As a person who is known on campus for spending more time than necessary at school, I have been struggling to adjust to being confined to my apartment. I am one who appreciates certainty and direction, so constantly hearing that the COVID-19 pandemic is a “dynamic situation” causes some anxiety. Despite the fear and concerns, I am ready to take on the challenge of communicating in the age of the coronavirus and gain valuable experience from doing so.
This presents a new opportunity for my home club, the City College of New York PRSSA Chapter. Within hours of the announcement that classes would move online on March 11, virtually every member of the executive board present on campus had met with one another.
One thing was immediately clear: we wanted to make sure that the members knew we would figure out a way to continue building a community within the Chapter. Three hours later, the team had edited and published a statement informing the membership that PRSSA would support them. On that note, I am personally very proud of Chapter President Kristian Orozco Mejia and the board for their quick response time and general leadership.
I also stand to learn more at my internship. I serve as the social media intern for the communications and marketing office at the City University of New York. I was already prepared to learn new skills while giving back to the university system I will be getting my degree from in May. With the sheer amount of information that needs to be communicated to the CUNY community in response to the coronavirus pandemic, I get to play a small but meaningful role in communicating rapidly developing information.
And it’s personal. The information I am helping curate content and write copy for is pertinent to me. I am in the content’s target audience myself and engage with many others, so the stakes are high. But I’m up for the challenge. Even if it means working from my combination bedroom, classroom and office.
Clearly, the classroom experience is also different. As the transition to distance learning became inevitable, I began to wonder about my school’s campaigns class, Advertising and Public Relations Workshop. As project manager and co-leader for my team, I looked forward to our semiweekly strategy sessions planning an integrated campaign for our client. But we are figuring out how to continue the campaign, and the increased focus on social media will add to the experience I am getting from my internship. We are in a unique position, and this will certainly be an experience we all can speak to for years to come.
I do not want to ignore reality. These are not normal times, and I especially feel for those who are experiencing the worst of this pandemic.
But my favorite thing about PRSSA has always been the network. The Society is a group of members, leaders and professionals who work together to support each other’s growth, as well as the growth of the public relations profession. Even now, my Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are full of members congratulating each other, providing words of wisdom and exchanging professional development advice. We are getting through this — together.
While at my internship, I frantically texted my Chapter Faculty Adviser, updating her on the work I was doing. Her response? Embrace this opportunity.
I will, and hopefully you can too (while staying home, of course, because it is essential that we #FlattentheCurve).
This post is part of a series for PRSSA’s #FlattentheCurve campaign in collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder Chapter, featuring posts about social distancing efforts and how members and Chapters are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. To submit a post for this series, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terrell F. Merritt is the PRSSA 2019–2020 vice president of brand engagement and serves as the editor in chief of Progressions. They are a senior studying advertising and public relations at The City College of New York’s Department of Media and Communication Arts. Upon graduating in May 2020, they hope to use technology to modernize the field of public relations. Follow them on Twitter @terrellfmerritt and connect with them on LinkedIn.