A fellow Kent State journalism student, Marissa Ring, just completed an independent study this summer focusing on public relations internships, which are a requirement in our PR sequence. One result of her research was a list of FAQs that I found particularly helpful to PR interns at Kent State and elsewhere. She interviewed a number of interns in order to provide insightful answers to the questions, and I asked her for permission to post them on my blog to further all of your future internship hunts and experiences. Note: I left out a few questions/answers that were only relevant to Kent State students.

My internship coordinator at Kent, Michele Ewing, has also written on the subject from both the intern and supervisor perspectives. If you have  additional tips, please share! I would love to hear stories about good and bad internships from both the interns as well as their supervisors.

 Frequently Asked Questions for Public Relations Internships

Compiled by Marissa Ring, Kent State Journalism Student

  • What should I keep in mind during my internship?

    As you begin your internship, you may feel overwhelmed by projects and deadlines.  There are a few helpful hints to keep in mind. Remember that your internship is an extended interview process that will affect your future in the job market.  The professionals you come in contact with during your internship may be a good reference after graduation. This is especially important, as an increasing number of employers require on-the-job experience for potential hires. Also, if your employer is impressed, they may offer you a job. This is also a great time to be collecting samples for your portfolio so make all of your work count.

  • How can I make a good impression on my employers and succeed in a professional work environment?

    Show up on time everyday with a good attitude, ready to work.  Accept any projects that come your way.  Be a perfectionist, even on projects that do not seem like a big deal.  Ask questions and make sure you understand what your employer expects out of you.  Be persistent in everything you do and ask for coaching.

  • What kind of experience will an internship give me?

    Completing an internship is a good way to apply what you are learning in classes to the real world and practice being a professional.  For example, you will gain knowledge about dealing with reporters, conducting interviews and behaving in a professional setting.

  • How can I monitor my progress throughout my internship?

    Update your resume as you complete projects and tasks.  Keeping a blog or journal throughout the duration of your internship may prove useful to you personally and may be something to show potential employers in the future.

  • Should I be okay with running errands such as getting coffee during the majority of my internship?

    Although this may be okay initially or occasionally, you should make it clear that you want to work on projects that fit with the curriculum you are studying.  It is a requirement that at least 75 percent of the work you complete during your internship be work that you would do in a professional PR setting.  This may include tasks such as creating website content, writing, researching, etc.

  • Should I keep copies of all the projects I complete?

    No matter what the size of the project may be, make sure it is an example of your best work so that you can use it in your profile and future interviews.


Cleveland Intern Crawl

crawl.gifI admit that I’m neglecting the blog this summer, but I’m going to blame this last break on my vacation sans Internet.

What I wanted to mention before I left was that I was able to take part in the first-ever Cleveland Intern Crawl on Monday, July 30 and had a blast! Despite the alcoholic connotations associated with any kind of crawl, this was a dry (only as in sober) networking and educational experience.

The interns at Liggett Stashower planned and implemented the event, which included interns from five advertising and public relations firms in downtown Cleveland. I know there were a number of other places that could easily have been added to the list, but for the sake of time this was a perfect amount of stops… especially for a hot afternoon of walking across town.

I went along as the solo representative for Landau Public Relations, but there were also students and young professionals serving as interns from Dix & Eaton, Wyse, Brokaw and Liggett Stashower.

Aside from meeting the other interns, who were from a variety of universities and backgrounds, ranging from communication to design, it was awesome to see the office layouts of the other agencies and learn about the kind of experience each intern was gaining from their respective company.

I had never heard of a couple of the agencies before the tour. I blame my ignorance on the fact that a few are advertising agencies, but I was surprised to learn that the companies have public relations professionals on staff as well.

Most of the agencies were full-service, incorporating some combination of advertising, marketing, public relations and design, and I enjoyed learning how those all work together in one building since Landau Public Relations is pure PR.

It was also extremely beneficial to me to experience the different environments, which ranged from relaxed and creative to corporate and organized. I think a major part in determining where to apply for an internship or job is deciding what kind of surroundings and people will encourage you to do your best work. I’ve had informational interviews with most of the agencies in Cleveland, and those have significantly impacted my career decisions.

I am of a firm belief that if you don’t feel comfortable or like you can be yourself during an interview, or even just sitting in a foyer waiting for the interview, that you might want to reconsider. When I am interviewing, I always ask my interviewers what they like best about their job, and if people/environment are not mentioned at least in their top three, then I know it’s not somewhere I want to be. A huge part of the learning experience is getting to know the people you work with and learning from them. If you begin with a strain on that relationship then I think it’s often downhill from there.

The interns are leaving comments for the next group filling their spots so the crawl can continue, if not next semester then at least next summer. If you’re in the area, working or interning, I recommend contacting them and signing up! You can also check out the Liggett Stashower intern blog.

prssa.jpgJust a brief note, but I wanted to put in a plug for the Kent State PRSSA chapter that is working all summer long to bring members news and updates.

