The PRSSA and Finn Partners Program Experience — Part 1

Last year, I wrote an article about how unpaid internships perpetuate the racial wealth gap inequity and therefore prevent the PR industry from becoming more diverse. To address this issue, PRSSA teamed up with Finn Partners to launch a two-day mentorship program for diverse members, called “Partners for Diversity: The Internship Preview.”

The program aimed to expose students to various types of opportunities in PR, provide students with guidance on how to launch their careers, and build a pipeline of a diverse group of students who can apply for upcoming internships and entry-level positions at Finn Partners.

Members selected to join the program were paired with an agency mentor, participated in a client meeting and fun brainstorming session, and took part in an exciting panel discussion with young professionals of color from the firm and its clients about their experiences in the industry.

Knowing what an incredible opportunity this was, I encouraged diverse PRSSA members, especially those from HBCUs and HACUs, to apply for the program. The day the applications were due, I reviewed and edited a student’s application, which resulted in a wonderful friendship. This actually inspired me to create a Slack group dedicated to the selected members so they could also develop friendships and share resources with each other.

I am thrilled to say we were able to place 36 students into the program. Here’s what three of these students had to say about their experience.

Asia Ingram — Virginia Tech

This program truly prepared me for my future in public relations, and expanded my knowledge on the many opportunities agencies have to offer.

During the campaign brainstorm, one of my favorite parts of the program, I enjoyed how our initial ideas turned into strategies, which then formed into an outstanding campaign plan! I also loved meeting with my mentor, hearing about her experience working in agencies, and getting a glimpse of how everyday work life is for employees at Finn Partners. I’m excited to have a connection with someone in the industry and be able to reach out to her if I need any advice.

I appreciate how this program took the time to prioritize underrepresented students and explain not only what diversity means to Finn as an organization, but also what it means to the rest of the PR world. I hope more programs like this continue to prosper so students like myself will feel more welcomed in the workplace and PR industry.

José Acosta — University of North Alabama

My favorite part about the program was meeting with my mentor, Aaron Bensoua. Mr. Bensoua made me feel more comfortable about the PR industry. He answered all of my questions and let me listen in during a client call, where I experienced the launching of a technology company’s new product from one of his previous campaigns.

The campaign brainstorming team session was a great experience! Even though I’d never met my team members before, it felt like we had known each other for years. This program not only allowed me to get to know other people of color from all over the U.S., but it also allowed me to see the importance of having more diverse employees in the PR field. Thank you for selecting me to become a part of this!

Juana Blackwell — Alabama State University

My experience with Finn Partners was eye-opening because I’ve never worked with an agency before. My mentor, Kate Peach, was welcoming and answered all of my questions regarding internships, agency life, and why she chose Finn.

Throughout the program, I constantly jotted down notes and ended each day reflecting on what I learned and how to apply it to my own life. My favorite part of the program was the brainstorming session. It was nice to put a face to the names of my fellow mentees whom I communicated with on Slack. Not to mention, each team presented great ideas that made me proud to be a part of this competitive program.

Haniya Shariff, PRSSA 2020-2021 vice president of diversity and inclusion

Haniya N. Shariff is the PRSSA 2020–2021 vice president of diversity and inclusion. A recent graduate of the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University, she aims to build strong interpersonal networks and create DEI initiatives in her corporate communications role at Radian. Follow her on Twitter @HaniyaShariff and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Asia Ingram is a junior at Virginia Tech double majoring in professional and technical writing and public relations. She enjoys participating in theatre productions and after graduation hopes to work at a PR agency where she can discover her favorite niche. 

José Acosta is a senior at the University of North Alabama (UNA) in Florence, Alabama, majoring in mass communications with a concentration in public relations. He currently serves as an officer for UNA’s public relations organization, LionPR. During his free time, he enjoys traveling, hiking on nature trails, listening to music and hanging out with his friends.

Juana Blackwell is currently a junior communications-public relations major with a psychology minor at Alabama State University. She is also a member of The National Society of Leadership and Success organization, Collegiate 100, Psychology Club, and the ASU American Red Cross Club. After graduating in May 2022, she aims to launch her career as a social media strategist.

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