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.

Finding My Way: Andrew Stonebarger

This blog post was provided by our intern Andrew Stonebarger

Finding My Way to Austin

Hello everyone! My name is Andrew Stonebarger, and I am a senior public relations student at The University of Texas at Austin. I was born in Nashville, TN, but I grew up in Syracuse, NY. Fun fact about Syracuse: it is one of the snowiest cities in America with an average snowfall of 123.8 inches per year! After living in basically the tundra for 13 years, I knew I needed to go to school in the south, so I packed my bags, drove 26 hours and found my way to Austin.

Moving 26 hours away to go to college was a tough task, but I’ve learned a lot because of it. In my time at UT, I have grown as a person, just as much, if not more, than I have as an intellectual. In addition, I found such a unique campus atmosphere that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Austin is a one-of-a-kind place with an amazing balance between college town and metropolitan city.  It has truly become my home away from home and has helped me grow so much more than I imagined. This is a special city; it’s hard to imagine my life and college experience anywhere else.

Finding My Passions

My journey to where I am today as a public relations major wasn’t easy. I entered UT Austin as an actuarial science major. I found myself bored and struggling. In turn, I started taking new classes and I found myself in PR 101. I thought to myself, “you’re a good public speaker; this’ll be a breeze.” I was dumbfounded when the professors first words were, “if you’re here because you’re a good public speaker and you think that’s PR, you are in for a rude awakening.” My heart was beating out of my chest, but I stuck with the class and grew to love it. The class was confusing, but refreshing. As I took more classes, my passion grew and I found myself in a new major.

PR allowed for a sense of creativity that I hadn’t experienced before. Every problem in mathematics had the same solution with different numbers, but in public relations, every problem requires innovation that allows me to express that creativity. As I finish my college career, I look back and hope one day I can shed light on what PR actually is to younger generations. Eventually, I want to introduce communications to a high school curriculum.

Outside of the Office

Beyond academics and work, I have a ton of hobbies. I play for Texas Men’s Volleyball. This year we went to Denver for NCVF Nationals and finished 9th! Other than volleyball, I play chess and I still can’t beat my Dad so clearly I need to practice more. I also love the NBA and college football. If you want to talk Finals or Free Agency, I’ll tell you where every star is going to end up or if you want to talk college football, I’ll tell you why UT is winning The National Championship this year.

Finding My Way to Ketner Group

As the summer drew closer, my nerves were growing. It was April and I still hadn’t secured an internship yet. I had an interview with Ketner Group and just had a gut feeling when I finished it. The gut feeling screamed, “Ketner Group is where you should be this summer!” When I got the offer, I was ecstatic. I knew once that happened, this was going to be an amazing summer. I’m only in my first week, but I have a good feeling about Ketner Group. Finding my way here is a huge step in the right direction; I can feel it.

I’m so excited to get to work here at Ketner Group Communications. I know there is a lot of knowledge at Ketner Group and there’s so much I can learn. I have a great feeling about this summer and am so excited to get started!

What I’ve Learned at Ketner Group

This blog post was written by our intern, Daniela Ramirez. 

Find an Internship to Help You Develop These Four Skills

Senior year has held lots of great memories for me, from interning at Ketner Group to finishing my capstone project during my last semester of college. Working at Ketner Group throughout my senior year has been a wonderful experience as I gained a variety of skills, whether I realized it at the time or not. I believe a few of the skills I have learned along the way have been particularly critical in prepping me for the next phase of my career.

Teamwork
Teamwork really does make the dream work. What I have appreciated the most about Ketner Group is the team-oriented approach. They tackle everything with teamwork and include members of the team from every level, which has allowed me to gain experience in real client work. I never feel intimidated to ask questions, go to a team member to understand something better or pick their brain about a certain subject.

Time Management
The great thing about Ketner Group is that you are not solely assigned to one client so I’ve been able to work on a variety of projects and tasks. A valuable result of working on a multiple clients has been learning to manage my time, making the most out of deadlines and priorities.

Media Relations
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about media relations is how big of a role research plays. Pitching media is nothing if you haven’t taken the time to research the best targets for a particular opportunity or idea. Being smart about the journalists you reach out to and making sure the information you are pitching them is relevant and appropriate is key for achieving media relations success.

