Illuminating the Path

The word “prism” evokes a range of metaphors — the refraction of light, the illumination of various perspectives, spectrums of color. In many ways, this word aptly encompasses the vision of the Edelman Pacific Northwest Prism Scholar Program, the summer undergraduate internship launched in Edelman’s Seattle office this year. The program aims to support Edelman’s efforts to diversify our workforce through the recruitment of third-year communications students – with underrepresented backgrounds – to intern as undergraduates, giving them the experience necessary to enter the industry upon graduation.

As the inaugural Prism Scholars, we were challenged to realize the potential of the program, and how it could evolve in upcoming years.

During this internship, we each rotated through two different teams, tackling actual client work and learning from experts along the way. Collectively, we worked on the Corporate and Public Affairs, Planning, Digital and Brand teams. This opportunity, in tandem with the support of our mentors and frequent informational interviews, helped us discern our interests within communications marketing. For example, Phoebe found a passion for the Digital practice and the strategic creativity behind content creation. Grace affirmed her enthusiasm for the Business and Social Purpose practice and its intersection with brand storytelling. We feel incredibly fortunate to have gained these insights so early on, especially as we continue to refine our strengths in the classroom this fall.

We were truly given the agency to shape our experiences during our time at Edelman. This onus to push our potential especially came to life through our final project, which tasked us with developing a marketing plan for the Prism Scholars program this upcoming year. This process prompted us to reflect on the significance of the program, not only for students with diverse backgrounds, but for Edelman and the communications industry. In addition to presenting our insights and recommendations, we showcased a video we produced, featuring candid interviews we conducted with colleagues about their beliefs on diversity in our field.

The experience helped us determine key insights regarding programs with emphases on diversity, which greatly contributed to our invaluable growth through this internship.

1. Empower the whole individual

Dig below the surface to understand the breadth and wealth of perspectives a candidate can provide, and take that a step further to underscore the competitive value that diverse perspectives provide the organization. Applicants should recognize that diversity is a necessary asset that takes various forms, not an isolated company goal.

2. Engage the community

Mentorship and an increase of program visibility internally helps interns feel supported and elevates conversations around diversity. Providing interns with the platform to present their final project not only brings new ideas to the office, but also allows them to establish lasting professional connections. 

3. Evaluate the experience

Like any effective PR campaign, measurement ensures the possibility of improvement. Prompting interns with a final project and frequent opportunities to give feedback helps them and the program grow.

From global research including the 2017 Edelman Earned Brand study and the Edelman Trust Barometer, we know that clients and consumers alike demand authentic voices now more than ever. We believe that initiatives such as the Prism Scholar Program are critical to embracing this movement. We need aspiring communicators who are ready to share their stories and craft the messages that will resonate with this emerging generation of conscious consumers.

Phoebe Kim and Grace Hashiguchi are Edelman Prism Scholars.

Ganapathy Kumar