Meet our intern copywriter and social media copywriter, Marike van der Merwe. Marike always brings loads of fun and positive energy into our office, is the epitome of keeping cool under immense pressure, and has shown us exactly why a sociologist can be an excellent communications and PR employee too.
Question: How did you hear about Wrap it Up and what made you decide to apply for the internship position?
Answer: I answered an e-mail that was circulated to all the postgraduate students in the Sociology and Social Anthropology department at Stellenbosch University regarding an internship with Wrap It Up. After Googling Wrap It Up and reading Lynne’s [the founder of Wrap it Up] bio I was very impressed and felt like this was a company whose aims and goals spoke to me. Around the same time my interest had peaked in public relations and copywriting, so I reckoned gaining experience from someone like Lynne would be fantastic!
Q: Tell us more about your background? Where are you from, how did you end up in Stellenbosch and what do you do besides interning at Wrap it Up?
A: I am an only child originally from a small town in Mpumalanga. After finishing matric I was so nervous about getting into university that I applied to five, but then came the big decision because I was accepted to all five to my surprise. I finally decided on Stellenbosch University because I wanted to experience something new, I would be far away from home but that was my new challenge. Also I must admit the history, mountains, sea and wine did have some part in my decision. At the moment, besides interning, my life mostly consists of writing my thesis, which I plan to hand in at the end of this year. I tutored first- and second-year Sociology students for three years which I enjoyed a lot. Currently I am also a research assistant for my supervisor who holds the SARChI Research Chair in The Sociology of Land, Environment and Sustainable Development.
Q: What are some of the interesting projects you have worked on at Wrap it Up and what have you learnt about communications and PR in the process?
A: Well the world of PR and communications is totally new to me so I am learning every day, which is great! The most interesting projects are those related to Bergzicht Training. I am fascinated and inspired by what they do as an NGO and enjoy working on projects for them. I have learnt so much from Lynne regarding professionalism and how to maintain good relationships with clients. I have also learnt how to look at the bigger picture and not just the piece of copy that I am working on or the interview I am conducting, but how these little pieces fit into the communications and PR strategy that we have devised for the client. Lynne has also been teaching me about different writing styles for different types of copy which I find fascinating.
Q: Before you started working at Wrap it Up, what did you think communications and PR entailed and did you imagine that a Masters student in Sociology and Social Anthropology would ever find herself in the communications and PR industry?
A: Before I started at Wrap it Up I did a few short courses on public relations, social media management and digital marketing which became a good foundation for what I would do at Wrap it Up. These courses were however more theoretical and actually seeing how it works in practice is a totally different thing. Previously I struggled to distinguish the difference between public relations and marketing, but now I know that they are two different departments. Public relations is more about perceptions of your brand and the relationship that you would like to build between yourself and your client. Funnily enough I had thought about doing a diploma in marketing after I completed my honours in sociology and whilst doing research about that I came across courses in public relations and digital marketing which piqued my interest. I found public relations to be more person and brand focused which I liked. As a sociologist my field of study is humanity and its functioning within society and how the two interact and shape one another. Even though working in the field of public relations and communications may seem to have come totally out of left field, the telling of people’s stories and the building of relationships are at the core of what it means to be a sociologist.
Q: What advice would you give to others, especially those without experience, who want to get involved in the communications and PR industry?
A: My advice can be summed up in five words: read, do, observe, accept, and faith. Read up and learn as much as you can on the subject. Out of personal experience it helped me a lot to have some theoretical background. Knowing more made me more confident. Do whatever you can and help where ever you can. It’s usually on those projects where you sometimes do the smallest things that you learn the most. Observe the individual you work for. How do they handle themselves in the field? How do they conduct interviews? How do they treat clients? etc. Accept that you are still learning and take that in your stride. Use the constructive criticism for next time. Lastly have faith in yourself. Usually you are capable of much more than you give yourself credit for.
Q: What has been your most inspiring moments working at Wrap it Up and what has been the toughest?
A: My most inspiring moments and toughest moments usually happen all at once when I am interviewing the students from Bergzicht Training. These men and women are so inspiring and strong and often share stories of hardships that they have endured to get to where they are, which can sometimes be overwhelming. These are the toughest moments for me when I have to keep my composure and be professional, ensuring that the interview is completed and documented. These have been the most challenging but also the most beautiful moments for me.