Thought Leadership

5 Things I Learned from my HAROLD Internship Experience with Direct Impact

July 27, 2023
Josie Lewis

Josie Lewis is a HAROLD intern at Direct Impact for the summer. Read along as she recaps her experience during her time working on client accounts, new business development and thought leadership opportunities.

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The past ten weeks as a HAROLD intern at Direct Impact have been nothing short of incredible. I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to client work, conduct policy research, develop thought leadership pieces (like this one!) and learn the ins and outs of a grassroots communications agency.  

As I reflect on my internship experience, here are five things I’ve learned about the importance of local engagement while working in grassroots communications this summer:  

1. Know Your Audience.

During my internship, I had the opportunity to work on client programs operating in multiple markets across the country. In this capacity, I learned how to transform a powerful national message in a way that resonates across a variety of local audiences with unique stories, priorities, and challenges.  

Working with the grassroots communications experts at DI has taught me the importance of always keeping in mind a client’s target audiences when developing and tailoring messages.  

2. Build and Maintain Strong Client Relationships.

Developing strategic messaging uniquely tailored for a variety of markets requires knowing your client and fully understanding your client’s needs. The best way to develop a deep understanding of your clients’ needs is through cultivating a strong relationship built on trust.

One of the most enlightening parts of my internship involved participating in client calls. I’ve witnessed how DI effectively and consistently communicates with clients to ensure that their goals are being met. DI team members also ask thoughtful questions about a client’s company history in order to develop a better understanding of the client’s biggest challenges and the ultimate vision for their organization. The driving factor for achieving results is a deep knowledge of a client’s needs.  

3. Quality Over Quantity.

Most people have more information at their fingertips than they know what to do with. The average person is bombarded with thousands of messages, advertisements, and news stories daily.  

A key challenge in communications is not only having your voice heard, but ensuring it is heard by the right people. I’ve learned that a robust and localized story effectively cuts through the noise and grabs the attention of targeted stakeholders.  

4. Local News is Critical.

Though local news can be overlooked, I’ve seen firsthand how it is the backbone of our media cycle. Often, national stories begin with local stories that gained momentum or went viral. Learning how to proactively capitalize on this momentum at the local level will help you get ahead of the curve.  

5. Seek Outside Expertise.

The people who know communities the best are living and working there every day. They know the key stakeholders and what they value. Having a local network is crucial to collecting the insights needed to develop and tailor impactful messaging.  

As an intern with Direct Impact, I’ve had the opportunity to build my own network, which has enriched my professional experience immensely. Meeting employees with diverse and varied backgrounds and tenured experience has offered me guidance and perspective on how I want to move forward in my career.  

We can’t all be expected to be experts on everything. This is why it is so valuable to reach out and seek advice where it is needed.

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