Name: Olivia Salsbery
Company & Title: World Affairs Council – Washington, DC (Global Communications Program Staff/Intern)
Location: DuPont Circle
University/Degree: University of Oklahoma, Dual-Degree: BA public relations; BA international studies; minor political science
Social Media handle: Instagram junkie — @destination_blank is my travel Instagram
What made you decide to go into nonprofit work in DC?
Honestly, I wanted to jump right into graduate school for a Master’s in Environmental Sustainability, but my Dean at OU recommended me for this internship in the meantime as he thought it would marry my two degrees perfectly. I jumped at the chance to check out DC, but it was never somewhere I sought, nor was the political arena. So far, I’m absolutely loving it. Being here opens so many doors and it’s a great place to boost my resume, knowledge and network. I’m even putting off graduate school for a while.
What’s your average day on the job like?
I think this is the non-profit aspect coming out, but it can be so many different things depending on what’s going on. We have a very small staff (including intern help), so everyone has to be able to dive into different projects every now and then. Day-to-day, I take care of our social media accounts and I also work on some bigger projects such as the annual report and website re-development. I also took initiative to start a young professionals campaign over the summer. I’m excited to work on a project I initiated (young professionals of PRSA-NCC watch out!).
What’s most surprised you about the “adult” PR world after you left college?
I think just how much our line of work is appreciated and valued. Honestly, sometimes in college friends outside my major treated it like an “easy major”. Although it may not have been organic chemistry, it was challenging in its own ways. PR is important to every industry, so PR professionals work at almost every level of every organization. With that comes respect of our ability to adapt, but also the chance to put an organization outside of its comfort zone.
What’s it like doing PR in DC right now? How are PR pros navigating the politics?
In the first few weeks I was in DC I attended a breakfast session with PRSA-NCC before I became a member that discussed non-profit communications in the new Administration. I arrived in DC the Monday before Inauguration, so I really only have a DC perspective with the Trump Administration. It’s been a huge learning lesson and working PR in DC right now is throwing everyone from senior to entry level positions for a loop. It‘s a great reminder of how much our profession changes and why it’s important to vibe off your audience and always keep your organization’s mission at the core of what you do, whether that means remaining neutral or entering the political conversation.
How have PRSSA and PRSA membership benefited you?
There’s a difference between “what if’s” and real life situations. The former was used a lot in the classroom at OU, but I get the later with PRSSA and PRSA. I remember once during an OU PRSSA chapter meeting, a senior executive PR professional at a fortune 500 company shared a story of her own daughter who graduated from a top PR school and had a difficult time finding a job, which shows even with a killer resume and great network, things still do not always pan out. That’s what I loved about being a PRSSA (and now PRSA-NCC member), I don’t get the what if’s that you get in a classroom or from a textbook: “build your resume”, “expand your network”, etc. – I get real life stories and experiences from other members that are valuable and realistic.
What’s your advice for young pros who want to get out to D.C.?
Spend twice as much time listening as you do talking. Often the best opportunities come from someone else getting a good vibe from you and wanting to continue building a relationship. Networking is key in D.C., but it goes well beyond a business card. Oh, and feel free to reach out to me.