How to be a Successful PR Intern

How to be a Successful PR Intern


Ever notice how some interns are tasked with errands, media lists and phone calls while others get to write, edit and sit in on client meetings? Assignments often vary based on the size and nature of the agency/company — but typically, there’s more to it than that…

A friend once told me there are three kinds of interns.

  1. One who expects complete hand-holding and doesn’t ever take the initiative.
  2. One who does a good, thorough job on assignments.
  3. One who has a PR strategy presentation prepared before he/she is even told about the prospective client.

Hint: you want to be intern #3.

So here’s how.

Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses. By this, I do not mean shun certain assignments because they aren’t your forte. On the contrary, at the beginning of your internship, make a list of your strengths and weaknesses so that you understand where you stand. This will help you allocate your time and focus. If you’re a strong writer but don’t know much about social media, read Mashable instead of Copyblogger one day.

Be proactive and provide value. Sometimes, the people you report to will not have time for you…sounds harsh but it’s true. Their jobs could be on the line if they miss crucial deadlines, fail to deliver a compelling plan to a client or neglect media calls on pressing issues. They might not have time that morning to give you a project. The last thing you want to do is sit at your desk doing nothing, just because you haven’t been approached. Instead, approach your supervisor and offer your assistance. Too busy to talk? Send your supervisor a quick email saying something like this:

Hey Sarah, I finished everything on yesterday’s to-do list so let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you. I know we’re trying to get some exposure on the X issue, so I’ll go ahead and compile a targeted media list and develop a pitch message until we touch base.

Your supervisors’ stressful days are your biggest blessings, because they give you the chance to prove your worth and work ethic. Take the opportunity to do something that normally wouldn’t be asked of you. Maybe your supervisors didn’t know you were a kick-butt writer…but now they are impressed and will let you write more often in the future.

Don’t ask what you can figure out yourself. It’s so much more appealing sometimes to just throw out questions when you know there has to be a simple answer… but 10 simple questions can turn into a lot of wasted time for your supervisor. On the other hand, ask questions when absolutely necessary…better to ask than end up making a big mistake. In the comments section of my last post, Stacy Shade suggested grouping questions together so that you’re not popping in and out of the supervisor’s office all the time.

Carry a note pad everywhere you go. Valerie Simon often shares this advice. You never know how intricate an assignment will be — so if your supervisor asks to speak to you, go into the office prepared to take notes. This will save you from having to return later with questions.

Set up performance evaluations. Let’s be honest…it sucks when you hand in an assignment and then never receive feedback. Did your press release resonate? Are you not hearing back because there were no needed changes or because your supervisor just fixed them all his/herself? Sometimes, you have to be proactive in getting the evaluations you need. Let your supervisor know that you’d like to know how you can improve; if there is not enough time to discuss each assignment, set up a short chat every once in a while to see how you’re doing. Go in knowing exactly what you want to get out of the conversation.

Continue to grow. You should learn something new all the time at work. But you never want to limit yourself only to what you get out of one company/agency. Look for outside opportunities so that you can bring new, relevant skills and information back to your job. My main method of professional development is FPRA’s Capital Chapter, but the opportunities are endless. As Stacy says, it doesn’t matter if it’s the professional association or even Toastmasters International — just find something that works for you.

Although I wrote this post for the “PR intern,” anyone can make use of these tips. I have an intern who reports to me, but I also report to my PR director — and I always try to be as proactive and valuable as possible. As Kristen E Jeffers commented, “seek to be an asset to any office you are in” and you’ll be just fine.

What other things should interns do (or not do) to be successful?

This post was written by: Lauren Novo, to see the whole article




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