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Weber Shandwick Seattle takes an integrated approach to communications. We engage, always. We spark conversations, keep them going and turn ideas into global movements.

My Well-traveled Journey to Global Health PR

February 26, 2013

Weber Shandwick Seattle is proud to bring back its intern blog post series that aims to help young professionals land and make the most of their PR agency internships. In our first series, interns gave the inside scoop on What They Didn’t Tell You about careers in PR. This time around, our rock star interns will take a look at how PR professionals can come from a variety of backgrounds. Below is the third post in the series – Journey into Global Health PR.

How does one enter into the world of global health PR? Post college, I didn’t know how to get involved in this specific sector. Quite frankly, the idea itself seemed daunting. Yet somehow I found my way to an internship here at Weber Shandwick and am supporting an internationally-recognized global health client. The following are some anecdotes from the journey that got me here.

1. Travel, Working Abroad and Cultural Competence:

There is a reason why they say travel is the education you get outside of the classroom. I still find that my travel experiences offer an invaluable outlook, especially on global health issues.

  • Travel: This is not about checking off one of the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Travel prompts one to become open-minded and can help to personalize global issues. I have seen the effects of polio on a young boy in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and the extreme level of poverty in Lhasa, Tibet. If it were not for my travel experiences, I would not have the urgency or the personal motivation when it comes to my work in global health PR.
  • Working Abroad: While abroad in Barcelona, Spain, I interned with an international travel company. While I was compensated with free trips to Rome, Athens and Switzerland (not too shabby!), I learned about client services, travel logistics and social marketing, all of which are applicable to not just global health PR, but the industry overall.

  • Cultural Competence: Another educational part of travel is cultural competence. The social nuances and niceties of various cultures can be learned through first-hand experiences. How else would you know that it is impolite to go to someone’s house in Japan without a gift of food, or that eye contact rules in the states are not universal? If your work takes you abroad, having cultural competence is valuable.

2. Healthcare:

Some of the most illuminating experiences I’ve had were while working within the healthcare system.

  • Healthcare: Through my work as a social advocate at a local family medicine clinic, I assisted Somali and Ethiopian refugees who suffered from global diseases, poverty and culture shock. These experiences again personalized larger global health issues and gave me insight into the global healthcare, which have been invaluable as my team and I advocate for our global health clients.

3. Writing, Research and Outreach:

Do not just settle for a degree during your collegiate years. While in school, I prescribed to the motto of “life happens when you can’t sleep.” These are three skills that are crucial to PR that I honed when sleep escaped me:

  • Writing: I was a reporter and an editor of the school paper. This expanded my writing skills and also taught me how to interview, edit and manage reporters. The ability to write well is useful for everything from media pitches to coverage reports; editing and interviewing skills are an added bonus.
  • Research: As part of the psychology program, I lived and breathed research for four years. Outside of your major, there are always research opportunities—I was a researcher for my college Prison Research Group. Research, especially when it comes to global health and development PR, is valuable not only in practice but also to improve your analytical skills.
  • Outreach: As the public relations chairwoman of my sorority, I wrote newsletters and organized community events to promote our chapter. Being familiar with all of the elements and processes that go into community organization and outreach is helpful for the PR track.

Global health PR can be approached in many interesting, unique ways. Make sure to check out how to get an internship and what to expect in PR, and I urge you to read our other blog posts within our intern blog series.

Author—Mariko Helm is currently an intern with Weber Shandwick Seattle. You can find out more about Mariko at her LinkedIn profile or by following her on Twitter @MarikoJulia

Image courtesy of Horia Varlin