By Priya Ramesh (@newpr)
Five Things to Keep in Mind during Your PR Internship
Every summer, CRT/tanaka brings in a new batch of interns from renowned communications and marketing programs at leading universities like James Madison University, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, University of Pennsylvania and the like. We take our summer internship program pretty seriously and receive on an average 200+ resumes every year. I am not saying this just because I work here but trust me, our interns go through a pretty rigorous training process during which they wear multiple hats and juggle around multiple projects (media relations, brand marketing, employee communications, events marketing, social media and digital campaigns) for a wide variety of clients from consumer, health, and corporate. They all start on an equal playing field and are exposed to the same level of projects, deadlines, client services BUT only a few of them are extended a fulltime position at the end of the internship. So what distinguishes a summer intern that does everything right, meets deadlines, brings in a sense of enthusiasm to work every day, is brilliant, creative and _________ (fill up the blank with more adjectives as you see fit) from the intern that does all of that and something MORE to get the job offer?
As someone who entered the fascinating world of public relations as a summer intern myself and working night and day to please my immediate supervisor, everyone in the Marketing team and the C-Suite of a tech startup back in the day, I can completely relate to how you probably feel walking through that office door, all professionally dressed, trying to wake up and look peachy at 8am in the morning! Well, CONGRATULATIONS you made it to the real world! Now here is some practical wisdom based on what I have learned in the last ten years in PR and have gathered from the kick butt interns who make the final cut, embrace it if you like it.
1. Be proactive and willing to roll up your sleeves: There is a good reason why companies seek out summer interns beyond just talent acquisition, there is a lot of work to get done. We need your willingness to offer support in whatever shape or form with projects big and small which might also include running to the post office to mail an important document to the client or ordering lunch for an upcoming meeting or sometimes answering the incoming calls. You might be the college valedictorian, a student leader on campus that everyone knew but keep that ego aside and be ready to roll up your sleeves once you join the corporate world. The first few weeks are very crucial in terms of making a good first impression and the best way to do that is to proactively seek opportunities to be of assistance.
2. Listen intently before you speak: Part of being in the PR/communications space is that we all like to talk and sometimes even when we don’t really have anything to “say” when we talk. I have done it and I am sure you feel compelled to do it because in our minds, talking equates to being noticed. One of the best pieces of advice I got from one of my colleagues who was a senior marketing professional was, “Don’t feel compelled to always open your mouth during meetings. Prepare well in advance for the meeting and open your mouth to contribute ONE solid idea that adds value to the conversation. Now you have done two things, first you impressed everyone with a well thought-out idea and secondly, you earned yourself an invitation to the next meeting by adding value.” So listen more, listen carefully, take copious notes, pay attention to body language and absorb, absorb, absorb before you make yourself heard in the room.
3. Let your quality of work speak louder than your words: In my professional experience, I have seen the go-getters, the achievement-oriented ones, the ones that focus on the end result, show their smarts by taking any project that comes their way and turning it into a bigger opportunity to prove their mettle. When your work stands out, be it on a PowerPoint deck, writing a press release or compiling a competitive analysis that makes a bigger impact than the countless conversations. Walking your talk is more powerful than not moving beyond the talk. At the end of the day just like any other profession, the results speak louder than the supervisor that you spent so much time schmoozing up to.
4. Look for opportunities to shine and make your mark: While you are trying to be a jack of all trades and providing much needed assistance on client work, let’s get real, we all have a few core PR skillsets that we absolutely enjoy. May be you want to show us your A-game in media pitching by getting that national broadcast hit that the client has been dreaming of or maybe you have a passion for writing good content and you totally revamped that plain-Jane piece of web content and spiced it up to increase engagement with that content. Identify what you truly enjoy doing the most while you are still experimenting and once you have had your aha moment, seek opportunities to deliver kick butt results on those projects. Having a passion behind a project always helps, that’s why I stay away from writing press releases and enjoy converting old school PR traditionalists into digital-savvy communicators. You get my point, your internship period is limited but opportunities are unlimited especially if you are in an agency setting, so go get them.
5. Identify mentors who will champion your fulltime position: Sometimes I wish I were you, an intern who can leverage the “I need a mentor” mantra to win some more quality time with seniors within the organization. Look around and spot potential mentors across the organization and proactively seek opportunities to do lunch with them, to help them and to collaborate with them on client projects. Having a mentor or a few mentors can help you in so many ways a) understanding the company culture b) having a trusted mind to sound off your thoughts/ideas c) gain additional experience in core areas that the mentor specializes in. The interns that are hungry for more seem to be the first ones to quickly identify mentors that have similar personalities and/or are leaders in core marketing/communications areas that they are passionate about. They also work diligently to work closely with their mentors and impress them through their work ethics and quality of work. Nothing like having strong voices within the organization vouch for your talent and champion your full time placement!
With thousands of communications graduates entering Corporate America every year, I want to quote what Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough said in his recent commencement speech, “Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction. Be worthy of your advantages. And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life. Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it. Dream big. Work hard. Think for yourself. Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might. And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.”
Your internship is your opportunity to live that dream as a PR pro! Make it count! Good luck and I hope to see you on the other side ;-). If you are interested in learning more about CRT/tanaka’s internship program, please contact Jennifer Lucado (firstname.lastname@example.org). Jennifer has an eye for great PR talent and we are always ready to meet the ones that stand out of the crowd!