4 ways students can land PR internships

Whether you’re scurrying to cement summer plans to boost your industry experience or are preparing for fall opportunities, these tips can help you stand out.

Young PR pros, it’s time to secure or prepare for a summer internship.

If you’re a junior or senior in college, you’re probably spiffing up your résumé—and crossing your fingers, too.

Applying for such a promising gig, especially in the PR industry, can be daunting. “How do I gain experience without having experience?” is a question that probably crosses your mind every day.

If your Google searches are filled with questions about preparing for interviews and tips for outstanding cover letters, there’s good news: We’ve all been there.

Most veteran PR pros have spent time on the other end, mentoring interns at all skill levels. We’re here to help.

Whether you’re still hoping to land a PR internship this summer or are looking toward fall opportunities, here are a few things to add to your checklist:

1. Gain practical knowledge even when you don’t have experience.

Many PR internships and entry-level positions require industry experience. If you’ve never officially worked on a campaign or with clients, have no fear. It’s going to be OK.

Write. You don’t have to have a stellar blog, a million Twitter followers or news stories featured in major publications. If you go to a restaurant, write a short review and use it in your portfolio.

Think about your dream client, create a similar imaginary company and write a press release for it—or give it a few social media recommendations. Although it may not be “real life” experience, recruiters should appreciate the creativity and effort you put into it.

You can also look for nonprofits and small companies that might not have the budget to hire a PR agency but would appreciate your help for free. When you’re starting out, money can’t be a factor. Don’t be above doing things for free.

2. Give cover letters your best efforts.

In the PR industry, your cover letter is one of the most important pieces of your application. This is your chance to show a potential employer that you know how to pitch and think creatively.

Your cover letter is your pitch. You want your potential employer to finish reading your letter and feel confident in your writing, grammar, spelling, punctuation and ability to craft a winning pitch. After all, that’s a huge responsibility of PR pros.

No one expects you to be perfect at pitching at the beginning—that’s what the internship is for—but make your PR potential shine.

Remember to be authentic, too. Recruiters can tell when you’ve simply plugged the name of a company into your email or cover letter. Take time to genuinely express your intentions when applying for the internship and why you would be an excellent fit for the company. Remember, creativity goes a long way!

3. Know the industry.

PR people get hundreds of emails a day. We’re often running from meeting to meeting, juggling multiple tasks at once.

At my previous agency, I was on the team responsible for the internship program. It was a joy to read cover letters and resumes and find the perfect intern to join our team, but that was only one of many tasks on my to-do list.

Practice patience. There’s no need to panic if your email isn’t returned right away. Following up with numerous phone calls might rub a PR pro the wrong way—especially if he or she is dealing with a client crisis. Give it a few days before following up, and keep building your experience in the meantime.

4. Do your homework, but don’t over-prepare.

Though you should absolutely research the company or agency prior to the interview, you’re only human. It’s impossible to remember everything about a company—especially while also studying for final exams.

Rather than trying to know every detail and fact, pick your favorite campaign or case study and know it well. Be able to speak about initiatives or campaigns you liked and provide ideas on how you could have made them even better.

Applying for internships requires much more than crossed fingers and prayers. Instead, show that you’ve put in the work to handle the tasks that you might soon be dealt—because the list is vast.

Brooke Boriack is an account executive at Red Fan Communications, a full-service public relations agency based in Austin. A version of this article first appeared on the firm’s blog.

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Topics: PR

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