Learning the Ropes of a PR Internship

After a semester of never-ending resume updates, cover letter customizations, and nerve-wracking phone interviews, you’ve landed your dream internship. Congratulations! But now comes the tricky part – starting the job. There is a lot to learn about working in public relations, so, as an inside look for a new intern or entry-level hire, here are a few questions I had to ask over the course of my internship:

  1. B2B is different than B2C. Okay, but what does that mean for an intern? Through working with clients across both the financial and professional service spheres, I’ve learned how important ideas can be. Because you aren’t being given a tangible product to pitch to a reporter, gaining coverage is ultimately going to come down to how well you can frame your client’s thought leadership and communicate that to a reporter.
  2. Networks like LinkedIn and Twitter haven’t really affected traditional PR, right? PR is a constantly changing field, and the people who succeed are those who are excited to embrace new iterations of what it means to be in the industry. If you don’t have a Twitter profile, make one right now and start following people and sites you find interesting and engaging. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, upload your resume as soon as possible, and reach out to people you’ve met through previous experiences. You will have to use these networks, and many others, every day, and the more experience you have on them the better.
  3. Do you really need to read the Wall Street Journal, every day? It’s tempting to get by on just skimming the “most-read” articles on the New York Times website, but in PR you’re expected to know the ins and outs of every news story that could affect one of your clients. Find newspapers, blogs, and Twitter feeds that you think are generating truly interesting content that relates to your interests and experiences, and stay up-to-date on their stories.
  4. What exactly is a “pitch”? On my second day in the office, I was asked to “pitch a few trade pubs” – my first thought was that BlissPR had a softball team that no one told me about. As it turns out, a pitch is the story you’re telling to pique a reporter’s interest in your client. Whether it’s an exclusive, one-on-one interview or a new national study, being able to pitch means crafting a general story into a targeted, compelling, and one-of-a-kind story that reporters just can’t let pass them by. Toddi Gunter’s July post, titled “Marketing to the Media,” was invaluable for helping me understand how to create dynamic and engaging pitches.

My ten weeks at Bliss have flown by, and while I’m sad to pack up my desk, I’m excited to take the lessons I’ve learned this summer back to school with me.

If you’re a soon-to-be intern or new hire at a PR firm, what questions would you add to this list? PR pros, have I completely missed a lesson that you wish your interns would learn?


Follow Shannon on Twitter @rice_shannon