Guest post by Christie Phillips, Professor, Marymount University
Jill asked me to write a guest blog, so I am going to take full advantage of the soap box and ask you to help PR students.
We all know that COVID-19 turned the work environment upside down. Some of us have returned to the office, others are still working from home, and some have created a hybrid arrangement. But we are all hoping we can create a work environment that provides a better work-life balance than what most of us had pre-COVID-19.
And yes, these past few years have been traumatic, as we tried to adjust, to keep our clients and meet deadlines while keeping our home lives moving forward.
But think about the traumatic experience that college students faced spending 2020 and 2021 attending classes remotely. That was not my college experience, or that of previous public relations students.
But even in more normal times, PR students desperately need internships. Book learning is great to understand the principles and talk through real-world case studies. But it is that hands-on internship experience that gets them ready for a career in PR. The time that they spend with you and your team talking about the audience, objectives, research, and plan is what makes the concepts come alive for them. No matter how many times we talk about the target audience and publics in class, it is not until students work with you to put the plan together and understand the relationship between priorities, deadlines and budget do they really get the importance of focusing on the target audience.
I know that bringing an intern into the office is a lot of work. You can’t just give them the assignment and expect them to be able to do it without hand-holding and extra review. But I think about it as shaping the next generation of PR professionals. You are helping the next generation: instilling a commitment to excellence, an understanding of ethics, and a love of creative PR problem solving.
Where to start? Look at your workload for the upcoming semester or summer. Students are going to need 120 hours for a three-credit internship —think 10 to 15 hours per week for ten to twelve weeks.
How can you carve out a piece of the work to create a project for an intern? Can they be responsible for implementing the program for one audience, starting with the research and building out the messaging, strategy, and evaluation? Are there content pieces for which they can be responsible? What roles can they take on to support an event, conference, or meeting? Involving interns in the day-to-day work of your office provides them with an opportunity to understand how all the concepts presented in class fit together.
Let’s do this in steps:
- Talk to friends who are teaching PR at university.
- Offer to talk to students as a guest lecturer.
- Invite students to visit your office, and conduct an informational interview.
- Invite a student to spend a day at the office, attend a staff meeting, shadow a staff member, participate in a client meeting, etc.
- Put together a position description for an intern.
- Post your position at the career center of your local university and with your colleagues who teach PR (Because we are only going to recommend our best students to you).
Make your mark on the next generation of PR professionals. Help them get started. Share your knowledge and expertise.
You never know where your interns will go and what they will accomplish. The best rewards are receiving the random emails from past interns who are now working abroad for international companies; developing communications strategies for nonprofits; and shaping messaging around the next pandemic or bumping into them at PRSA and other professional conferences.