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Living in the Fast Lane: Interning for a PR Firm

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Posted At: October 5, 2012 1:40 P.M.
by Shelby Calambokidis

Staying in the office until 7 p.m. to complete assignments.
Fighting the knots in my stomach as I attempt to write a letter to the editor for the Wall Street Journal.
Taking notes frantically on conference calls and working through the weekend.
Offering to take the lead on research for topics that I know absolutely nothing about.

This was my experience as the communications intern for the Dewey Square Group, a PR firm in Washington, D.C.

To some professionals and students in the field, my summer may sound miserable – but I loved every minute of it. In the PR industry, there are generally two career paths: working within an organization in the PR department or working for a firm that specializes in public relations. While both jobs may be stressful, PR firms have several different clients at once and are tasked with managing various accounts with different communication plans and responsibilities for each respective client.

For students who are earning their degrees in public relations and trying to decide which PR path to take, I can only offer one piece of advice: EXPERIENCE. You honestly won’t know what kind of work environment you like until you immerse yourself in it. However, for those of you who do choose to work for a firm, I will share a couple of lessons that I learned through my own endeavors.

Why do we have to be good writers?
As I worked toward my degree in PR, I often found myself wondering why our teachers hammered AP style and grammar rules into our heads. I thought: Am I majoring in journalism? My internship taught me the importance of being a good writer. We would often have to produce documents to be sent out to the media at the drop of a hat. The ticking clock is stressful enough, and if you are either stumped and flipping the pages of your AP style handbook or asking nine of your co-workers to proofread your work, you are simply wasting time. Writing is the foundation of our industry. I encourage students to take advantage of their writing classes because this skill should be well-established once they enter the field.

Be passionate
Your supervisors are not expecting you to be a public relations mastermind. However, employers value passionate individuals who take their jobs seriously and express a genuine interest in their work. When I was hired for my internship, I had only taken a general public relations course. However, I offered to help in any way I could, took notes at every meeting and on every call, and jumped at every opportunity to learn. If you show your boss that you truly care about your performance, you will more than likely succeed.

Keep your head on straight: Be organized!
PR firms work with many different clients, and it is important to keep your documents for each client organized. Your real job isn’t too cool for dividers and binders! When my desk started piling up with emails and notes from six different organizations, my middle school instincts kicked in and I raced to Staples for the back-to-school sale. Putting each client’s work in different sections of a binder allowed me to be at the top of my game in staff meetings and helped me keep my head on straight.

Give all of your clients equal attention
There will come a time when one client is in crisis-management mode and another is simply brainstorming new ways to get its name out there. While you may be spending more time dealing with the organization in “crisis mode,” never neglect your responsibilities to your other clients. The fact that PR firms manage several accounts does not allow them the luxury of telling other clients, “We’ve been busy.” No matter how slammed you are, always give your clients equal attention.

This fast-paced environment is definitely not for everyone, but it certainly has its rewards. I was rarely bored in my internship; I was able to work with a variety of organizations that dealt with very different issues. In addition, I was able to establish relationships with professionals working in diverse fields, which has provided me with an increased opportunity to network in the future.

  1. What an inspiring post. I also believe passion is one of the most valuable characteristics an employee can possess. In response to your comment, “If you show your boss that you truly care about your performance, you will more than likely succeed,” I believe passion does not just cater to your boss, but also to your co-workers. Passionate professionals are leaders. Their natural energy radiates like a bright light inspiring, encouraging and leading the team in the direction of success. Thank you for your insight into a very demanding business. Your post is not only informative, but challenges the reader to to think of their strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.

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