Close your eyes and think back on your days as an intern.
If you were a PR intern, you probably remember making your first pitches by phone, learning how to work the office fax machine (remember that craziness?), and standing ready to be delegated at a moment’s notice to run mail, stuff envelopes, and create event name tags.
If your PR internship was done right, you exchanged your eagerness to learn PR for a new list of skills and experience that you put on your debut resume. The agency or in-house PR team earned an extra set of hands and a fresh perspective on their client work. It was a win-win for everyone.
So now that you are in the driver’s seat and creating PR internships of your own, you’re the one in charge of deciding what PR interns do for your team. What a great opportunity to bring some new energy into your office and gift a burgeoning PR pro with a memorable experience!
Here’s how to create win-win PR internship opportunities for your interns:
- How to create win-win PR intern opportunities
How to create PR intern opportunities
Before you post that PR internship description, meet with your team to discuss how a PR intern can enhance your agency.
Where could they provide the most value on the team? What entry-level tasks would be both exciting and educational for them? Are there any upcoming projects, like a client event, that have a lot of smaller sub-tasks that a PR intern could work independently on?
Write the internship description together and collaborate on the final version, so everyone knows what to expect.
If you assign the intern to work under someone else on your team, create a detailed training plan with that person. Discuss your goals for the PR internship and empower the internship supervisor to hand off low-risk projects to the intern.
Don’t forget to confirm you’re hiring under the proper legal conditions. Refer to the Department of Labor for the specific qualifications of an internship.
Finally, if you’re a small agency, you may be competing with larger, well-known agencies for interns. So when interviewing, tell potential PR interns about the advantages of working with a boutique agency like yours. They’ll have more involvement in client work, be exposed to a wider range of PR tasks, and receive close mentoring from senior-level professionals. If they dream of having their own PR agency one day, their time inside your agency will prove even more insightful.
Start with the basics
A PR intern needs to start with the basics. Although they may be studying PR or communications in college, they have yet to apply this knowledge to real-world projects, tasks, and PR tools
Set the stage by giving them a list of the PR skills they’re going to learn during their PR internship. You’re setting expectations about the level of work you’ll be requesting, and it’s exciting for a PR intern to hear what they’ll walk away with after time at the agency.
Have PR interns begin by becoming familiar with your clients. Provide a list and ask them to spend time on your clients’ websites and social media platforms. Let them ask clarifying questions about the businesses.
Take them to lunch on the first day to make it extra special. Then, have each team member schedule a one-on-one coffee break with the intern during their first week. Encourage them to go off-site for this to get to know each other. This upfront investment in building office connections is always worth it. Your employees get an opportunity to mentor, and the PR intern feels like a part of the team.
Fill their plate so they’re not bored! They are new to an office environment; remember your first days learning what a full day in an office felt like? In fact, you may want to create a modified schedule for them if that works for both of you. Perhaps ending their day at 3 pm or having them do half-days their first week will make the transition from college to the office a little smoother.
Check in at the end of every day their first week, and then at the end of every week after that. These 15-minute sessions alone will give you great insights into how the internship is faring for your agency and for the intern.
Show, don’t tell
We can talk all day about what we do, but there’s no better way to learn than to see PR work in action. Fortunately, this part is easy!
BCC them on emails to clients, and let them sit in on meetings and brainstorming sessions.
If your agency uses an automated PR software system like Prowly, this part is even easier. You can train the intern on the system, give them permission to look at the details of your agency’s shared account work there, and within a few hours they can work on real PR tasks like creating targeted media contact lists and building online newsrooms. They can draft pitches too! The best part is that all of this can be saved in the system for their supervisor to review, edit, and give feedback on.
Assign independent projects to PR interns
Give your PR intern small, easily-digestible independent projects, and it’s very likely they’ll surprise you with their work and ideas. A great intern task is creating social media captions and graphics. Managing media monitoring and organizing press clippings for the team are helpful too.
As college students, PR interns are also terrific at gathering research. Ask them to research your clients’ competitors and present where they see the competition succeeding and failing against your client.
Writing is the backbone of a successful PR career, so get them started! Ask them to draft newsletters, blog posts, and press releases. Provide them with past versions, so they can review them for tone and voice. Learning how to adopt a brand voice is an excellent PR skill you can teach them
Finally, don’t overlook PR projects for your agency. An intern can interview and update your team’s bios, write SEO-rich blog posts for your website, and pull together agency case studies. Assign them an Instagram takeover of your agency account, so they can post behind-the-scenes agency life as an intern with you. Have them create an Instagram Stories highlight button focused on their internship, so you can attract future PR interns.
With all assignments, just remember to provide clear project expectations and a reasonable deadline, so they can practice managing their daily work schedule.
Give frequent feedback
Internships are educational opportunities, so consistent feedback on work is important to an intern. During your check-in meetings, point out where they’re excelling, and where they can improve. Then, assign them more projects in both of these areas.
Feedback is especially helpful for writing projects. Edit their work using the “track changes” feature, so they can see exactly what you edited. Invite them to spend an hour or two a week watching copywriting tutorials on YouTube. There are a lot of thorough training videos out there that will reinforce your writing feedback.
Take PR interns on a “field trip”
It’s easy to spend an entire day looking at our screens. There’s so much work to do that we’re often shocked to look up and see the day has passed us by. After years of experience, we can easily find our PR workflow and remain productive for long periods of time.
This is not always the case for an intern just learning the ropes. Their projects require new skills and challenges.
That is why you should invite them to take part in work that takes place outside the office, like client visits, press events, and photoshoots. We know that any of these can use another assistant on-site to take notes, hand out materials, or set up locations.
Stepping away from our desks and changing up the environment with interns and teammates can also lead to valuable conversations about new ideas and support needs. Plus, you get the added opportunity to learn more about each other!
Send them off right
If you’ve done things correctly, you’ve used this PR internship opportunity to create a new evangelist for your agency. Your PR intern is going to build on their new skills and experience to eventually become a PR pro. They’ll remember you and speak positively about your agency and your work.
When your PR intern leaves, one of the gifts you can give them is a written description they can include on their resume. It shows the new skills they’ve developed, and it highlights the success of their time with you.
PR Intern, Ellington Communications, Summer 2022
Under the supervision of a Senior PR account executive, I supported the agency’s team with a full range of PR tasks:
– Prepped client meeting agendas, including preparation of digital clippings for presentations
– Wrote client social media posts for LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook
– Wrote and published weekly blog posts on the agency’s website, focused on the latest news in the PR industry
– Created first draft press releases for the agency’s consumer app client
– Supported location set-up for a major client press event with 100 guests
– Created media lists using the agency’s automated PR software
Stay in touch
Finally, make sure you’ve connected with the intern on LinkedIn, so you can stay in touch. You may have a job opportunity for them when they graduate. You might collaborate on brand partnerships in the future.
Since they trained with you, your PR intern has a bright future ahead, so check in on them from time to time. Without a doubt, you’ll find future opportunities together!
Cover photo by Priscilla Du Preez