I have interned in the PR field off and on for about 4 years now. Which means that I have experienced the highs and the lows of having a PR internship. I’d like to think of myself as the Public Relations internship guru because I have seen, experienced and heard it all. When new to the Public Relations industry you may want to get some true firm/ agency experience. Unless you have a family friend who is going to magically give you a job as a publicist, you will have to start from the bottom like the rest many of the best at the craft also did. These guide lines will help you determine how to choose your ideal Public relations internship.
Have a solid idea of the type of PR that would interest you most.
There are truly many different types of PR and many different aspects of Public relations to learn about that as an intern, you can explore. There is PR for celebrities, events, facilities, sponsorships, partnership development, B2B and so much more. If your main interest is working in Public Relations for medical facilities, then you don’t want to jump on board for an internship at a sports focused company. You need to be first passionate about PR then secondly, you need to enjoy the playing field in which you choose. In most cases if you don’t enjoy the field of PR you work for, you won’t have as much fun. I say this because I have experienced it more than once and I ended up leaving both internships because of my disinterest in those fields.
You must be willing to accept very little pay or no pay at all at your internship.
Let’s face it, it’s almost impossible to get a paid Public Relations internship. Why? Because there are thousands of men and women that are dying to break into the industry with a dream and a prayer. Many of them extremely tenacious. Either way it’s a tough field to break into. It is tight knit, fast paced and in the world of PR your reputation always precedes you. An intern does not as of yet have a reputation so you need to work and build one. A solid credible rep that will last. You have to weigh your options. How badly do you want the experience in your type of PR? In most cases your supervisor had to learn the hard way, just like you have too. You have to earn your keep and work your way up to the top. Some sneaky companies will have you intern for years without paying you. That’s wrong, but in order to avoid that you need to ask them is there an opportunity for employment after my internship? If so, how long will I have to stay with your company as an intern and what should I learn in order to move to a paid position? Please, don’t be afraid to ask these questions! You will know if your internship position is going places by an increase in responsibility, stipend rewards as you prove yourself and move up within the company and other tell tale signs.
Be aware of the vibe that you feel when you interview for your internship and ask questions.
When you finally get an interview try and feel the vibe of the people in the office space. The vibe can determine how you feel when you walk in the building. Personally, I like to say good morning with a smile and receive them both in return. I also, like people who are helpful and make me feel good to be there. I had a supervisor who was not sure how to direct his anger and about 4 weeks after I started my nonpaid internship with his company I was no longer a part of his company. The energy in the office was always depressing; he did not respect me, my time or me as a person. He often belittled me and I had experienced too many instances where he embarrassed me in front of the staff. Just because you are an intern does not mean that you are not a person. Interns are learning, it is the point of being there. They should not be expected to have all of the answers as that is a tremendously unfair expectation at the start of any career job. As a result, I had to leave. Never take less than you deserve, sure you are a newbie in the industry but you still deserve to be respected.
Research the company that you desire to be an intern for?
Always research the companies you want to work for and of course the company that you are interning for. Research, so that you know their culture, values and goals. If their values are not in tune with what you want then be aware when you go on that interview. Also, this helps when they ask you about how you feel about their company, goals and the work that they have done in the past. You will be able to give them an answer versus looking like you didn’t do your research.
Realize that you should not accept a position out of desperation.
Never accept an internship out of desperation! I repeat, NEVER accept a PR internship out of desperation. In most cases if you felt that they did not live up to your expectations but you just had to have the experience you will be very unhappy at that internship. I know that nothing is perfect; however, you do want to make sure you choose the best opportunity for you. Once upon a time I accepted an internship because I was desperate, and guess what? I quit! I wasn’t happy, I got bored and the supervisor was not the right supervisor for me! There is nothing worse than not liking or being happy with the work that you do.
Don’t be afraid to use that interview as a networking opportunity?
If you go on an internship interview, take the time to grill them, ask them questions. Just as they are interviewing you, you are interviewing them! If you are not truly interested in the internship ask them questions that will allow them to provide you with other information that might be able to direct you to a better opportunity for you. A question such as “Who are you major competitors?” so you can see if they are hiring and apply for an internship with them. The questions are endless, you just need to be innovative and work to get the info that you want. Also, it doesn’t hurt to just be honest with them.
Be honest with what you expect from you internship and if your desires are not met, ask them if they can help you achieve the goals that you desire to accomplish.
You should go into each internship knowing what you want to learn and knowing what they can teach you. A good way to do this is by looking at the job description for a PR job that you want. Make sure that you learn everything in that job description list, while at your internship. So, that if another job like that comes around you will be able to apply and have a chance of getting the job. If your internship is not meeting your needs ask them to teach you more. Or you can say what I said “I don’t feel like I am learning enough from this internship, I want more of a challenge?” It worked for me and they exposed me to information they never imagined sharing with other interns in the past.
I have applied all of these guidelines at all of my pr internships. I have decided to leave internships because I did not feel comfortable in the culture of the company. I have also quit internships because I was not conformable with the way my supervisor communicated with me. You should never feel belittled, used or under appreciated, because you are most likely working for free! Communicate with your supervisors and let them know how you feel about certain things. This is not to say that you mustn’t have tough skin, especially in PR as you do need it, it’s just to remind you that you are human and they need to be aware of this as well. I hope these guidelines will help you determine which pr internship is the best one for you. Just remember to know what you want, don’t be afraid to ask for it , be ready to work exceptionally hard for it, and have tough skin. It’s a rough road, but when you start to see the fruits of your labor, you will be very happy and proud that you made those decisions. Don’t forget, Public Relations is about communication. Use all of my tips above and god luck on your perfect internship search!
By: Amber Bernard