Messaging
A big part of PR is looking at the bigger picture and understanding the noteworthy takeaways. When putting together customized pitches or content, understanding the overarching message and goals will help grab journalist’s and the reader’s attention.

Land an Internship to Help Gain These Skills
I have been fortunate enough to be a part of a team that challenges me everyday and pushes me to continue learning. I believe this is something everyone should look for an internship.

When seeking an internship, go after opportunities that spark your interest and relate to your passion. If you want to work at a non-profit in the long run, intern at a non-profit, but if you’re interested in working at a PR agency or corporation after graduation, find an agency or corporation with a strong internship program. A good place to start your search is by joining student organizations that are relevant to your major and attend events with companies, events or individuals that are of interest to your work. These opportunities are a great way to learn more about their day-to-day and will help you get your foot in the door.

Ultimately, make the most of your four years and put yourself out there; the more internships you do, the more you will learn and get a better idea of what you want to do after school. Before you know it, these opportunities will be gone and it will be time to enter the job market.

 

 

What a Classroom Can’t Teach You, An Internship Can

This blog was written by our intern, Kamilla Rahman.

As a college student I often find myself slaving for hours and hours in a textbook and trying to shove as much information as I can into my brain in order to do well on an exam. This is simply how college is structured; you’re given information, you’re expected to learn it, you’re tested over the materials and by the end of the semester you are dubbed proficient in that area of study. If a class isn’t focused around exams, the process will be the same except your proficiency in the subject matter will be based off of a project or a series of assignments.

Don’t get me wrong, I have learned more than I can imagine during my time in college. But how much can someone learn in the confines of a textbook, case study or hypothetical situation given by a professor? Not enough.

As a public relations major I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to understand a target market, write in AP style, research media and create campaigns for clients. My class work is graded by a professor or a teacher’s assistant and not assessed by a real client. I’m given a grade and that grade doesn’t hold much meaning besides it affecting my GPA. Because I write a press release and it receives a 93, does that mean if it was distributed to a media list it would be covered by a variety of journalists? Probably not.

Many times the best way to learn is simply by doing. The classroom provides the basic skills needed to have a career, but an internship provides the experience to have a successful one. My internship has given me the opportunity to fine-tune my writing skills in a way I know my writing classes simply cannot. It’s given me the opportunity to create REAL content for REAL clients, which is something only an internship can provide. It’s allowed me to work in a fast-paced environment and helped me understand what to expect in the future. With school, you learn a lot of general, yet important, things about your major, but internships give you the chance to figure out where you actually want to take your career.

Internship experience is truly irreplaceable. Without an internship, I would feel like I was being thrown out into the world after graduation. On some level, that is still how I feel, but I’m much more confident that I’ll have a grasp of what I want to do and where I want to begin when the time comes.

What to do on the first day of your summer internship

You’re probably feeling some nerves. Finals are finally over and summer is finally here but the first day of a summer internship is likely making you feel a little anxious.

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courtesy of Creative Commons

Lucky for you, I’m here to share some good news. Having both experienced the first day as an intern (four times!) and a boss (twice!), everyone feels excited and a little nervous about the first day.

Plus, an internship is a great opportunity to uncover your strengths and try out a variety of projects. It will help you get the job you want and it will also help you understand who you are and what you can offer.

In order to help you prepare for that first day, and the days to come, I’ve come up with three Do’s to ensure you make a great first impression and create a lasting positive impression. Say hello to a guaranteed recommendation!

Do: Ask Questions

Curiosity shows engagement and interest. The first day is all about getting the lay of the land. Questions will help you figure out how the company is run and how you can best support the goals your employer is hoping you can help achieve. Your questions should be aimed at understanding first and achieving second. Questions will help you to understand how the company works and what you’ll do. But they’ll also help you figure out how you can best succeed on a project you’ve been assigned. Remember, you’re interning to support the company but you’re also interning in order to learn! Questions ensure you impact the company the best way you can and prepare you for your next job.

