By Jason Kirstein, SDSU Public Relations Major
They can teach you a lot in school, but they can never fully prepare you for the real world and your future profession. Being new to anything is a challenge, and in the fast-paced world of PR there are a few tips that will help you climb your learning curve faster and get you into the swing of things. This brief “Intern’s Guide to PR Survival” was obviously not created overnight but through a number of rough or ‘learning’ moments. However, without those moments you will never learn what it takes to make it.
1. You’re a Communicator…Communicate!
At any job, you need to be comfortable working with the rest of your colleagues. But in public relations, especially at full-service firms, it’s even more important to have good dialogue with your colleagues because everyone must work together to serve the needs of clients. Your first few weeks are critical for asking questions, but it can also be the hardest time to ask for help because you are trying to prove that you belong.
Being an intern puts you in a tough position because you are there to learn, but you might lack the confidence to ask questions. Remember that you’re in place to learn. Build the courage to speak up if you are having trouble -- you’ll be surprised how quickly people will step up to help—or at least that has been my experience at (W)right On Communications.
Once you’ve met everyone at your firm, actively engage your new colleagues in dialogue. Seek their opinions and input. This might not be the case at other businesses or firms, but at many PR firms, communication is lateral. If you need help or an opinion all you need to do is ask.
2. Understand Clients are Different
This might seem like a simple point, but unless you take the time to learn about your agency’s clients, you will never be able to perform at your full potential. Granted, you are not expected to be an expert on every client right away, but you should generally know each client’s industry and their current PR initiatives. For example, a hospitality client may be hosting an annual festival or a sustainable energy client may have just earned a major award.
One thing for certain is that every client is different, and each one presents its own opportunities and threats. The quicker you immerse yourself in your clients, the quicker you will be able to identify what needs to be done and what can be improved. This also allows you to bring something to the table, which will give your opinion and input more weight, and ultimately lead to others asking for your input.
3. Have an Open Mind
I learned the most important lesson thus far during my internship on my first day. You need to have an open mind. Whether you are a seasoned professional or an intern, there is always something new to learn. Companies and firms don’t all do things the same. Sure there will be similarities, but if you go into any job or experience with your mind already made up, the potential lessons will be missed. As an intern, your mind has to be open in order to soak up information like a sponge. Every day presents something new and you have to be able to digest and retain as much as possible.
Learning the ropes at any job is a tough and scary thing. It will not always be smooth and you might need to ask a lot of questions, but trust me -- you’re better off doing it, even if it feels intimidating at first. Interning teaches you a lot about the public relations world, but it also teaches you how to deal with new professional scenarios that school can never prepare you for. All you can do is take a deep breath and dive in head first, but with these tips, you’re sure to do better than just survive!