Three recent graduates sharpening skills at top public relations firm

Three recent Bellisario College graduates — Jayla Akers, Alexandra Velazquez, and Tayah Price, left to right — were selected from more than 1,000 applicants to participate in the Ketchum Fellows summer internship program. The 10-week program gives Fellows real-world, hands-on experience. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

(Editor's note: This is the ninth in a series of stories about students in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications completing summer internships.)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For those looking to break into the public relations industry, Ketchum is at the top of the list. It’s one of the world’s top-ranked public relations firms, and this summer three recent graduates of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications are sharpening their skills with the company.

Jayla Akers, of Pittsburgh; Tayah Price, of Abington; and Alexandra Velazquez, of Bensalem, were selected from more than 1,000 applicants to participate in the Ketchum Fellows summer internship program. The 10-week program gives Fellows real-world, hands-on experience.

“In my experience, having the Ketchum Fellowship on your resume becomes your calling card in the industry,” said Tara Wyckoff, an assistant teaching professor in the Bellisario College. “Not only could it lead to an offer from Ketchum, it serves as a sign to other prospective employers that you were selected by a top firm and have spent the summer being trained by them. In short, the fellowship sets you up for future success.”

Akers is a Fellow in the digital department in Ketchum’s Washington, D.C., office. Price and Velazquez are working in New York City, with Price working with the brand department and Velazquez working in sports and entertainment. The fellowships started on June 4 and last until Aug. 10.

For the Fellows, the opportunity to network and connect with their peers as well as the full-time employees at Ketchum has been invaluable.

“The connections here are huge,” Velazquez said. “Ketchum is a top-five global agency, so the name kind of speaks for itself, but the people here are more than willing to sit down and have coffee with you or just talk. There’s also some great Penn State and Big Ten alumni here, so there’s always that familiar family feeling when you run across a fellow alum.”

According to Velazquez, of the more than 1,000 applicants, 16 were placed in the New York City office, and of them, two are Penn State graduates (her and Price).

As part of the sports and entertainment team, Velazquez’s daily tasks include working with clients, staffing launch events and activations, compiling media lists, prepping events, doing research and more.

For Price, the experience has been similar. Within the brand department, she spends half of her time working with influencers and the other half working in PR. She researches influencers that might be a good fit with her client, so scrolling through Instagram is a common daily task, as well as monitoring social media for coverage of her client. She also sends products to influencers, updates media lists and makes phone calls.

For her, the best part of the job is knowing that every day is different.

“Ketchum truly cares about their employees and goes above and beyond when it comes to maintaining a great work culture,” said Price. “The most fun thing I’ve done is assisting the brand team with pulling together a last-minute event for an A-list celebrity/influencer. It was intense but exciting and worth it.”

In the nation’s capital, Akers helps support the digital team by providing assets for clients’ social presence. An aspiring entrepreneur, the creative aspect has been the most enjoyable part of the job for Akers.

While she was prepared heading in, time management has been something she has learned. Each day is filled with client meetings and assignments that have to meet deadlines. Each day is different, so communication and meeting deadlines are the keys to success.

“My first year of college, I was introduced to Ketchum and from there I just began to familiarize myself with the company,” Akers said. “Four years later, I’m here and it’s a true blessing. Not to mention, this will only increase my worth in the professional field. To say that I interned and was mentored for one of the top agencies in the world is unbelievable.”

Last Updated June 02, 2021