Do: Dress the Part

Ah, the blessing and the curse of clothing. No matter whether you love it or hate it, our clothes represent who we are and reflect our opinion of any situation. For the first day of your summer internship, you’ll want to dress to reflect your respect of your new organization and fit in with the company culture. Did everyone wear jeans and a t-shirt when you interviewed? Go for a tailored but relaxed look: black slacks, a knee length dress or a sweater and blouse. Consider wearing your new suit as separates and save the jeans for your second month on the job. Did everyone wear suits and tie when you interviewed? Match their clothes and find yourself something equally buttoned up. Nordstrom Rack and Neiman Marcus Last Call are great resources for a college budget.

Do: Your Homework

Help make your first day less stressful and ensure you make a great first impression by spending an hour or so preparing for your job. First, you’ll want to get familiar with your company: check out the website, make sure you know the name of your new employer and figure out the route you’ll travel to get to the office. Second, set some expectations and goals for your work. How do you want this job to help you get your next job? How do you want this job to set you up for your dream career? What do you want to learn? Who do you want to meet? By understanding these answers before you even set foot in the office, you’ll ensure you achieve what you want. That makes for a better future and a more fun, relaxing present.

Now, you have the tools you need to start your new internship. By encouraging yourself to ask questions, dressing for success and doing you’re homework, you’re guaranteed to have a great first day. And remember, you already completed the hardest part of getting ready for your first day: you were hired. You’re already well on your way.

How to Find a PR Internship

This blog was written by our intern, Cambria Sawyer.

That whole “chicken or the egg” question may be archaic, but it’s more relevant than you think.

Walking into your freshman year at a university and landing that first internship is not particularly high in the priorities list – but it should be. When it’s all you can do to find time to feed yourself in between classes, class projects and research papers, how can something that seems so far away be so immediately important?

The thing is, when it comes to internship interviews, you need some experience to prove you’re up for the job, which is kind of hard to do, considering you’ve never worked anywhere before. Classic chicken or the egg.

But the puzzle can be solved, and here’s how:

Experience
Get involved early. This is how to get over the “lack of experience” hump.

First things first, join a club. This is why starting early is such a big deal, because it takes a while to absorb enough information from that membership to be worthwhile. For public relations students, joining the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is an excellent starting point. As a member, you will have the opportunity to participate in third-party mentorship programs, volunteer activities, networking events and PR agency tours. In other words, the good stuff.

The organization doesn’t have to revolve around PR either to be meaningful, but PR is always relevant to any group wanting to stay afloat. Run for an officer position that handles communications, PR or social media for a club. Any way you can get your hands on some real-life application of the things you’re learning in class will make you a stronger candidate.

Resume
You can be the most qualified person they interview and still not get the job. How? The way you present yourself can make or break you, and it starts with the first impression you make, your resume.

First, make sure it’s one page. It shows that you can pinpoint what is important and convey it concisely, and in reality, it’s just easier to read.

Image courtesy of Flikr
Image courtesy of Flikr

Second, make it your own. No need to glue sequins on it or anything, but find a way to personalize it in a way that reflects who you are and helps you stand out, but is still professional.

Third, do not send it off as a Word doc. While converting it to a PDF shows a heightened level of professionalism, it also safeguards the formatting of your resume. It may look fabulous to you on your Mac computer, but your interviewer is seeing awkward spacing and weird margins on their PC.

Interview
There is a reason people interview candidates instead of just look at a resume; they want to see what you’re like.

Here are three steps to ace the interview:

  1. Research. Make sure you become familiar with the company and the interviewer, if you know who it is. If they specialize in something, look into that industry a bit. Read up on the clients they work for and what kind of work they do for them. Check out the interviewer’s LinkedIn page to understand their background and what they do at the company. Your choice to research correlates with the amount of investment and ingenuity you will bring to the job – something an employer definitely wants to see.

    Photo courtesy of Pixabay
    Photo courtesy of Pixabay
  1. Ask Questions. This one is pretty straightforward. Actually have some questions in mind when they ask the standard, “do you have any questions for me?” This shows that you’re engaged, inquisitive and are there to learn more – which is the whole point of the internship in the first place, right?

 

  1. Be Yourself. Sorry for the cliché, but it’s important. Be professional and unique, but not in a way that misrepresents who you are as a person. If you get a job pretending to be someone you’re not, it won’t be a good fit. When you get a job offer from your future employer to whom you were completely genuine with, both you and the company will grow – because that office is exactly where you should be.

 

Happy interviewing!