Works and Days

A Week With Bulleit Group, Reed Winter Externship, Julia Selker

Julia Selker, senior physics major, spent a week working with Bulleit Group, a tech PR firm based in San Francisco as a participant in Reed’s winter externship program.

When I walked into the Bulleit Group’s office in the Marina district of San Francisco, I didn’t even know how to pronounce the name of the company. It’s the same as “bullet,” by the way. I was a small town physicist in a big city tech PR firm and I was ready for some surprises. In just one week I went from wondering whether people who work in public relations are agents of good or evil to ghostwriting two articles (read theme here: CES Roundup: A Date with Power   and Huffington Post: 5 Simple Swaps That Slim Down Everyday Cooking) and gleefully doing market research. I was sold, so to speak. I signed up for this externship thinking that I would get a sense for what the tech world was like from the outside, and maybe one day I would be manufacturing microchips for one of their clients. I had not considered that I would leave Bulleit wondering if I could take a few years off before grad school to do PR.

After an hour and a half on public transportation from Berkeley, I dove right in. The bus was too slow to get me there in time for a real introduction, so I went straight into a conference call where about 8 people worked quickly and meticulously through an agenda about the PR plans for one of Bulleit’s biggest clients. Then I started working on a summary of the press coverage that the company had received. I have done my share of research--read literally hundreds of articles from jstor or sciencedirect--but rarely did I consult the news. I discovered a new kind of reading on Google news,TechCrunch, Re/code, and Twitter.

As I acclimated to the content (physicists are notorious luddites, and the most complicated app I use is snapchat) I grew more and more invested in the hunt. I skimmed articles that at first seemed tenuously related to the software company, but gradually I started to see how a single technology can be entwined with others in so many ways. A company I had never heard of which provided a service I had never considered grew from a hazy idea into an exciting possibility as I sifted through the news coverage.

This research dropped me straight into the meat of PR. What I was reading was crafted to do exactly what I have described: it took something unrelated to me and invested me in its existence. It was a fascinating experience, but the fun didn’t stop there.

Part of Bulleit’s model is an emphasis on storytelling. Two Reedies work there, Kerry Skemp ‘05 and Caitlin Oliver ‘09, and both spend most of their time writing. They contribute to blogs and magazines and even work on social media. The consumer electronics show in Las Vegas coincided perfectly with my externship, and I got to look at the next generation of gadgets. Most of them were absurd, some of them were clever, and I expect that I’ll see them everywhere in a few years. I also did some research into healthy eating for a nutrition app that the Bulleit Group represents. There I found myself most out of my depth, since my proudest cooking achievements are when I survive on polenta and asparagus for an entire week. I took it as a challenge, and I learned a few things that might help me eat more colors and textures in the future.

In addition to doing PR, I learned from the people working there. Unsurprisingly, everyone at Bulleit was impressively articulate and clear in their communications. They introduced me to almost every aspect of their jobs, from press briefings to pitches to awards and speaking. No matter what company or assignment they were working on, each person used a combination of industry knowledge, creative thinking, and collaborative work to do their jobs. I was surprised at how well the skills I’d learned working internships in physics translated. The research, the summaries, piecing together a full story--it’s the same basic principle as a literature review about biofilms or electrospray. But in the case of PR there’s the gratification is more immediate and other people working with you, all invested in the success of the projects. You’re not alone in an ivory tower, but rather in the middle of the fast-paced world of business. Not to hate on Pure Science, but we could learn a thing or two. I know I did.



Tags: winter externship, public relations, technology