During his internship, Aaron White, a senior majoring in public relations, is taking his passion for theater to the streets of New York City, including world-famous Broadway. Instead of performing on stage, White is using his public relations skills to make a difference in the music and theater industry from behind the scenes.
White, from La Crescent, Minnesota, is spending the summer working as a media intern at O&M Co., a public relations and press agency whose clients range from mainstream Broadway productions to off-Broadway and downtown shows, to world-class nonprofit institutions and legendary New York City night spots.
"For someone who grew up with Broadway.com as his Internet home page, this internship is literally a dream come true for me," White said. "I've seen a new side of theater I never thought about, and it's opened up my perspective on creative, eye-catching press in a variety of sectors."
White has been active in theater and singing for many years and didn't want to abandon his theater interests in order to pursue his interest in a public relations career.
"I started looking into public relations and advertising firms that focused on Broadway and entertainment," White said. "The first website I found was O&M Co., and I was impressed by the diverse and challenging client base the company worked with."
Because of the nature of the business, every day at O&M Co. is unique, White said. His daily responsibilities range from administrative tasks, such as clipping press items and running errands, to sitting in on press and advertising meetings for production clients, and attending photo and video shoots and interviews with performers of various shows.
"In my first few weeks, the office was busy prepping for the Tony Awards, which led to a huge variety of tasks," White said. "In addition to daily office-related work, I had the opportunity to attend awards ceremonies and pre-award photo shoots. My office also hosted the Tony Awards after-party at the Carlyle Hotel, and I was included on some of the planning and preparation for that event."
Internships are an important piece of a college education, said Dr. Maureen Schriner, UW-Eau Claire assistant professor of communication and journalism.
"Aaron took the initiative to find an internship and career path that combines two of his passions: public relations and theater," Schriner said. "He is taking this life experience and making it a part of his college curriculum. From this experience and others that he has had, he is really expanding his ability to see multiple sides of an issue. His diverse interests and experiences give him skills in communicating with many different audiences and people."
Learning the art of networking has been the most rewarding part of working at O&M Co., White said. Attending functions and meetings has provided him with the opportunity to connect with professionals in both the public relations and theater industries.
"I've had the opportunity to meet Tony Award-winning producers, directors, actors and designers," White said. "Sitting in on meetings and observing these amazing artists has been absolutely life-changing, and I'm so thankful for the knowledge I've gained just by listening."
White will graduate in 2015 and is interested in a career in the entertainment industry, but he also has an interest in politics.
"Luckily both public relations and politics involve a theatrical element and require a healthy dose of storytelling, which I love," White said. "The lessons I've learned in the classroom at UW-Eau Claire have prepared me to problem-solve and take my professional education into my own hands. No matter what I do post-graduation, I'll take those skills with me."