Internships have never carried as much importance in PR as they do today.
In this new marketplace, PR agencies can afford to be more persnickety about the people they want to recruit and bring into the fold. They are asked to do so much more. They are expected to get less recognition. And it’s all in the hope that they’ll score a permanent fixture on the team.
You need to have “soft skills” when you walk in the door. That’s not to say you are a dunce looking for direction, but you have assets that are pliable and position you for success. Instead of just getting by on a pretty face and nice cologne, you need to bring a little something to the table.
It’s hard out there for an up-and-comer, so if you want to ensure you get a sniff that AAC or AC job, here is this week’s #5Things: 5 important skills PR interns should possess before they get the gig.
1. Writing. At PRNewser, we hope and pray this goes without saying…but you would be surprised. If only we were mean enough to broadcast some of the pitches we get — and it’s not like we are The New York Times or anything. It’s like social media has obliterated any hope we have of writing in cohesive sentences without including “OMG,” “LOL” and “WTF” (Yes, pitches include those.) No matter how real-time social media becomes, “IRL” will always require the ability to write properly and effectively. Don’t enjoy writing? You may want to consider a gig like Comcast cable customer service. Need practice? No worries. Get a Tumblr blog, ask to draft pitches, maybe even practice. We are always learning how to hone that craft, but if you don’t have the wherewithal to do so, your internship will not be so fulfilling.
2. Multitasking. Sure, this is something you are going to say you can do because you want the job, but really? Can you really rub your tummy and pat your head concurrently…while walking and chewing gum? If not, stop, drop, and roll right out of the door because you are about to be overwhelmed. And don’t think that you will be shielded from that if you go corporate. Sometimes, focusing on one brand can be even worse because everyone comes to you with ASAP demands. Your ability to juggle like a professional clown will become one of your greatest assets. The trick is knowing how to stop doing things concurrently and be able to do things consecutively, like, now. No matter how big your melon is, the ability to wear many hats will earn you a reputation as a great intern.
3. Speaking. This is not a bash on people who stutter or anything. However, those of you in the PRNewserverse who deal with this drama during a new business pitch know precisely what I mean. This shout-out is for you — the ummers, uhhers, I meaners, likers, and you knowers. First, you kill your upward mobility every time you open your mouth around someone who is diametrically opposed to those vocal crutches. Second, it seriously damages your credibility to be asked into a new business pitch. It shows that you have to think too much after you open your mouth. Clients don’t want to make time for that, and reporters don’t have the time for that. Finally, we just can’t be friends. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. Tweet me from afar but no calls please.
4. Researching. Anyone outside of a daycare center knows how to “Google something.” What skills do you bring to the table to help you get information? Do you understand how to sift through an article to get the meaning of those words and interpret them in a document for all to read? Do you understand that you need three sources to confirm anything or is finding something on Wikipedia good enough for you? Are you sure you know your resources online to find certain facts on certain verticals? Without the ability to find minutia within seconds and filter through pages of content within a couple of hours, you’ll miss out on learning to do research without a big agency budget. Make Google your buddy.
5. Questioning. Here’s a clue: “So, do you have any other questions?” Do you meet that query with a shoulder shrug and a batting of the eyes? If that’s the case, then you don’t understanding this necessary skill. There is a difference between not getting it and just digging through it. Show your understanding by discussing ways around it. Get to know the heart of the matter. No one is perfect, specifically your boss. You aren’t going to get all the information you need to execute your marching orders during the initial brain dump, so what you need to perfect is the art of inquiring without looking like you didn’t listen in the first place. “No such thing as a stupid question,” right? This is a fact during any brainstorm with any team or any client. No such thing is accurate. However, only stupid people choose to not answer those questions.