Of particular interest to me in the latest edition of the PRSSA e-newsletter is an article on my friend Desiree Bartoe who’s completed four internships as of her senior year. I have no better advice than to get as much experience as possible, and if you want an opinion outside of the one I express here, you should check out some of her comments.

I’m without the Internet except during my lunch break during the week for the time being, so I’m going to squeeze in a post while I have the chance. I hope to be back up and running sooner than later.girlonphone.gif

My current internship experience is focusing heavily on media relations, which is my area of least expertise, so I am learning a great deal that I wasn’t able to pick up in the classroom. I think the difficulty with learning media relations in class, at least for me, was that we weren’t able to interact with the media. Pretty key component from what I’ve seen. It was great learning about building media lists, what elements typically go into a media kit, how to write material that will be beneficial to reporters, etc., but actually following up with them about all that material you just sent and setting up interviews and answering questions… well that’s all in a league of its own.

I was able to sit in for some follow-up calls with my supervisors on two accounts several weeks ago, and then last week I was able to make the calls myself. Honestly, I was afraid. I remembered being in print beat reporting and the resulting stress, lack of free time and occasional tears of frustration, and I could only imagine the newsroom with reporters typing away, interviewing and working to meet deadline. Believe it or not, I really didn’t want to be the one to interrupt. Somehow I worked up the courage to finally make the calls, (the fact that I’m being paid to complete tasks was a pretty good incentive) and I survived the experience.

Now that I’ve done it, I have a few personal tips for easing the anxiety of making follow-up calls to the media that I hope are helpful to anyone about to make their first calls. I would also appreciate any additional tips readers can leave, since I’m still new to this as well!

If you get a reporter in person: 
– Begin by asking if it’s a good time to talk. Reporters are busy, and the last thing you want to do is catch them in the middle of the most amazing sentence they have ever written with ten minutes to deadline. By asking if it’s a ‘good time,’ you’re immediately being positive and respecting their time… both key to establishing a good relationship and hopefully getting to share what you’re calling about. Side note: Don’t ever ask if they’re busy. The answer is always yes. Your call will end abruptly.

– Get to the point. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs so tell reporters exactly why you’re calling. Once you state your purpose, they will tell you whether or not your pitch is something they would even consider covering. If they are interested, briefly go into more detail about the newsworthy subject at hand and how you can support them in their coverage of your client. If they are not planning on covering your pitch, be considerate, thank them for their time and end the call.  

– Provide something of substance. Don’t just ask if they received your pitch. From everything I’ve heard from the media side, this might be one of the most annoying habits of PR professionals. If you are following up about a release or kit you sent, then you do want to establish first whether or not they received it and remembered it, but from there you should have supporting or new information to provide them related to that release. If they weren’t interested the first time around, asking them if they got the release isn’t going to help your cause and may well hurt it. Point is, be helpful.

– Don’t get offended when you’re turned down. Easier said than done, but it’s important to keep in mind that reporters are working on a number of stories and just because they are not interested in something your client is doing at the time doesn’t mean they won’t ever be interested in the future. Also, some newsrooms or reporters will just ask if they can put you through to voicemail. Don’t assume they’re blowing you off because again, it’s about their time. It may be easier for them to concentrate on your message later, making the message a more successful opportunity to gain their interest in your pitch.

If you get a reporter’s voicemail:
– Keep it short and simple. If you start reading off your press release, you can bet that your message will be scrapped. Instead, keep your message brief, but don’t sacrifice clarity in your attempt to cram all of your information in under a minute. Speak slowly and clearly, repeating your name and contact information twice.

– Have nothing to hide. I have heard some debate over whether or not to say you are calling as part of a PR agency or as the client because some reporters will automatically disregard PR persons. Clearly if you are in a corporate environment this is not an issue, but in an agency environment, stating that you are with a client could be considered misleading. I prefer to say that I am ‘calling on behalf of’ whichever client I am pitching.

Also, it sometimes helps me to highlight important facts in a release or write out some key messages I want to convey before I start making calls. That way I am sure to at least hit on my most important reasons for calling whether or not the rest of the call goes as planned.

Practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid and don’t give up!

Lost and Found

RelaxIn the cliched words of one of my favorite rockers, “School’s out for summer! School’s out forever!” From the obvious blog neglect, it should be clear that I have been lost. After 17 years of school I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself once classes were done and I had a few weeks off before my summer PR internship at Landau PR began. I don’t actually graduate until August, but finishing the last final I ever have to take sure made me feel like I was done. Not so!

My two-week break wasn’t completely relaxing– moved into a new apartment, nursed my boyfriend who lost the top of one of his fingers in a work-related accident, traveled out of state to visit friends and started reading my long-awaited pile of books. When I headed off to my first day of work, I had a moment of terror.What if I had forgotten everything I ever learned about PR?

