Lessons from a PR Intern

I cannot believe it has been a month since my last blog post, but I guess that what happens when you have the opportunity to work on an RFP!  For my final intern project at Burson-Marsteller, I was put on a team with 5 other interns to answer an RFP for one of their clients.  We spent many hours (often until 9 or 10 in the office) working together to create a strategic campaign for a real problem the client faced.  We presented in front of senior management and the client and ended up winning the competition against the two other intern teams!  It was a great learning experience and a fantastic end to my summer internship.

Along the way, I learned a lot about the field of public relations from my supervisor, colleagues and training sessions that the HR department provided for us.  Here are just some key items I took away from my experience:

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. – Everyone knows that it takes awhile to get adjusted at a new company.  An internship is a time to learn from those around you.  If you do not understand a project you are assigned, ask about it.  Ask to learn about the background of the client and project so you can do a better job.  As you spend more time working at the company and on a particular client, you will soon be able to answer those questions yourself.
• Take a chance, and tell your supervisor that creative idea that you may not think they will consider. – Many clients are targeting kids our age, and they want to know what will get our attention.  Who better to know how to solve this dilemma than us?  You never know who may be the creator of the next BIG campaign.
• Get to know your co-workers and the senior staff of the agency. – This summer, I worked with some of the most impressive people I have ever been around.  These people remember what it is like to be in my shoes.  They remember being the intern and not understanding the culture of the company.  Ask to grab a cup of coffee or lunch to hear about some of their experiences.  You will learn a lot simply from listening to them and potentially build a great relationship.  People in PR love to help others.
• Don’t just ask for more responsibilities.  Prove that you deserve more responsibilities. – Actions speak louder than words.  Agency life is extremely busy, and supervisors would love to delegate more work to the junior level.  But before they can do that, they have to have faith that the work will be completed well.  Show your managers that you can deliver outstanding work.
• Learn to juggle. – Ed Menniger told us from the first day that we would need to learn how to juggle multiple tasks that are thrown our way.  It is the only way to survive in agency life.  Even if it takes some time adjusting to different demands coming in from different people, it is a necessary part of survival when working in an agency.

Getting adjusted to life in an agency takes some time, but don’t be discouraged!  At the end of the day, it is a rewarding (yet hectic) experience, and you learn a lot.  The five items above are just a glimpse into my life this summer, and the experiences I took out of my internship.

Interview Preparation

In anticipation of my summer internship interviews, I have decided to reflect on past interviews and prepare for future interviews.  Before coming to college, my interviews were not very in depth as they consisted of interviews for a lifeguarding job or being a camp counselor.  However, my PR interviews proved very interesting.

I had 3 phone interviews last year because I go to school in Boston, but I was planning on working in New York City.  However, one of the phone interviews was with a firm in Boston.  I found it interesting that my New York City phone interviews were much longer and more in depth than the one I had for my Boston position.  However, the standard questions were asked in all 3 interviews: “Why PR?” “What interests you about PR?” “When did you decide to pursue PR?” And they wanted to know about the main topic on my cover letter, the PR conference that I help plan for PRSSA.

However, there were some questions that are trickier.  I was asked by one company if I was at a nail salon and had to pick up a magazine to read while my nails dried, which magazine would I pick up and why?  I was also asked in depth questions about the subject of Public Relations, but at the time I had not taken any public relations classes as I was only a freshman (at Boston University, you do not take PR classes until your sophomore year).

How do you prepare for questions like this?  I know that I had full knowledge of the company and even kept the website open on my laptop during the interview in case I had to reference something.  But how do you answer these types of questions without making up an answer that is obviously fake to the interviewer?

I am more confident as my experience is PR has grown since the last time I went through interviews.  I have had an internship, taken 2 PR classes, and taken a more active role in the Public Relations Student Society of America and its networking opportunities with the Public Relations Society of America.  As long as you feel comfortable with yourself, have your portfolio prepared, and research the company extensively before entering the HR’s office or picking up your phone for the interview, success is on your way.