Kate Finley

Five Ways YOU Can Be a Dream PR Intern

By: Kate Finley | May 29, 2013 | 

Five Ways YOU Can be a Dream PR InternInterns and internships.

Despite high hopes and the best laid plans, chances are those are two words that induce stomach knots and noticeable cringes for the majority of us.

It’s not that your first PR internship was intended to blow up in your face, and it’s not that we don’t want our interns to succeed. It’s just that somehow… there seemed to be a disconnect, leaving all parties wishing they could hit the ‘redo’ button.

Wanted: Dream PR Intern (We Need You!)

We’ve already ruled out some of the things you can’t expect from an unpaid intern, so today let’s broach the subject of what we all want and desperately need when it comes to internships – a dream intern. If you’ve just landed your first PR internship or you’re a new grad starting to look for one, print this post out and get your highlighter ready.

It isn’t Just an Internship

Before we dive into five ways to ace your first PR internship, I want to emphasize one vital precursor to making the most of your first PR internship and, ideally, getting hired on full time: See the internship as an interview.

It isn’t just an internship. But it’s not a job. It does not have a salary (though you might land a paid internship) and, although it looks great on your resume and is a necessary part of becoming a PR professional, it’s still just an internship.

That said, you need to put your best foot forward and hit the ground running because, I’m assuming, an internship isn’t your ‘end-all, be-all’ life aspiration. Treat your internship as an extension of your interview. It’s the hands-on portion of the test. It’s your chance to show what an all-star you are, while gaining valuable career experience.

With that in mind, are you ready to make your future employer’s dreams come true? Heck yes you are!

Five Ways to Ace Your PR Internship

  1. Think like a creative problem solver. You’ve landed your first PR internship and now your mission is to add as much value as possible to your corporate or agency employer. It’s time to make them wish they had hired you sooner! How do you do this? By being a creative problem solver.This means if you’re given a task and it doesn’t come together on the first try, try again. Then, try again. Come at it from a different angle. The task could be anything from a printer that refuses to work, tracking down editorial calendars, or navigating a new online software. Experiment and don’t give up after your first few tries. Commit to finding the solution.
  2. Expect to work until the project is done. A PR internship isn’t a 9-5 deal. Sorry to burst any pre-conceived bubbles here, but let’s be real. As a PR intern, your job is to help take some of the workload off of the rest of your team. You cannot be the best help to your team if you’re leaving projects unfinished or missing deadlines because five o’clock came along and you had plans with friends.Remember, this isn’t just an internship, it’s an interview, and you want to ace it. Demonstrate you’re a team player who understands projects are promises – and you keep your promises.
  3. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate! I cannot tell you how many interns and entry-level PR team members I see fail in this category. Ironically, this is the communications industry. Yet time and again there’s a complete lack of status updates on projects and goals. Worse still, as mentioned above, are loads of broken promises in the form of missed deadlines and half-completed projects.You absolutely cannot leave your assignment statuses up to the assumptions of others. Not communicating = not completed. If you’re stuck or you’ve made progress but haven’t completed a task, report back to the person who assigned it to you with an update. This can be as simple as an email that communicates a project status. If you don’t communicate, the assumption might be you’re either not good at a given task, or worse, you’re irresponsible.
  4. Think before asking. This. Is. HUGE. As I said, it’s perfectly OK to ask questions. However, there’s this super amazing, easy-to-use, free tool called Google and if you can use it to get the answer…don’t ask. Be quick to think and slow to ask. This is where creative problem-solving comes into play. You aren’t expected to figure everything out for yourself, but you are expected to think for yourself.
  5. Strive to add value. This is an extension of the creative problem-solving, but it’s different. Treat your employer’s business as if it was your own. This mentality means promises made to clients must be fulfilled, and deadlines need to be met. If you can’t figure out a solution to the problem, and you can honestly say you’ve given it the best you could, think through a potential solution and then ask for help. I’m not trying to discourage asking questions. Questions are a part of the learning process and if you’re truly listening and have questions, ask them. Asking questions can demonstrate you’re thinking critically and trying to get to the best result through the most direct way possible, thereby adding value.

There are definitely more items that can be added to this (*cough* like knowing about SEO *cough*) but if you follow these five steps, you’ll be well on your way to acing your first PR internship.

PR professionals, what do YOU look for in a dream intern?

