How Can Public Relations Interns Help Your Company?
By Thomas J. Roach
One of the best bargains in the job market right now is public relations interns. It is almost a requirement that public relations graduates have practical experience before they can be hired. Small quarry operations that cannot afford full-time public relations staff can hire college seniors and recent graduates from colleges offering public relations degrees for close to minimum wage. Well-prepared students can perform most of the basic tasks expected of veterans, and quarries can provide a valuable opportunity to the students and get a broad range of business communication experience in return.
Interns will not emulate the efforts of experienced professionals in the public relations field who handle crisis communication or write speeches for executives, but most of the day-to-day public relations work is well within their reach.
Every public relations program at a university teaches its students basic journalism skills like identifying newsworthy topics and writing stories in news style. Students also learn how to create lists of media contacts and how to pitch stories.
These skills can be used to prepare and send out press releases to local news media and can also be put to use generating copy for internal publications like employee newspapers and intranet websites.
Another skill taught in most public relations programs is photography. Newspapers and magazines have requirements for photograph composition and subject matter; upper-level students can produce photographs that will get printed. They also will be more than competent taking documentation photos.
Most public relations degrees now require students to become proficient with social media as well. Public relations interns can set up Facebook pages and events and Twitter accounts, and they can create and respond to blogs.
Public relations academic programs are not industry specific. They prepare students to be experts in communication. The program at Purdue University Calumet, where I teach, sends student interns to work in fields like health care, tourism, government, and education. Quarry operations only need to call a university offering a public relations degree and ask a public relations faculty member to put them in touch with interested students.
Graduating seniors know that experience in the field will help them get jobs, so they are motivated to take advantage of internship opportunities, and they tend to be indifferent over where they get experience. The deciding factor for accepting an internship is usually pay.
There is always a long list of organizations looking for free help, and some even offer a small stipend, but at best these opportunities attract only underclassmen who want to see what the field is like before they enroll in the skills courses. Students who have to pay more than $500 to enroll in the internship course and then cover their expenses driving back and forth to work have little interest in unpaid opportunities.
Upper level students with marketable communication skills will work only if they are paid. The going rate is about $10 an hour. It is a good deal when one considers that these same students when they graduate and are hired into their first full-time jobs will be paid between $35,000 to $45,000 yearly salaries.
Quarry operations have been slow to recognize the importance of community relations. With urban expansion approaching and engulfing quarries, many are forced to interact with community publics, and they have a growing need for professional communication leadership and skills.
Public relations consultants or full-time in-house practitioners are the best options, but for organizations that are not convinced of the need for public relations or perhaps cannot afford the investment, here is a way to find out what public relations can do.