boss, mentor, and friend is Tony DeFazio, a public relations professional and innovative self-starter, who took me under his wing by hiring me as a public relations associate at DeFazio Communications. I learned quickly not to refer to myself as just “the intern” because Tony assured me that I was more than that.  

Tony has a keen ability to overcome challenges, which allows him to create opportunities to get the best results for his clients, no matter the industry, with unmatched vitality and passion.  

I only had a few communications classes under my belt following my sophomore year.  Initially I lacked confidence in my abilities to succeed as an intern at a public relations firm with such well-recognized clients. I was anxious to start my first adult-like job, and I worried I would not live up to Tony’s expectations, but working with Tony quickly cast such doubts aside. 

Tony’s teaching style is friendly and patient in a way that motivates strong work ethic and a desire to exceed expectations. With guidance, I took baby steps, then strides and eventually leaps into the real world as a public relations practitioner. He is a perfectionist, but never unreasonable, allowing me the freedom to learn, succeed, and at times, make errors that he turned into lessons. 

Throughout the summer, I jotted down notes and lessons that would propel my career forward. 

Here are 5 things I learned in my summer PR internship:

  1. The importance of developing working relationships
  2. How to exercise and practice empathy with your audience  
  3. Why it’s important to treat each email exchange with media and stakeholders with care 
  4. How to research the reporter’s coverage to be sure the pitch was appropriate 
  5. How to ask “A question about their coverage” to generate engagement  

These lessons paid off immediately. Reporters began to thank me for taking the time to ask them questions and for having done my research. l learned the importance of these details and the value of creating and maintaining working relationships that benefit both parties. With success also came failure; I learned how to deal with rejection and how to turn it into an opportunity. I now understand the value of earned media and I have firsthand experience with client relations, just to name a few.

I will carry these experiences and lessons back with me to school in the fall and on through my career. The Newhouse School arms its students with the tools to succeed in the communications world, but I’ve now witnessed firsthand the lessons that can only be taught outside of the classroom. 

I am extremely grateful I pursued this internship with DeFazio Communications as I was tempted back in April to accept a paid internship at a large pharmaceutical company. It is clear to me now that the experience I had this summer will allow me to succeed not only as a student, but as a professional in the “real world”.  

Nowadays, there is an incredible amount of pressure placed on my generation to succeed. It is my belief that interns are overlooked and under-appreciated. These are young adults, many in thousands of dollars in debt, that are being stuck in a corner with busy work when often, they can bring new ideas to the table. Tony saw value in a student eager to get a taste of the industry, and under his teachings, I am even more eager to continue to learn and pursue a career in public relations. 

Thank you, Tony, for taking me under your wing. I’m so grateful to have had my first internship with an experienced teacher, caring mentor, and friend.