PR 101: Internships
When it comes to public relations, the old adage, “You’ll never know until you try,” is right. The best way to start in this field is to look for an internship. With so many facets of the field, one can be overwhelmed choosing a sector to join. Some specific disciplines include, but are not limited to:
- Financial public relations
- Consumer/Lifestyle public relations
- Crisis public relations
- Industry public relations
- Government relations
Each of these sections under the PR umbrella has multiple subsections. PR professionals come from many fields of study, but certain majors and minors may be necessary for specific industries, i.e., a minor in finance on your résumé will probably be helpful if you’re heading into an internship at William Mills Agency.
There are countless stories of students changing their majors after an internship turned out differently than expected. Sometimes the change is less drastic, as with Jon Krampel. After an internship at a music PR firm, he realized the office environment wasn’t for him, and he felt much more comfortable at his next internship, working with a booking agent at a music venue.
If you think public relations internships are carbon copies of each other, you’re wrong. Internships can range from reading scripts and correlating auditions at Focus Features in Los Angeles, like Kristina Emerson, to writing blogs and updating social media for Starworks in New York City, just as Ashley Gilder did. Many people take advantage of their internship to live somewhere new and get out of their same routine.
One of the advantages of interning is your foot is in the door of a future employer. While not all internships result in full-time employment, a good number of companies hire strictly from internship programs.
Brette Bennett is an Account Executive at Duffey Communications, Inc., located here in Atlanta. Before she was an AE though, she remembers arriving at the front door of Duffey Communications – 30 minutes early, of course – the day after her college graduation. Once hired, her next three months were filled with writing press releases and media alerts, pitching stories to media, monitoring for client and industry news, creating and implementing community relations programs, planning events … and much, much more. Brette recalled taking every task, though some were more glamorous than others, as a learning opportunity.
” The most useful task in helping me understand Duffey’s clients and their needs was monitoring news for client coverage and industry trends. Although simple, monitoring provided insight into the types of stories that garner coverage and gave me the foundation to be creative in generating new ideas for Duffey’s clients.”
Brette’s experience differed from other internships in Duffey’s use of “Buddies.” Her “Buddy,” or mentor for us on the outside, helped her prepare for new challenges and showed her the ins and outs of the office, from how to set up her voicemail to which trash cans were for recycled goods only. Through her buddy’s patience, understanding and trust, Brette quickly gained the confidence she needed to take chances, which inspired her to create programs for Duffey’s clients in her second month as an intern that are still in use today.
So, we know that there are many types of internships available. We also know that while not every internship leads to employment, any internship is a useful tool in becoming a successful PR practitioner. What we don’t know yet is what are internship coordinators looking for in an intern? Well, after surveying several internship listings nationwide, I’ve come up with a few hints.
- Detail oriented candidates. Be careful with this! Don’t put this on your resume and then put the wrong company in the email, as I saw at my internship. For example, don’t send your resume to Lara Bronstein at BRAVE Public Relations and type, “I’m very interested in an internship with The Reynolds Group” in the body of the email. I promise she’ll delete it. (A lucky bonus is that Lara and BRAVE PR is hiring interns who can begin in April, so email Lara today.)
- Interns can be responsible for researching and writing various press releases, e-Newsletter content, media alerts and social media posts. When sending your resume, include a few writing samples, but PLEASE have someone proofread them first. You will not be hired if you won’t even take the time to edit your samples.
- Good communication skills are a must in our field. Internships can include answering and fielding calls, meeting with clients and members of the media, contributing to staff meetings and conference calls, and possibly coordinating events. During the interview process, your communication skills will be on display, so practice with your friends, parents or in front of a camera – whatever it takes!
- A lot of internships don’t require knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite applications, but it doesn’t hurt. I have seen proficiency in Microsoft Office programs a requirement on 95 percent of listings.
Obviously, researching the firms you’re applying to is the best approach: have knowledge of company history, clients, services and key team members. Also, an interest in the company is beneficial for everyone involved. If you like (or are a die-hard fan of) the Falcons, apply for an internship with its PR/Marketing team, but if you don’t know the difference in a field goal and a touchdown – don’t even apply.
A few last thoughts, an internship may be paid or offer a stipend, or it may be unpaid, but I would suggest doing as many internships as possible. Some internships, and definitely all jobs, require at least one internship before consideration is given to an applicant. Clean up your Twitter and Facebook, or change your name on Facebook as one clever sorority sister of mine recently did before being offered an amazing internship opportunity at an Atlanta firm. Do your homework on firms you’re interested in applying to and find appropriate contacts to send resume and writing samples. Talk to your friends, professors, alumni… anyone who may know someone who could help. I know of so many fabulous PR pros that did a little research, found someone with a connection and got the internship. Internships are an essential learning experience and can create lasting contacts and references for future employment.
A few helpful links:
– Sarah Funderburk