Internships are an important asset for students starting their public relations careers. Each internship experience varies from agency to agency, presenting many opportunities for young professionals to learn different aspects of the industry.
Most importantly, internships allow students to acquire skills they cannot learn in a classroom – working and collaborating in a professional space with deadlines that are significant to the success of the business and their clients.
For this blog post we surveyed the member agencies of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), the worldwide network of 50 PR firms that Bianchi Public Relations belongs to.
Here are the most important lessons they had in common:
You do not need to limit yourself as an intern
I think there’s generally a misconception that interns are only good for coffee runs and picking up the dirty work. While that may be the case at some organizations, that most certainly wasn’t my experience at Media Profile. As an intern, I was given the chance to work with a multitude of clients at many different levels. I helped plan and work client events, contribute to brainstorming sessions, take part in new business pitches, assist with account coordinator and community management efforts, and more. I never felt like an intern looking from the outside in, but as an actual interactive member of the team. It taught me to not limit myself, no matter what my role is. I am far more capable than memorizing coffee orders and organizing files – I have real ideas and a real place in the communications industry.
Christina Mangiola, Media Profile, Toronto, ON
Make it count
I knew as an intern that I only had a summer to make my mark. I had a limited amount of time to get everything I could out of the experience, and I wanted to leave with the feeling that I did this amazing opportunity justice. Now with a full-time position at Castle, I find it is critical to maintaining this same drive. Of course, having a full-time position allows me to build out long term strategies and hone my skills over time. However, I do work best under a time crunch and it is important to realize this and to bring some of that sense of urgency I had as an intern into my job now.
Eric Donovan, Assistant Account Executive, The Castle Group, Boston, MA
Be open to learning
Every PR firm is different. Some firms focus on specific products or services, and you must be open to learning about them. The more open you are to learning, the more you will gain from the experience. Additionally, you never know what kinds of connections you will need in the future. Take the time to really learn about your firm’s clients and try to develop connections with them, not just those working at your firm. When it comes down to it, an internship is a learning opportunity. Even though you may be interning to build your resume or for college credit, you need to value your own time as an intern and take it for all its worth!
Samantha Landau, Southard Communications, New York, NY
Learning new skills beyond the classroom
I’ve learned how to use my research and analytical skills to draft a competitive analysis and build a media list using Cision (a media database), both of which were new to me. It is incredibly gratifying to apply the skills I learned in college to a real-world PR setting.
Lauren Feldis, Landis Communications, San Francisco, CA
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned during my time with Castle is to speak up. It can be intimidating working in a professional office, but chatting with your coworkers at lunch or going with them to grab coffee can make it easier in the future to ask questions or get clarification on a project. Everyone in the office is there for the same reason you are and talking to them makes the intern experience a lot more fun and worthwhile. You’ll definitely learn more!
Morgan Davis, The Castle Group, Boston, MA
Asking questions is a good thing
When I started my sixth internship, it was hard not to feel like I had the whole internship thing down pat. But I knew the reality was that I had so much to learn every single day. And that will still be true every day of my career. We all have room to grow and learn, and an internship is the optimal time to soak in the knowledge and experience of the people around you who have been in the game a lot longer and are eager to help you develop as a young professional. Through my internship experience, I found that staying curious, being teachable and never being afraid to ask questions can go a long way.
Abigail Cox, Assistant Account Executive, L.C. Williams & Associates, Chicago, IL
The importance of being a team
Being an intern is tough. Sometimes you’ll find yourself caught up in situations with absolutely no idea of what to do, but having a great team to guide you is the best thing you can hope for. Working together is fundamental and sharing precious pieces of information that can make your colleagues’ life easier. Assisting each other and dividing the workload equally can help not to get overwhelmed.
Chiara Parma, Sound Public Relations, Milan, Italy
Carry a positive and confident attitude
Internships offer a great opportunity to build lasting professional connections. Being positive and confident has also helped me build positive work relationships. Staying positive has also helped me feel more confident in my work.
Breeana Greenberg, The Hoyt Organization, Los Angeles, CA
Teamwork is the key to success
Besides just helping each other to complete tasks efficiently, we get to learn from one another through exchanging of ideas and experiences. As an intern, I undertook the opportunity to be part of a team who were able to assist me in developing my soft skills such as time management due to the fast-paced nature of the industry and learning to be attentive to detail to ensure best results in everything that we do.
Nisa Afrina, Perspective Strategies, Malaysia
It’s OK to ask “Why?”
Asking “why” develops understanding of how your assignment plays into the larger project. When you understand the underlying purpose of your work, you produce better work because you have specific goals that bring you closer to the ideal product. It also gives you the opportunity to provide additional perspective that the team may not have known they needed. Asking “why,” also prepares you for solo strategic planning. When it’s time to prepare campaigns, you can use your understanding of tactical assignments to create thorough, creative strategies.
Alexia Johnson, Three Box Strategic Communications, Dallas, TX
The importance of triple-checking work is key
Whether it be a media list you are comprising, an auction bid sheet you are creating, it doesn’t hurt to triple check. I made the mistake of not triple checking a pitch list of news stations and ended up at the wrong station at the wrong time. Triple checking your work is like writing an outline, writing a paper, editing the paper, having your teacher edit the paper and re-writing it to have them edit once more. There is no harm in triple checking your work and the chances are you will catch little mistakes.
Marissa Baker, Assistant Account Coordinator, HMA Public Relations, Phoenix, AZ
No agency is the same
In an ever-evolving field like PR, this one came as no surprise to me. Different firms offer expertise in different industries. Working at both Buchanan Public Relations (Philadelphia, PA) and The Fearey Group (Seattle, WA), I’ve had the chance to acquire knowledge in industries I had previously never set foot in. Similarly, different firms adopt different habits or best practices. For example, I used a certain program to track broadcast coverage at Buchanan Public Relations, and now use a completely different program for the same purpose at Fearey. Because of this, I am well-versed with both of these programs, which will greatly help me throughout the duration of my PR career. While these two firms operate in ways that are unique from one another, both teams are still phenomenal at what they do. These differences across the entire network can also provide an excellent source for collaboration. If one firm decides to enter a new realm, another firm is available to help them dive right in, offering up advice and best practices.
Bailie Pelletier, The Fearey Group, Seattle, WA
The student becomes the professional
Being a student for the majority of my life has left me with my own unique processes and tactics to studying and completing projects. However, I quickly learned from my internships that my habitual student mentality did not always work in the professional setting. I would move too fast, finishing tasks and projects quickly without giving them enough time to really think them through. I was used to working fast to complete all of my school assignments with my busy schedule, but in a professional setting working fast can only lead to problems that could be prevented by slowing down and taking your time.
Kathryn Lauro, Bianchi Public Relations, Troy, MI
What lessons did you learn as a PR agency intern?