Intern 101: What I didn’t learn about PR in school

May 19, 2015

After four months in a PR 101 college course, I was left with the impression that as a PR professional, my job would be to handle communication crises and position my clients favorably in today’s media landscape. While media relations is certainly a significant portion of my current internship at Metis, it’s only a fraction of the range of responsibilities that I am assigned on a daily basis. While my classroom time proved valuable, the hands-on experience I’ve gained during my time as a PR intern has proven far more helpful when it comes to mastering the particular set of skills professional communicators need to succeed.
Below are some necessary skills I learned on the job but not in the classroom:

  • How to monitor multiple industries at once.

News scans are a basic part of any intern’s responsibilities. Scanning Google News using specified keywords isn’t all that difficult; however, monitoring multiple fast-paced industries 24 hours a day can get tricky, and it takes practice. It’s hard to be in the know all the time, but as PR professionals, that’s our job. Each person is different in how they search and find information. Being on a constant lookout for opportunities certainly takes some getting used to.

  • How to craft an interesting story.

I learned how to draft a pitch in class, but I never learned how to come up with pitch ideas. Taking something that isn’t necessarily news and finding it a place in the 24-hour news cycle is no easy task; it takes a lot more creativity than what was implied in class.

  • How to write contributed articles.

Like most PR students, I took a communications writing course in which I learned how to format press releases and media advisories. Throughout my past internships, though, what I really needed to know was how to write an article to appear under a client’s byline. This takes practice, especially in the world of technology PR.

Had I not signed up for a new media class, I would have had no blogging experiences coming out of school. Blogging may seem easy enough, but not when you throw search engine optimization (SEO) and inbound strategy into the mix, both of which are vital to getting found online. Having a blog is important, but having a blog your audience can find is essential.

  • How to handle client relationships.

There is no one way to teach PR students how to handle clients. Every client is different with various needs, services and personalities, which you can’t prepare for in a classroom setting. The only way to master this PR skill is to take a walk on the wild side and find yourself an internship or entry-level job that can provide you with the necessary training to become the ultimate PR all-star.
Have you learned real-life PR lessons on the job? Great—we’re hiring.

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