6 essentials for a successful public relations internship program

May 07, 2015
6 essentials for a successful public relations internship program

It’s May, which means summer is finally coming. But this also means that summer interns are coming!   

While it’s nice to have an extra set of hands, eyes and another brain to tackle projects, it’s important to help interns develop the skills that will set them up for a successful career--maybe even at your company.

Here are 6 essentials that a successful internship program this summer should include.

1. A robust portfolio. I left my first PR internship with a binder of projects I worked on that demonstrated my media and writing skills, along with tangible results and outcomes. I continued to build on it and eventually transferred it to a digital portfolio. This really helped visualize my work and was a tool I used during interviews to show my capabilities and what I could accomplish if I were hired. By the end of the internship program, interns should have a similar portfolio with their work that will help them jump into their future careers (and if you are an intern, make sure you save everything!).

2. Experience across all channels. Since PR is a multidimensional industry, experience in traditional, social, earned and paid media, and contributed and owned content (and more) is valuable for an intern to get a sense of the business function in its entirety. This will also help identify which specialty they’d want to develop expertise in.

3. Strategic thinking. It certainly is helpful to have someone work on research and media lists, but these projects are often segmented. An intern creates it, a senior leader strategizes, and someone else implements it. Strategic thinking across the media relations spectrum is extremely useful experience. If there’s a media list that needs to be created for a client, encourage interns to provide recommendations on the pitch or the outreach strategy based on research. Work with them to think about it the way you would. Since they’re closer to the research, they’ll be able to provide you with better insights if they know what the objective and execution might look like.

4. A summer-long project. A sense of empowerment comes with owning projects and efforts. In addition to the day-to-day work, help your interns with a summer-long project based on their interests. For instance, if they love social media, have them create and present a business pitch for online engagement for an existing client to you. These real-world scenarios give them a sense of ownership, allow them to be creative, and help you along the way. It’s a win-win!

5. Career guidance through networking. With graduation imminent, some students don’t know what they want to do, and some want to do everything. Either way, they’re eager to hear successful people’s stories and the advice they have for emerging professionals. By setting your interns up with 30-minute coffee conversations with colleagues in your company throughout the summer, you give them the opportunity to network, learn more about the company, and to think more critically about their future career paths.

6. Fun. An intern has the ultimate work/life balance: they get to contribute to the work your company does, go to training events and sessions with other interns, have the ability to go to industry and networking events, and more often than not, get to go to happy hour! Embracing the fun and hard work balance (and encouraging it!) makes the learning experience more fulfilling.

What else should a great PR internship program include? Let us know in the comments below!

Julia Sahin works in corporate communications for financial services at one of the largest PR firms in New York and is a monthly contributor to Muck Rack. She is a recent graduate from the Master’s program in PR and Corporate Communications at NYU and was the first to publish academic research about regulation, reputation, and megabanks. She plans on doing big things. All opinions should be seen as her own and do not reflect her employer’s.

Photo: Business students via Shutterstock

About the author

Calculated risk-taker, positive thinker, dream-chaser | M.S. @nyuniversity, B.A. @tcnj | Passionate about PR for financial companies | Opinions are mine

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