By Greg Stengel
After finding out I was headed to the New York American Water Press Conference featuring Senator Chuck Schumer on my first day, the feelings of both excitement and diving into the unknown had doubled. I found myself, an intern on his first day, in a room full of media, elected officials and Long Island water industry representatives. As the press conference began, I found myself learning more than one priceless lesson in public relations.
From the moment I pulled into the parking lot the learning experience had begun. I was starting to learn that for a press conference, and for any in-person or on-camera statement, the message is almost equally as important as how you present the message. First off, the press conference was being held at Massapequa Water District Well 9, which was an iconic location for a press conference on Long Island’s water industry. In addition, it served as a great backdrop for the conference; when talking about water on Long Island, it adds legitimacy when you are speaking at a well that provides water for the area.
As the conference continued, several more lessons would reveal themselves. As Senator Schumer spoke, he and the two water industry representatives wanted to make a point how safe the water on Long Island is to drink: They each drank a glass of water and showed that they truly believed in what they were saying, that the water really is safe for everyone to drink. It added both a visual and emotional effect to the press conference, which I think really helped them convey their message.
The final lesson I learned from attending this press conference was that the use of visuals is key to making sure your audience comprehends the message you are trying to get across. The entire time the senator and water representatives were speaking they had a large map in the background. The speakers would periodically reference this map and show it to the cameras, physically displaying locations and reinforcing their point to the audience in a more clear way through the use of a visual reference.
From not knowing if I was even going to be able to make it into my first day at Zimmerman/Edelson, Inc. because of the snow storm, to attending a press conference with Senator Schumer just a few hours later, it’s possible that my first day experience will go down as one of the most exciting and interesting first days in the history of the Zimmtern program.
Looking back it will all be worth it knowing that in such a short time I took away several valuable lessons in public relations that I will without a doubt carry with me for the rest of my career.