Advocacy Thought Leadership

The Internship Experience: The Art of Juggling (Responsibilities)

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As part of PRSA’s unveiling of industry guidelines for the ethical use of interns, we asked five recent public relations interns to blog about their experiences — good or bad — and offer ideas on how the profession can better prepare interns for the rigors of full-time employment. This is the second post of a planned three-part series.

Today’s posts come from PRSSA members Rachel Sprung and Kimberly Ciesla.

Rachel Sprung:

Before interning at a PR agency, I prided myself on my ability to multitask and complete tasks in a timely manner. However, being immersed on multiple teams in an agency brought my abilities to an entirely new level.

On my first day at Burson-Marsteller, managing director Ed Menninger told us about the importance of being about to juggle clients, responsibilities and supervisors. There is nothing like 10 e-mails coming in at once, all with deadlines within the hour. And there is no better preparation for how to deal with something like that besides learning how to prioritize, communicate with supervisors and work efficiently.

On Writing …

You can practice writing a news release for homework. You can edit documents using your AP Stylebook. You can even create campaigns and monitor results. But there is nothing that compares to the pressure of time constraints that you will have in an agency. In a classroom, you are not billable for assignments; but in an agency, everything you complete needs to be accomplished in a certain period of time and edited quickly to ensure journalists, clients, your bosses and other parties have the information they need to do their jobs in a timely and efficient manner.

On Networking …

In addition to gaining this practical experience, interns have the chance to network with professionals who have been in the field. These mentors will not only teach you how to thrive at a PR, whether at any agency or in-house setting, but will provide valuable advice for the future as students pursue their careers in PR.

Don’t stop at one internship. Try out multiple disciplines, see what interests you the most and pursue your dreams.

Rachel Sprung is a senior at Boston University, where she is majoring in public relations and business administration. She is also national vice president of regional activities at the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and a member of the PRSSA 2010-11 National Committee.


Kimberly Ciesla:

Internships provide students with real-world experience essential for success upon graduation. Without internships, students wouldn’t blend as easily into a work environment as those who have gone through an internship experience. Not only do internships allow students to partake in a work-related team environment, but they also allow students to become acquainted with public relations tasks required outside the classroom. Just think, would you rather hire an entry-level employee with experience, or without?

On paid versus unpaid internships …

No student wants to work in a place they feel unwelcome. And just because an internship is paid, doesn’t mean it’s valuable. While pay definitely helps, overall students just want to leave with a good experience.

Good or bad, news of their internship experience will spread among peers. They will likely recommend the great internships to their PR powerhouse friends, and save the not so great internships to their lazy ones.

Kimberly Ciesla is a senior at Rowan University and a member of the PRSSA 2010-11 National Committee.

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Keith Trivitt


  • I am looking for an internship, but I need one to be paid. I feel awkward asking if internships are paid. How do I bring up the topic without hurting my chances?

  • Brianna,
    I’ve asked this in the past, usually with a general question such as, “Could you tell me more about the specifics of the internship?” If it isn’t addressed in the answer to that question, I would ask if there was compensation for the internship, which could take the form of pay, academic credit, or perhaps experience.

    Elizabeth Holtan
    PR MS Candidate
    S.I. Newhouse School
    Syracuse University

  • I have run into that before. Companies understand that students cannot always accept unpaid internships. I would advise telling them that you are figuring out your finances for the summer or semester and were wondering if there was a stipend or other financial compensation. Tell them you are figuring out housing or other expenses. They should understand and may even help you find cheap housing. I had a company offer to help me with that. Feel free to e-mail me if you have further questions or want more clarification.

  • This blog was very helpful to me. I realize that internships are important, but hearing it from fellow college students from other places makes it even more clear. I think that internships can be a gateway for your future and when people get caught up in having a paid internship or just getting class credit, it takes away from the overall experience that you could have. Sometimes not getting paid makes us work that much harder at what we’re doing. Unfortunately I only had one internship in PR while I have been at school, but I believe that just having that one experience has helped me understand what the “real world” is going to look like. Deadlines are extremely important, especially to journalists, which is another avenue that I may take after graduation. Turning in assignments for class is one thing, but maintaining work flow and time management on the job is a completely different feeling. One question I have is, I work at a nonprofit doing PR related things. What does an internship look like at for profit companies?

  • Abby,
    I worked at a well-known corporation for six months. My responsibilities included daily clips, research assignments, covering and writing about events for the intranet portal, drafting company memos, helping with events, etc.

    I would recommend at least one agency internship and one corporate internship to really get a feel for what you like. Some people prefer working with just one company, while others prefer agency work.

    Hope that helps.

  • I agree that multitasking and good writing skills are very important to a successful PR internship experience. I recently interned at a small marketing firm, and my knowledge of journalistic style writing came in handy right away. I was able to revise and suggest changes to a full time employee’s work, something that I hope impressed my superiors! I also found that skills learned in the communication discipline such as how to write radio spots and, of course, press releases came in very handy.
    As far as multitasking, for me it was not necessarily act of physically doing two things at once, but bouncing from project to project as needed. Public relations jobs—especially on a beginning level I think—require the ability to be a “jack of all trades communicator” of sorts.

  • I have yet to have an internship, but next year I need to for course credit. I’ve been nervous about choosing what kind of organization to work apply to and whether or not to go for a paid or un-paid internship. It’s refreshing to hear that just because an internship is un-paid, doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it. I’m all about the experience and the opportunity to network with other organizations looking for interns or PR practitioners. Thanks for the advice and encouragement!

  • I had an unpaid internship this past summer at a local camping resort in which i was not paid. But in this internship i found that you do have to be able to juggle many different things all at the same time.
    One of the big things i worked on was the music festivals they have there, and even got to produce on myself. BUt in doing this i worked with radio advertising, hotel coordinating for the artists, finding vendors and volunteers, and many other things that i never even thought of before i had my internship.
    My writing skills and ability to balance many different tasks were put to the test a lot for the summer, but in doing my internship it really showed me what being out the real world can look like.
    I like the post, Thanks for the tips!

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