About Kate Finley

Kate Finley is the CEO of Belle Communications, an integrated marketing firm based in Columbus, Ohio, where she helps CPG brands and startups with PR, social media, and content marketing. She is a media relations expert, leading teams in executing more than 1800 media opportunities for industry leading clients, with coverage in NBC News, TODAY, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, and other top media influencers. She’s a Paleo-eater, half-marathoner, and recently acquired a taste for CrossFit.

  • Thanks for this Kate! I know someone in particular who will benefit from this.

    • RebeccaTodd Awesome! These tips really can be applied throughout our careers. It’s a learning process but if you can at least start keeping these tips in mind, you’re going to stand out and up your chances of getting offered a longer-term job. 🙂

  • Ken Mueller

    gets me coffee. without complaining.

    • @Ken Mueller I knew my list was missing something …

  • Oh, I’m so guilty of asking instead of Googling!! Just ask ginidietrich or belllindsay …it’s bad and every time I’m like, “No, no just ignore me…I can Google it.” Great advice Kate. I saw my internship as a job even though I didn’t get paid for either of them. You never know who you’ll run into later on in life.

    • yvettepistorio ginidietrich You never Google anything.

      • belllindsay yvettepistorio ginidietrich False! I Google so much, I break it! It’s happened twice so far…

  • Angela Moore

    Has their own blog, loves editing video, great personality.

    • @Angela Moore I agree having a blog is a MAJOR plus! When looking to fill an intern role, do you give preference to those who blog over those who don’t? Very curious.

  • I think a lot of these tips are universal (i.e., apply to entry level and beyond employees as well as interns). I think this is implied in the five points but one of the most important skills to me, intern and beyond, is “connecting the dots.” Be interested in why you’re duplicating 20 copies of a brochure, not just the trip from the desk to the copier and back. As long as it’s appropriate, read the brochure and take an interest in the project it supports if possible. And oh Lord I feel like such a Baby Boomer/curmudgeon saying this but ….. as I was checking out at the grocery store tonight (it’s a fabulous store with usually impeccable customer service), I observed the bagger check his cell phone between asking if he could take my bags out and helping the next customer. Yes, we ALL do it probably but an intern should definitely get a feel for your organization’s handling of smartphones and other digital “stuff” for personal use before choosing how and when you’re going to use yours. Curmudgeon moment over. Carry on. 🙂

    • biggreenpen I agree with you! It’s astounding how quick new employees/interns are to break out the cell phone. As a society we’re attached at the hip to technology but you should definitely get a feel for the workplace environment first. And, just because someone else does it in the workplace, definitely does not make it acceptable behavior for everyone.

  • rdopping

    Hi Kate. We too take on interns in the Architecture industry and we are surely not alone. I often wonder why the arts are so focussed on this methodology for skills development. It’s great but also somewhat exploited in the Architecture world. No 2 and no 5 especially.
    Great tips though. I will certainly share this internally changing names to protect the innocent…..kidding. If you are ok with it and get the credit,of course.
    I hope you have been well. Cheers.

    • rdopping Sometimes I get worried that 2 and 5 are generational gaps … but then I see some excel in those areas so I don’t lose hope. You are more than welcome to share! 🙂

  • As someone who got hired directly from my internship, I definitely ‘gold star’ your first piece of advice to treat it like a job interview….when you do that the rest *should* naturally follow. An internship is an amazing opportunity to learn, build relationships, and get an early start to pushing forward your career. Not only did my internship land me my first job, but it helped me build a network of connections that I have tapped into over and over and over again in my career. 
    Too many interns just take it for granted and mark time. ALERT: If you want a job that you can ‘mark time’ and punch in/punch out, then PR/Communications isn’t for you to begin with. So show up, kick ass and then start your journey to take on the world.

    • Clint Faber

      May need you help in bringing in interns LauraPetrolino you know how to pick the best

      • Clint Faber Done! “Petrolino Intern Consulting Services is your one stop shop for all of your intern HR needs” 🙂

    • LauraPetrolino Amen, sister! Show up and kick ass.

  • sherrilynne

    I dream of this intern. Thanks for posting 🙂

    • sherrilynne I have hope that this intern exists. I’ve seen some come close …

  • Clint Faber

    Good stuff Kate  thanks 😉

    • Clint Faber Sure thing, Clint! Thanks for stopping by and sharing 🙂

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