Four Things I Wish I Knew Before My First PR Internship

This blog post was provided by our intern, Andrew Stonebarger

Well, I’m roughly halfway through my summer at Ketner Group Communications and the internship continues to surprise me. I’ve already learned so much during my time here at KG. I’m sure the rest of the summer will be no different! Looking back, if I could talk to myself before I started as an intern, I would give these four pieces of advice. So, without further ado, Four Things I Wish I Knew Before my First PR Internship.

Be Open to New Industries

Internships are all about growth. Every day is a chance to improve and a chance to better yourself. However, growth results from putting yourself out there. If you aren’t willing to step out of your comfort zone, take a risk, and try something new, you are holding yourself back from reaching your full potential.

One way to step out of that comfort zone as an intern begins before you even accept an offer. Don’t be afraid to apply for internships that force you out of your comfort zone. In my intro blog, I write about my passion for sports. Naturally, when I accepted an internship in retail technology PR, I was nervous. How would I last a whole summer working in an industry I had no previous experience in and no real knowledge of? Turn’s out, the industry had so much depth and intrigue that I would end up liking it.

You will never realize how interesting an industry is until you dive head first into it. By stepping outside of my comfort zone and taking an internship in retail technology PR, I found a new industry that I enjoy. Retail technology plays a role in every purchase you make and the industry continues to grow and change every day. With innovations and inventions pulling the industry forward, you never know what’s in store.

There’s a world of opportunity out there. Some of it may seem scary, and that’s because it is. Trying something new is scary, but by stepping out of your comfort zone and taking that challenge head-on, you are setting yourself up for growth and success. Who knows, you may find your new dream career or your newest passion from it.

The CEO’s Door is Always Open

As an intern, you’re low on the totem pole. So, what are the odds you get to interact with the big-time executives, directors, and CEOs? To my surprise, the odds were good; I had a meeting planned with the president and founder of Ketner Group – Jeff Ketner – within the first week. One of the biggest things to look for in a strong business is accessibility to senior leadership. The chance to interact and work with company leadership will go a long way in your growth as an intern. 

Whether it is an in-depth, hour-long meeting or five minutes to share a coffee, take advantage of every opportunity you get to interact and work with your senior leadership. Those executives, directors, and CEOs can make a world of a difference. They have been in your shoes before, their mentorship can offer you so much. Whether it’s about work or life in general, these are the people you want in your corner and rooting for you.

Another tip I’ve learned: don’t be afraid to speak up in staff-wide meetings to share your ideas, but do so sparingly. You don’t want to come across as a know-it-all. Share ideas you know add value to the discussion. Share your ideas that help solve problems, and be someone who helps add to the solution and makes an impact rather than a bystander. This will help prove to the entire company that you care about the situation, want to make a difference, and have the skills and knowledge to solve problems and generate effective solutions.

If I could go back, I would tell myself not to be afraid of senior leadership, but to use them as a resource to build you up. They usually have decades of experience, tons of advice, and countless stories to share. Taking the time to meet and interact with them will go a long way toward your growth as a PR professional.

Good Research Skills Go a Long Way

It doesn’t matter what career field you go into, research will play a role in your day-to-day responsibilities. You may not work in a lab running science experiments, but good research skills go a long way towards success in a PR internship. Everyone working in PR needs to have strong research skills to communicate effectively in a variety of subjects.

Before you can succeed in an internship, you have to get an internship. Researching background information on the company you are applying to, their clients, and their methods will be essential in your PR internship hunt. This will allow you to tailor your resume, cover letter, and interview to that specific company. I promise companies will notice these efforts and reward you for it. This may seem obvious, but doing so will go a long way in helping you stand out as a candidate.

Even after you’ve secured the internship, being able to conduct effective and comprehensive research is very important. If you stepped out of your comfort zone and took an internship in a new industry, your research skills will help you make a smooth transition. Being able to conduct effective research will allow you to become an expert on a subject quicker than anyone else.

As a PR Intern, you are preparing yourself for the responsibilities and day-to-day tasks of a PR professional. Even as a PR pro, research is important. It helps you keep track of new and emerging markets and is essential if you want to create and contribute content to your publications. It is important to develop these skills over time – the earlier the better. Improving your research skills as an intern will go a long way as you become more advanced in the field.

Be Open About Your Weaknesses 

I’ve said it a few times in this blog, but I’ll say it again, internships are all about growth and developing your skills in your desired career field. I’ve been asked in every interview to date, “what are your weaknesses?” When you answer this question, be honest. It will go a long way toward developing your skills. Employers take that question very seriously, and if you’re hired, employers will give you a chance to improve and work on those weaknesses.

The best employers will listen to your weaknesses and set you up with the opportunity to improve on them. For me, one of my biggest weaknesses as a PR Intern was my writing. I was open and honest about this during my interview with Ketner Group and here I am writing blogs, bylines and press releases on a daily basis. Ketner Group listened to my weaknesses and tailored my internship experience to help me work on them.

If your employer isn’t helping you work on your weaknesses, they and you aren’t giving yourself the chance to improve and turn those weaknesses into strengths. Being open about your weaknesses is key to reaching your full potential and taking your abilities to the next level level. Being honest about your weaknesses demonstrates that you are introspective and driven. This transparency will go a long way as you improve your internship experience and develop your abilities as a PR pro.

My first PR internship has been an eye-opening experience. Looking back on the summer so far, I’ve learned so much and it’s not even over yet! There is always something to improve on and an internship is a great place to work on your craft. So going back to a couple of months ago, I’d let myself know that even though the first internship may seem scary, the lessons to be learned and the experiences to be had make it well worth it. In the end, I get to watch my skills and development as an emerging PR professional unfold.