#WhyPR: Four Years Later and I Have An Answer

BY: PAXTON MITTLEMAN

Have you ever look back on your life and think about how it panned out in ways you never expected? Do you ever reflect on moments that seemed so insignificant, but in reality were the crossroads of your career? I had one of these moments during my first-ever interview for the internship I applied to with the University of Delaware’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs during winter session of my freshman year.

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“Why do you like social media?”

I fidgeted in my seat as my awkward freshman self struggled to answer this question. Ryan Maguire and Kelley Bregenzer, the 2014 heads of the CPA’s internship program, were sitting opposite me at an oval conference table in one of the office’s rooms on the top floor, waiting for my reply. I applied for a Content Marketing internship with the CPA with absolutely no social media experience, but a hunch that it was a position I would like. I did not expect to get an interview, let alone be asked this question. But there I was, in a semi-ironed shirt and flats that I ran through snow in to get to the interview on time, expected to know why I liked social media.

“Well,” I said reluctantly, “I like how social media has the power to bring a university together. I mean, this university is huge, a simple social media account or hash-tag like #Udel or #UDHC has the power to connect people who wouldn’t otherwise be connected.” Ryan and Kelley nodded, and the interview continued.

Fast forward to when Ryan emailed me to let me know I didn’t get the internship, but that he wanted me to be part of something called the Social Media Ambassador program. Then flash to when the SMA program helped me land my first internship advising a small business owner on her digital marketing strategy. Move through the rest of my college career, and you’ll see my internship with Career Services, my role on the PRSSA-UD e-board, even my social media firm the H Factor Media. You’ll find these experiences are all based in one central mission: my desire to connect people.

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I struggled for a long time about what I could possibly write this blog post about. Four years after my first interview at the CPA, public relations and social media in particular have become so engrained in my life that it’s hard to remember why I even began pursuing PR in the first place. But then, I look back and I find that even as a freshman I knew that public relations professionals have the power to simultaneously connect and disconnect the world.

We are responsible for shaping the conversations surrounding brands and defining how the public views not only organizations, but also each other. We build relationships, we bring people from disparate groups together, we strive for authenticity and transparency in everything we do.

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Public relations is the career for me because I want to help people feel connected in a world that is increasingly disconnected through stereotypes and social isolation. I want to use social media solely for the cause of uniting and resonating with target audiences. I want to help people feel special, important- ultimately, connected.

There, Ryan and Kelley, you got a better answer four years later! I hope I’ve done you proud.

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Paxton Mittleman is a rising senior at the University of Delaware majoring in Mass Communications with minors in Advertising, English, and Entrepreneurial Studies. When she is not serving as PRSSA-UD’s Vice President of External Affairs, you can find her tweeting from her Social Media Ambassador account @BlueHenPaxton, interning at the UD Career Services Center, or volunteering with the sisters of Gamma Sigma Sigma. Feel free to visit her website or connect with her on LinkedIn!

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