How to make the most of your PR internship

This hands-on experience can be the first step in a successful, exciting career in public relations. Here’s how to capitalize on your golden opportunity.

You landed it.

Months of cover-letter revisions and tapping into every LinkedIn connection have paid off: You’ve landed the elusive PR internship. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and you’re going to gain more experience in the next few months than you have in years of schooling.

You want nothing more than to thrive and grow in this new position, but how? From one intern to the next, here are a few tips that I have picked up along my journey:

Take notes.

If your office does not supply notebooks, invest a few dollars to buy some. I carry mine wherever I go to jot down things from impromptu to-do tasks to colleagues’ book recommendations. Write down what you’re told. Don’t be the intern who has to ask someone to repeat something; it could be perceived as your failure to listen.

Working on your writing.

Clear writing is crucial in public relations. You might write a byline for a client or a speech for an executive, so work to improve your writing throughout your internship. One key is using the correct grammar and consistent style, so follow the AP Stylebook. It will tell you everything from the correct way to write a date to which numbers to spell out versus using numerals. It’s updated every year, so have the most current copy at your disposal.

Another method is by reading critically. In the morning I pour myself a cup of tea and browse Medium and The New York Times and note words and phrases that I can inject into my writing. I also look for passages that are a chore to read, where further edits could have been made. Learn from other writers’ successes and mistakes.

Be accountable.

You are responsible for everything you say, do and write during your internship. You are new to the field, which means today’s work will underpin your future reputation. Use that to your advantage: You start with a clean slate and can create a positive image for yourself in the industry.

You don’t have to be the perfect intern and know everything, but if you don’t know something, avoid saying simply, “I don’t know.” Instead, follow up with an action item or an indicator that you will use the moment as a steppingstone, such as, “I’m not certain on the answer to that question, but I will look that up and get back to you right away.” This shows you are eager to learn more and will add to your knowledge bank.

Compete against yourself.

Try not to compare yourself against other interns; people have different skillsets and abilities. You might be great at editing, while the intern two desks down may be everyone’s go-to for creating briefings—and that’s OK. You can’t control other people, but what you can control is your progression. At the end of every day, evaluate what you can improve on tomorrow. Pick a few things to focus on—something as broad as time management or as specific as finding more tailored publications to pitch contributed content. See your shortcomings not as stopping points or places to avoid, but rather as opportunities to improve.

Be bold.

No one can read your mind, so ask confidently for what you want.

I learned about press briefings on my second day and was fascinated with the idea of hearing a client and a journalist interact in real time, so I sent a note to the team asking to let me attend future briefings. I have since been invited to sit in on calls and edit briefing documents, which also exposed me to the preparation side of things. Your superiors want to see you thrive and prosper in your PR internship, so be clear about what you want and what will help you succeed.

Loren Pickard is an intern at Communiqué PR and is studying communications at University of Washington. A version of this article originally appeared on the Communiqué PR blog.

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