Have you had an opportunity to look through a telescope sometime? The memory of the first view of the outer space stays with us forever, doesn’t it? Suddenly a vast universe comes within your grasp…well almost. An internship at a PR firm is like reliving that moment when a distant world suddenly opens up to you. You have read and passionately tracked famous brands and marvelled at what made them the stars that they are, their dynamic CEOs, the stories of their rise and fall, stuff that legends are made of. An internship at a PR firm gives you the opportunity to see some such brands up close. It represents a wonderful opportunity to begin your journey towards becoming a trusted communications advisor to businesses, governments and individuals in the future.
We all know how critical that first building block in our professional life is, so what can we do to leverage this experience effectively and make it a wonderful learning for ourselves? Here are a few guidelines which I hope will stand you in good stead.
Finding out which aspect of PR gets your blood rushing!
In the first few days during your internship you will hear words like social media, crisis, public affairs, internal communication, investor relations etc. floating around. It is a good idea to see how much you could know about some of these. It will help you decide what aspects of PR you may like to eventually cultivate as your forte. You will begin as a generalist but developing certain strength areas will differentiate you and set you apart in the future!
Content, content and some more content
We have all laboured over school and college essays, hated some, liked some and managed the rest. When you plan to take on the role of a communications advisor in your future you need to sharpen your skills of articulating certain kind of crisp and relevant business communication, sometimes even quasi legal stuff! Tough life, did I hear you say? Well not really if you begin to learn the basic tenets of business and professional writing and communication during your internship. Reach out to the Bonds among your seniors who churn out immaculate documents…get some tricks of their magic from them.
Client? What about them?
A client stands at the center of all the work that a PR firm does-as an intern you may get an opportunity to support one mandate or perhaps two. Make it your business to know all you can about the client; what gets them going? What they expect out of the PR function? How tough is the industry they are operating in? What is their worst nightmare and more. It is the beginning of a learning which you will need to make a constant in your life. There is nothing like predictable businesses out there. Businesses are dynamic given the uniquely challenging world we live in. Get your antenna’s up, push your perceptive quotient to its highest and consign your blinkers to the nearest dust bin-you will need to become a whiz at sometimes understanding the unspoken word! Try and be part of one or two client facing sessions during your internship, take on the role of taking minutes if that’s possible and when you get back try and get feedback from your manager on what the implications of the meeting were.
The circus is not the only place where you can learn the art of juggling!
Your manager will have regular cadence meetings with you to help you prioritise your work for the day and week-make the most of this exercise. Try and understand why some issues are more important than the others. This discipline will last you a lifetime in a profession where you will be regularly called upon to juggle various requirements of several clients. You will be called upon to do so without losing your shirt or dropping a ball.
You love the entertainment industry!
Great! You are not alone; most of us have preferences when it comes to industries. Some industries make us feel like we are aligned to the key responsibilities of our nation-healthcare, education etc. some like entertainment and media could be fun and challenging too and the list can go on. The internship is a good time to familiarise yourself with various industry verticals which your firm may be handling. Explore what really resonates with you, for your unique reasons. Look at strengthening that as a core industry of competency in the future.
The hygiene factors
Reporting on coverage generated on client, news updates, key industry developments, media movements, feature tracking and several more make the basic structure on which the rest of the engagement with a client is based. Make sure you learn about the basics of most of these during your internship. Once done treat them as a sacrosanct paradigm against which you will measure your work every day, in the future.
There is still a significant world which I haven’t covered here. It includes an understanding of the media and knowledge of the journalist fraternity with whom you will be working closely, also the art of storytelling, which lies at the heart of a great PR campaign. We shall pick these up sometime in the future. For now make peace with the knowledge that PR is not a quiet, gentle ride on a gondola, it is more like stepping onto a roller coaster which threatens never to stop but rest assured, once on board, it is a journey you will enjoy!
Seema Siddiqui, the author of this post, is Manager, Public Relations and Communications-India, Dassault Systemes. The views expressed here are her own and do not reflect her organisation’s viewpoint.