How to design a kick-ass summer PR internship program
Most working professionals will say that their internship experience played a pivotal role in sparking their interests and developing their skills. Some were amazing, memorable jobs and others, ahem, might not have been that great. But, nevertheless, they helped shape us into who we are today.
Now that summer is upon us and we have our own interns, it’s time to design a program for aspiring PR pros.
It’s not easy: it has to be designed to alleviate some of your work and also build the skills that they’ll need to succeed in the industry and want to continue to work in it.
In other words, it has to be a kick-ass program. Here’s how to design one.
1. Evaluate you and your colleagues’, past internships. Think about your internships: why did you favor one more than the other? What was the coolest part of those experiences? Which skills did you develop that you have built upon today? If you have colleagues who have gone through the internship program at your company, ask them what they liked and what could be improved. Use this research as a foundation to build your program.
2. Borrow from a PR 101 syllabus. Interns who are coming into your company are learning how to work in PR and sometimes, even how to transition into a working professional. So you’ll have to start with the basic training from a PR 101 class, which could include how to build a media list, differentiators between social media platforms, writing and AP style basics and researching.
3. Set goals--and meet them. It’s important to set expectations for a summer internship program. There’s only so much you can do in three months--and there’s a lot to do! By helping your interns set goals for what they’d like to do and learn, you’ll help to point them in the direction that enables them to meet those goals. Then, at the end of the program, it will feel great to look back and say you’ve accomplished them together.
4. Help build a portfolio to showcase their work. I had an internship my junior year of college that allowed me to create a portfolio of work, including press releases, media kits and feature writing. It was one of the most valuable things I had when I was looking for my next internship and then my first job. It set me up for success and can do the same for the interns joining your team.
5. Leverage their interests and help build upon them. Even though your interns will still be figuring out what they want to do, they’ll have an idea of what they might like to work on. If they’re strong writers, give them assignments that help to challenge and strengthen their skills. Don’t shy away from having them work on an assignment that they’ve never done before--it will help build their fundamentals and might be something they’re good at!
6. Nudge them to network with others. Most interns are shy, especially in front of senior leaders. Encourage them to meet with people they can learn from and try to help set up one-on-one meetings with those who can help them in their careers.
7. Allow them to take ownership over a project. One of the major differences between being an intern and being an employee is ownership and accountability. Gving your interns ownership over a summer-long project or a process that will have a lasting effect on a team is one way that they’ll feel they had an impact on the company during their short stay.
8. Encourage extracurriculars that add fun to their work days. Being an intern can be tedious! Make a note to remind them that they should be having more fun before they’re full-time employees. After-work activities, happy hours, lunches and events should be encouraged to make the summer educational and exciting!
Have other tips for designing a PR internship program? We'd love to hear 'em!
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 was the first to publish academic research about regulation, reputation, and banks. She plans on doing big things. Connect with her on Twitter. All opinions should be seen as her own and do not reflect her employer’s.
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