“Erm…what’s PR? What exactly do you do?”
This was one of the frequently asked questions I got from family and friends when I told them I’d started interning at a Public Relations firm. So let me first explain what PR is. To me, it’s about helping a brand to convey what they want to present to the public through media channels, and looking forward to the results.
Those who knew what PR was, were surprised that I chose to intern at a PR firm — I wasn’t exactly the type of person you’d expect to belong there. Admittedly, I didn’t expect myself to be part of the media industry either, much less go into PR, where communication and professional networking is important. But that didn’t stop me from stepping into the supposedly fancy and glamorous PR world.
My next three months there were mentored and close-knit, and I made sure to learn as much as possible to equip myself with the essential PR skills by the time I’d left.
Whether you’ve already gotten that PR internship you’ve always wanted, or are thinking of breaking into the industry, here are a few things you should expect.
1. The Tedious And Mundane Stuff
Media monitoring — one of the first things any PR intern is taught, and can expect to do on a daily basis throughout their internship. What is media monitoring, you ask? Put simply, it means keeping on top of all content being published about your client’s company. You’ll be expected to constantly scan through all types of publications from online to print, and to ensure that the long-term image of your client’s company is upheld.
It’s definitely not a task you should belittle, despite how mind-numbing it can get — every piece of content you find indicates that your PR efforts are being rewarded, and that your client’s money is being put to good use. Online publications are easier to track, but you can never escape from the hands of print media. Be prepared to purchase magazines and newspapers and flip through every single page to look for that single piece of news.
As I was at a startup with only four other colleagues, I got to admit: it’s tedious to have to oversee the entire media monitoring process yourself. In addition to finding news coverage on our clients, I had to save and compile them. That said, media monitoring does have its perks: you get exposure to publications you probably never knew of before, and become more detailed-orientated over time.
2. It’s A Ton Of Emails
Alright, so people in PR are not the only ones with plenty of emails to reply to, but I’m sure we rank quite high on the scale. Besides receiving Google Alerts on the latest trends we cannot miss out on, there’s also a long list of people waiting for our responses.
A client from the F&B sector, for example, would require us to send their treats to journalists who might be interested in covering their story. Finding out which publications are keen, their addresses, and answering a whole lot of questions via email is your responsibility to handle. And no — you can’t back out now.
3. From Monday Meetings…To Daily Meetings
The meetings never seemed to end. During my internship, we had weekly Monday morning meetings to discuss the agenda for the week. It’s exhausting enough to have meetings on Mondays, but sometimes, there would be another one after lunch, and another on Tuesday with the Marketing Manager, and yet another on Wednesday with the Content Manager…you get the drift.
So what I’m saying is, brace yourself for potential meetings with almost every colleague — they’ll all have something they need your help with. It’s the way of life in a lean company: there are tons things to do, and your managers will appreciate you being able to assist them. Always be prepared to flaunt your ideas and come up with questions to ask, and never be afraid to ask if you have any doubts.
4. “Can You Do This For Me?”
It’s true: one downside of being an intern — no matter what industry you’re in — is that you’ll always be running errands for other people. Besides the mandatory buying of coffee/lunch that most interns would be familiar with, I also had to go to the post office to buy stamps, boxes, and even deliver parcels containing media kits. It’s never a good feeling, but you can’t say no.
You might think that your co-workers don’t care or appreciate your efforts in doing these little things. But they notice. So don’t be disheartened — or worse, feel mistreated — these little things do matter. And never, ever do this. Take the initiative and have tolerance in everything you do.
5. Learn How To Drink
One of the things I definitely did not expect to receive from my boss was a can of beer one Friday evening. Before you judge, bear in mind that this was in fact usual practice for this startup: on some Fridays, we’d all go up to the lounge with a mini-bar to catch up and relax for the day. And sometimes, it’s okay to decline if you really don’t want a beer.
When I say you need to learn how to drink, I’m referring to events, company gatherings and nights-out, which often involve wine and champagne — and which you will be obliged to attend.
What I’ve experienced may not be exactly what other PR interns have gone through. What’s inescapable, though, is that in all internships, it’s important to do as much as you can, don’t take things personally, be nice, and hold on.
Because before you know it, you’re not an intern anymore.