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Five things I’ve learned as a PR intern

July 9, 2009

I’d blame my lack of blog posts on a busy past few weeks, but I know that’s a lame excuse.  Therefore, I’ll skip straight to the juicy content!

Christian and me touring the Windy City!

Christian and me touring the Windy City during a vacation with his family.

I took my first trip to Chicago this past weekend and was amazed by the city’s opportunities and culture.  Although I don’t think I could live in such a large city, it was nice to see an area where opportunities for PR professionals thrive.

In honor of an amazing weekend vacation and a short work week, here’s a brief list of five things I’ve learned in seven months as a PR intern:

1. Those who work for your organization probably don’t know as much about social media as you do, nor do they really care.

When you’re a PR student, you’re surrounded by social media.  It’s drilled into your brain.  Words like “blogging,” “tweep” and “tweeting” are part of your daily vocabulary.  You can make your point in 140 characters or less.  You know what Mashable is, and you’re probably following a few blogs with an RSS feed reader.

When you’re surrounded by the SM hype 24/7, you may forget a simple concept: Those outside of the PR bubble aren’t so knowledgeable- or enthusiastic- about social media.  Although my coworkers in the PR Department are SM savvy, many employees in other departments are not.  For many of them, establishing a Web presence seems tricky and/or absurd.  This is why you have to explain the value of SM before you try to drag them in.

2. Semesters move at a glacial pace.  The real world doesn’t.

During an average semester, PR students spend countless hours brainstorming, writing, strategizing and revising until a case study or media kit reaches perfection.

This phenomenon does not occur in the real world.

Although big projects and campaigns do require the same process,  I don’t sit at my desk every day and write out the reason I’m creating a news release or brochure.  However, it’s always important to keep the objective and “overarching strategy” in the back of your head when working on any project for your client or organization.

3. Convergence isn’t just for journalism, kids.

When I began my journey as a pre-PR major in Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, “convergence” was the buzz word.  Everyone was talking about how the newspaper, TV station and radio station were all interrelated and working together through one converged media site.

Convergence is the same in the PR industry, too.  Truth is: PR people don’t just do PR anymore.  You also have to dip your hand into other aspects of communication, including advertising and marketing.  I wish I would have known this earlier; I would have squeezed a few advertising and marketing classes into my schedule!  Knowledge of design and creating video would be helpful, too.

4. Editing is a blessing.  A big blessing.

Microsoft Office’s spell check is a good friend to have around, but he’s not always a reliable buddy.  Editing your work (or someone elses!)  may seem like a drag, but it’s a blessing in disguise.  It’s great to have another eye to see what your 8 a.m.-with-no-coffee eye didn’t catch the first time.  Editing also saves you from little errors that could be embarrassing to your career, too.

Note: My boyfriend found a typo in this entry after I published it.  Yet another example of why editing is so important!

5. Questions are golden.

I’ve noticed that great PR practitioners ask brilliant questions.  Life has a lot to do with listening, but it also has a lot to do with the questions you ask.  Good questions and an inquisitive mind can lead to good answers, less confusion and solid communication!

If you’re an intern or if you’ve ever interned, what’s the greatest lesson you learned?

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7 comments

  1. Wow definitely good insight here! I would have to agree that asking quality questions makes you stand out and also increases your understanding of what is going on. I know a lot of times in class I’ll have group projects where I’ll be the only one that knows what is going on, because I was the only one who listened and thought to ask a question. I heard one of the VPs at my internship say “Interns think asking questions means you don’t know, but actually it shows that you are listening and thinking about what is being said.” Great advice Rebecca!


  2. Evan, thank you for sharing your insight!


  3. I just happened to come across your blog & this post is fantastic! I’ve just graduated and begun my first job dealing with digital communications so I can really relate to point #1- I’ve had to convince people that a Twitter or FB account could be really beneficial.

    A few other points that I learned as an intern:

    – Asking questions doesn’t make you look stupid. It makes you look interested, inquisitive, and engaging.
    – It may be acceptable to stroll in to class late & unprepared, but it’s not going to fly in the real world.
    – Going into the real world doesn’t mean you stop doing homework- the world of social media & PR is always changing, so its up to us to read the various trade publications/blogs to be aware of them. Also, as a PR you need to know whats going in the world!

    I look forward to reading more of your posts :-)


  4. Sheema, thank you for sharing your knowledge! You make an interesting point about being on time. Some work environments seem to be flexible about when you come in and when you leave, but as a young professional, I think it’s still our duty to make sure we’re always on time.

    Thanks again, and congrats on your recent graduation!


  5. I agree, as a PR or Coms student, social media jargon is used on a daily basis. I am interning for an association that has no social media presence. They have tossed around the idea but no one wants to be responsible for it. Obviously, I am an active social media user but it is difficult to convince them to do the same. Especially when the members of the association do not use social media or really the internet. I do feel that this association should keep their print newsletters and its e-blasts, but maybe start one social network at a time.

    I don’t know, is social media not for everyone? I can see how it isn’t RIGHT NOW, but will it?


  6. Tony, you’re right. It’s hard to get people excited about something they’re not familiar with. Social media is a daily thing for us, so it’s hard to understand why anyone wouldn’t “get” it.

    It’ll be interesting to see how social media becomes more of a “daily” routine in the average person’s life… if it does at all!


  7. I am soo proud of you seeing how far you have come since BGS!! It is so great to see!



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