Rock Your PR Internship in 8 Simple Steps
For college students considering or craving a career in public relations, there are few experiences more important than PR internships. Since FrazierHeiby has had a thriving PR internship program for 30 years, we know what it takes to be a terrific intern. Here are our top eight pointers for guaranteed PR internship success.
- Ask for work. This one might seem obvious - if you find yourself with free time, go in search of more projects - but you'd be surprised how many interns are content to surf the web instead of being proactive about seeking out the next assignment. The very best interns walk around offering their help whenever their calendar opens up. This is appreciated; it will net you more projects and ultimately make for a great internship in every way.
- Ask for specific projects. If you've been at your PR internship for a month and you feel like you're in a rut or doing the same type of work every day, break out of it by asking to help with specific kinds of work. Want to dip your toe in the waters of media outreach? Ask to help with pitching a small project. Interns who ask for more, and especially specific types of work, are likely to get what they want.
- Ask for direction. Beware of "paralysis by analysis" - a common experience where a task or project seems so overwhelming, you overthink and can't figure out where to start. Never be afraid to ask for more clarification or direction about how to do something. A great way to ask is "How would you begin this project?" because then you're not admitting you don't know how - you're simply asking for their take on things.
- Follow through and follow up. The job of public relations never ends and a huge part of every day consists of following through on things we've started or following up with other people (colleagues, clients, the media) to find out where things are. This must always be done diplomatically, gracefully and tactfully. Keep good notes daily, refer back to them often and stay ahead of your colleagues and supervisor by checking back with them. They'll be impressed with your mastery of the details.
- Ask to work with certain managers. If you find yourself only working with a few supervisors and you wish you could work with someone else, go ask that other manager how you can help. You will stand out from 100 other PR interns by seeking out projects in this way - and you'll get to work with someone who might not have delegated things to you otherwise. It's a win for everyone.
- Ask to work on certain accounts. Have your heart set on learning more about a particular facet or aspect of public relations? Don't be shy - ask how you can make that happen. That's the great thing about working at a PR firm in the first place: lots of variety. So if you feel stuck in a rut, take steps to seek out projects that will round out your experience.
- Go to lunches and social outings. I'm always shocked when interns turn down opportunities to go to happy hour or catch a bite with the team. The workplace is about more than just work - you want to build relationships, forge connections and make yourself memorable. Sometimes that's best done over tacos or a beer. Accept invitations to get social with the team, and try to soak up the firm culture beyond work assignments. This is a great way to know if you would truly be happy working with those people and in that environment for the long haul.
- Ask to stay longer. So your internship is set to end in a month, but you're getting great feedback and had a positive review. Ask if you can stay on in a part-time capacity. It's in the agency's best interest - you've already proven you can do the job and you're already trained. In our experience, interns who ask to stay longer often end up never leaving!
Honestly, tips 1 through 7 above would apply to any new hire in the PR agency world, not just interns. Being proactive and driving forward in your role and your career are great ways to show you're serious, committed and willing to work hard for the firm's and your own success. Follow these tips and you'll be a PR rockstar in no time.And, here's a bonus tip for you college students: Apply early for internships. The good ones - like our FrazierHeiby PR internship program - go fast. During your current internship, start thinking and planning for where your next internship may be. Aim to graduate with PR internship experience in at least two or three of the following categories: PR agency, PR division at integrated marketing agency, corporate communications role at a company, marketing role at a company, government relations or public affairs position or a nonprofit PR position.What do you think - have we missed anything? We'd love to hear your additional tips for PR interns in the comments below.