I am a firm believer that real public relations knowledge is gained outside the classroom, in the workforce. Students can only learn so much from a textbook; rather, the true learning experience comes when a real, tangible task is handed to them. As a second semester senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, I have had the opportunity to intern at two great companies in the area, a start-up strategic communications firm in Raleigh and an agency specializing in healthcare marketing in Chapel Hill. Both internships have taught me an immense amount about the public relations industry, so I thought I’d spend a few minutes sharing some of my insights.
In an industry in which clear and consistent communications is essential, employees and interns must be able to communicate effectively inside the agency’s doors. In your internship, it is imperative that you speak up if you don’t understand a certain task. Remember, an internship is a learning experience, so it is okay to ask questions. Public relations is a fast-paced industry, so it is easy to get left behind if you are not on the ball. I have found that email comes in handy when my supervisor is out of the office and I have a quick question, so don’t be hesitant to hit the “send” button when you are puzzled.
As students, we are accustomed to being told what to do. Complete the problem set, read chapter four, write the paper and so on. In your internships, however, it is your responsibility to take matters into your own hands. Do not wait until you are told what to do, just be proactive and do it. For instance, at my summer internship, I was in charge of helping maintain a client’s Facebook page. Rather than asking what type of content to post on the page, I went ahead and researched thought-provoking articles that would be of value to the client’s online presence. I found that I not only helped the client reach its target audience online, but I also improved my social media prowess. It’s a win-win situation.
Internships, although they may be unpaid, provide an immeasurable amount of experience that you may never receive in the classroom. Make the extra effort to write a great press release or compile a detailed media list and I assure you, it will pay off in the long run.
Stephanie Cohen, Member