Published on November 17, 2020, at 4:45 p.m.
by Tralene Hunston.
As a graduate student with 10 years of employment history, I was confident that any internship I took would be a breeze, even if it was for a new field. I had worked in high-stakes situations for years and was confident in my interpersonal communication skills. As it turned out, I still experienced a learning curve and found myself surprised at the adjustments and skills I needed to complete my public relations internships successfully.
Internships are a way to gain valuable insights and the entry-level skills needed to enter many industries. The PR field happens to be an industry that typically expects its entry-level candidates to complete internships, and employers expect that interns leave internships with soft and technical skills enhanced.
Here are my suggestions for excelling during your public relations internships:
Be prepared to research.
In the fast-paced world of public relations, research is essential. For hours I would sit and research a variety of topics. I would scour the internet for press releases, historical data and anything deemed relevant to the tasks requested. Initially, I never knew where my research went, making me feel as if I was wasting valuable time.
As my internships progressed, I would soon learn that my research was useful and necessary. The communication team would use it to build communication strategies. I would also use my research to write press releases and then bask in self-pride every time I saw a press release I had written get picked up by the media. Research is an inherently important task in the public relations world and something that incoming interns should understand how to do and be prepared to conduct.
Understand the importance of strong writing skills.
Writing made up the bulk of my internships. I spent a significant amount of time preparing press releases, speeches and social media copy. Being a strong writer is crucial. Every incoming public relations intern should be prepared to write in AP style. The writing you perform at your internships becomes a part of your body of work to add to your portfolio.
For me, I anticipated the need for strong writing skills and was excited about the opportunities. However, even though I had spent the bulk of my previous career preparing internal and external communications, I had generally only prepared communication that went directly to an audience that I was presenting to or the shareholders or clients themselves.
My public relations internships taught me how to prepare and write mass communication documents meant for external publics and how to adjust the tone, particularly if I was writing speeches for someone else. This experience was a learning curve. My recommendation is to take in all critiques as advice and not feel that it’s a personal attack on your work.
Don’t be afraid to communicate.
Entering a new field has its challenges, and it’s daunting to be the new person again. For me, it felt awkward to ask questions, and as an intern, it may feel like you don’t have the place to do so. Still, ask questions and advocate for what you care about. Share your interests and seek out projects that have meaning to you. Expressing your strengths and weaknesses can help your team guide you in the right direction, ultimately enhancing your internship experience.
Lastly, remember to enjoy yourself and have fun with the opportunities that your internships present.