From Fostered Dreams to PR Reality: Becoming a Fellow at Mission North

My name is Lala Badaoui, and I'm a rising senior at James Madison University, where I first discovered my passion for public relations – realized even further through my fellowship program at Mission North. Still, my journey to this point has been a unique one: I faced homelessness and adversity at age 19, and I came from a broken home. But, dreaming drove me to become a successful young woman. I’ve held onto my beliefs and consistently invested in myself – and I’ve begun to see a return on my investment.

For three years now, I’ve honed PR skills like multimedia and program strategy at Bluestone Communications, a student-run firm at James Madison, which has helped ground me in the field. But today, I write to you as the proud recipient of Mission North's “Foster the Future” fellowship for female students of color in communication (including those historically excluded from the industry). It’s been a triumphant journey and it has helped turn my dream into reality.

Mission North's mantra is to stay curious, make a positive impact, and be a storyteller; and similarly, I set out to turn my imagination and vision into impact. It was a perfect match.

Not By Chance, By Choice: A New Perspective

The story of this fellowship goes all the way back to initial scrolling through PRSA scholarship opportunities. I stumbled upon this unique opening – “Foster the Future” – with Mission North, and my curiosity won out. I found myself wanting to be a part of this vibrant agency – which appeared so genuine and transparent in its approach.

Looking back, it's clear that the road to this program wasn't by chance, and it became a catalyst for a change in perspective. It wasn't just luck: Mission North recognized my academic achievements and the whole experience has helped me rethink how I see things and let go of old doubts.

I come to you during the final stretch of this program, having learned an immense amount about the space, yet still eager to soak in more. By sharing my experience, I hope that I might guide others on a similar path.

First off, I was welcomed with open arms and embraced for who I am, not just what was written on paper. The beauty of this fellowship is that it offered me a seat at the table, and without having to conform to traditional norms or some predefined mold. I opened myself up to Mission North’s world – and quickly got to work.

<split-lines>"By sharing my experience, I hope that I might guide others on a similar path."<split-lines>

Impact Doesn’t Just Happen. It’s Created.

The agency works with a wide range of companies, and across several industries. I was lucky enough to work with clients in several different “practices”: Life Sciences, Fintech and Trust.

Through research, strategy and other client-facing exercises, I quickly diversified my PR skills and knowledge. In addition to client work, I had the opportunity to spearhead several internal projects, expanding my creative thinking skills. In a matter of six weeks, I felt like I actually made a difference. So, let me share a bit more about my day-to-day:

My Journey with Future of Work and Financial Clients

In a project for one of Mission North’s Future of Work clients, I was tasked with building weekly news scans, particularly calling out competitor headlines. It was a hands-on exercise, and in a matter of days, it gave me a broader understanding of the competitive landscape this company operates in. Not only did this advance my media-monitoring skills, but it also provided insights into the fast-moving tech industry as a whole. In fact, it was fascinating to observe how journalists’ perception of a specific market or even an individual company influences the way the wider public perceives it. It was incredible to work with high-profile clients, including some that actually make the tech tools I’ve relied upon at JMU. That was a full-circle moment.

My affiliation with the stock market, nurtured over three years, also found a new channel of learning and curiosity. Working with one of Mission North’s fintech clients, I compiled PR roundups and metrics reports, getting exposure to more and more of the financial space. I was even able to hone my understanding of the media-monitoring tool MuckRack (thanks for the initial intro, JMU!). 

One might call this a PR mogul's dream, but for me, it became my daily reality. The process of embedding with fintech clients was exciting and quite eye-opening, particularly as I grew to understand how fast the financial news cycle moves. I was even able to get a firsthand look at how impactful Mission North's PR efforts can be.

<split-lines>"It was fascinating to observe how journalists’ perception of a specific market or even an individual company influences the way the wider public perceives it."<split-lines>

Navigating AI Tools as a Fellow 

Earlier, I mentioned internal agency projects. One of them involved conducting my own research and attending a generative AI workshop organized via LinkedIn Learning – as a means to help Mission North better understand and optimize its own use of AI. This work felt incredibly impactful, for my insights could reshape the agency’s perspective on this technology.

Through the process, I gained a deeper understanding of the interdependent relationship between AI and PR, and I’ve learned how to engineer prompts and how to use AI to inform different pieces of content.

<split-lines>"This work felt incredibly impactful, for my insights could reshape the agency’s perspective on [generative AI] technology."<split-lines>

So, Thank You, Mission North.

The weeks have sped by. But I can say that I’m enormously thankful to Mission North for helping to turn my challenges and aspirations into valuable lessons and direct experience. My journey here has solidified my belief that with determination, dreams don’t have to stay that way, they can become meaningful realities. 

I leave the program with a wealth of knowledge, practical experience, and revitalized enthusiasm for PR. I look forward to leveraging these insights to foster new connections and shape my professional journey.

And thank you, Mission North, for not only recognizing my potential but also providing me a platform to represent BIPOC women in PR. Your support and educational wealth has truly made a difference, and I am proud to call myself a fellowship recipient. I feel purposeful. I feel confident. And I feel curious.

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