So far my fears have been unfounded. I am loving my experience in the agency world. My clients run the gambit, and I just volunteered to be on a relatively new account, On Call, which provides medical insurance to travelers (health care+ travel= me written all over!) What’s most amazing to me is how seamlessly I transitioned from school to work. It’s probably not all that surprising, but the first few days I was already doing research, writing press releases and preparing media lists… all skills I acquired throughout Kent’s PR Sequence and my former internships.

There’s no better way to learn than to just do it, and I’m flinging myself head-first into any experiences I come across, especially ones I’ve not had before. I was able to tag along to a radio interview with a client and watch my colleague prep her for the interview, and I’m looking forward to helping with follow up calls to the media and some networking events.

What I hate most about starting somewhere new is the awkward acclimation, but so far this hasn’t been too hateful. I can’t wait to come in and have a list of things to do and just get right down to it, but right now I’m learning about the people, the clients, the problems and strategies, and that’s ok.

I do have to mention however, especially to anyone in the Kent PR Sequence thinking about taking PR Online tactics, that my blogging is helping me out more than I had anticipated. Two of my account teams already have me researching bloggers to pitch, and I am also going to help prepare a suggestion for a client to start a blog that involves outlining topics to cover with the blog, researching competitor and best case blogs and discussing how to go about creating and maintaining the blog and what time and effort is required. Exciting times, and I finally feel like I have a good handle on something that is not in everyone else’s area of expertise.

It pays to stay on top of things, and I’m hoping the more I blog and continue monitoring other blogs, the more I will be able to contribute on these teams. Guess the little lost PR student is on her way to being found!

social-media.jpgIt’s amazing to me how many majors don’t require internships or any out-of-class experiences in order for students to graduate. My roommate is a biology/pre-med major graduating in December, and she was mentioning to me that she wishes she’d been forced to gain some experience during college, either in a healthcare setting or a research lab, so she would feel better prepared for her upcoming grad school applications and interviews. She readily admits that she didn’t try all that hard to gain experience, but argues that she didn’t really understand its value until it was too late.

While good grades and studious habits will earn you recognition and scholarships, the extracurricular activities and internships are what set you apart from the other superior students. In the end, there’s really no better way of learning than doing.

I really think PRKent takes that ideal to heart. Our professors are always touting the benefits of hands-on experience through classroom projects and paid and unpaid internships, and I guess they should know since they all came back to teach after spending some time working in the real world.  

This blog is one of the many projects to not only make students learn why, but how. Our PR Online Tactics class was faced with a blogging project this semester where we were required to monitor other blogs, develop a theme for our own PR-related blog and then post at least once a week throughout the semester. This part of the class was led by Professor Sledzik, author of the Toughsledding blog, and he recently posted about our class and provided links to everyone’s blogs. I made sure to monitor everyone else’s work throughout the class, and I was impressed. I don’t believe blogging is for everyone, but I thought the variety of themes and opinions really demonstrated what blogging is all about… sharing ideas and creating a conversation.

Unfortunately this was only a classroom project for a number of students so they are not going to be continuing their blogs, but I still think the project was incredibly beneficial. PR majors take classes like Print Beat Reporting that require students to write for our college newspaper for a semester to learn about news value, deadlines and how reporters think, and I’m excited that they’re transfering that ‘learning by doing’ mentality to social media as well.

This is finals week so I’m going to be putting to practice all of my hard-earned knowledge. Then I have a few trips, and I’m off to the real world!

Each semester in our PR Campaigns class here at Kent State a client is selected and the keyred.gifclass is divided into groups who form agencies and compete for the client by developing a plan during the semester. I have been working with my group, AntHill Communications, to create a public relations campaign for KeyBank. This Friday we have 20 minutes to present weeks and months worth of research, planning, developing and design to our client, who will then choose a winner.

To be honest, at this point I don’t care whether or not that’s me. This class has been such an eye-opener to me about what goes on in the real world, and at a probably much more intense and strict pace than what I’ve been working at. It’s also been a fantastic opportunity to culminate all of my classroom and internship experiences into a final product that I will have with me the rest of my life. I’ve heard wonderful success stories of students taking their final casebooks to interviews and really having an upper-hand with the experience of creating and presenting an original campaign to a client already under their belt.

This has also been a stressful semester for me, having to work so closely with a group of people for so long. I only remember enjoying a few group projects during elementary, middle and high school, and that was when I was able to choose a team of like-minded individuals who I knew would complete their portion of the work, assuring me that I would get my A.

This semester has really changed by perception of group work in a number of ways, and since I’m about to enter an agency experience this summer, this realization couldn’t have occurred at a more appropriate time.

  • Delegation=Trust
    As product manager of my group, learning to delegate tasks, and trust that they would be completed and done well, has been a huge challenge. I am the boss that would just rather do it myself so that I know the final product meets my rigid standards of perfection, but I’ve learned the hard way that not only is this impractical but impossible. There is just too much work to do, and perfection is not always possible when a last minute project occurs and you only have an hour to complete it. It’s not that I’ve lowered my standards, I just think I’m a little more realistic. Continue Reading »