Preparing for a PR Internship - My Experience
MY EXPERIENCE: Work experience/internships are (in my opinion), one of the best things you can ever get, especially for a career in the arts or media industry. For me, work experience is a vital component as there's just so many things that you can't learn within the classroom. Since I studied journalism for a short time, I've managed to already get a lot of internships or writing experience within the journalism industry. But when it comes to PR, this is new territory. I'm lucky with the fact that over Summer I arranged to intern at Asprey London from September to December. This was without a doubt one of the greatest things I chose to do. Not only did I meet a wonderful and inspiring bunch of people but I was able to get a real hands on approach in the PR industry. Interning at a company like Asprey, where their PR department is small and intimate, means the interns are vital to the team. This allowed me to really experience the ins and outs of preparing for events, keeping track of samples, producing lookbooks and press releases, as well as a number of other ad-hoc duties that come with PR.
This year, I have my whole Summer term off to find a work placement. I started applying early and have managed to secure a place at Anya Hindmarch from June to September, which is incredibly exciting as I'll be able to see first hand how PR's handle London Fashion Week.
But how hard is it to secure a PR internship? And what problems can occur along the way?
I'd like to tell you its as simple as emailing a person and getting a response the next day...its not. Whether you can put it down to luck or a good CV, I've been incredibly fortunate in the fact that it has been a rather simple process for me to get both these internships, with just a few emails being passed back and fourth and a friendly interview. But there have been a number of times where I haven't had a response or haven't had the response I wanted from companies.
So where to start? First, decide what sector it is you want to work in. PR is a big industry and has many different sectors you can pursue. Even if you haven't decided what it is you wish to do for your career, you should have some idea of the areas you're interested in. I've always known I wanted to work in Fashion PR, so it was just a case of thinking about companies/agencies I wanted to work for.
I divided my time between searching for in-house and agency as I'd like to get a taste for both before I leave university. Personally, I find the easisest thing to do is to create an excel sheet of all the places you wish to apply to and then write their email alongside. By doing this you can also keep a note of how many times you've contacted them, their response and even pros and cons against other companies.
Research, research, research. I spent a lot of time looking at agencies, what they offer, what clients they have, etc. You can also use this opportunity to look at your existing contacts. Have you met any people along the way that can help you out? Any family members within a similar industry? As a fashion blogger, you come in close contact with a lot of Fashion PR agencies which is extremely helpful when trying to get a foot in the door as you already know who to contact. LinkedIn is also a really good starting point when looking for companies and who to contact (but remember they can see when you've checked their profile!)
Once you've found your niche and the companies you wish to work for, it's time to get your CV up to scratch and to write a stand-out cover letter. A cover letter should basically state who you are, what you do and highlight key points of your CV that you want to stand out to your employer. The hardest part is finding out WHO to email. Most sites have a generic email you can contact but the likelihood of you hearing back is slim. If you can't find a direct email address online then it's best to pick up the phone and introduce yourself personally. This way, the company are already aware that you're keen so when it come's to receiving your email, their interest should be peaked.
Once you've emailed, keep note. I'd personally leave it a week to hear something and if you haven't by that point, then a courtesy follow up call could help. Whilst none of us want to seem annoying or impatient, a follow up call can prove your passion and ability to not take no for an answer.
If you are lucky enough to arrange an interview with the company, remember to be prepared. Most of the time its unnecessary but it doesn't take a lot to print a copy of your CV to have on hand and to also make a small list of a few questions. Typical questions I like to ask are:
- What will the role entail? - Is there a specific dress code? - Will social media be involved? (as I'd like to get some experience in that) - What are the hours? And finally, the dreaded question of pay. I've never actually asked upfront whether an internship is paid since 9/10 times it's not. But being a student in London and interning full time poses a bit of a problem when it's not paid. It seems like a bit of a cop out, but once the interviews over, it's best to send a polite email thanking them for their time and THEN bringing up the possibility of wage or expenses. This will allow you to ponder over it for a longer time before making your decision. At the end of the day, whilst they're giving you the experience you need, you are also giving them an extra pair of hands, so don't feel obliged to conform.