Sunday, December 6, 2009

"So What Exactly Does a PR Intern Do?"

For the past two months, I’ve had the opportunity to work as an intern in the Chicago office of a leading worldwide public relations firm. For some, the idea of being a 20-something intern is at the top of their “No Thanks” list, but I was all over the idea. For starters, I’ve spent months trying to steer my passion for communication, brands, and conversations into a public relations career but I knew that there were some fundamental skills that I needed to build. So, here I am...Karyn Brianne, Intern.

Many of my friends have asked me, “What does an intern do?” While it can vary from day-to-day, I thought I’d give you a peek into a typical day.

8:23a - Stumble off the bus and throw today’s RedEye in my bag.
8:28 - Grab a cinnamon raisin bagel from Corner Bakery.
8:30 - Walk into the “pit” and greet the four other interns. There are four intern pits in the office containing 5-6 people at a time. Great experience because there’s always somebody to talk to or ask a question.
8:35 - Grab coffee while PC loads up.
8:40 - Open Outlook and get ready to scroll through the 20+ Google alert emails related to my Clients.
8:50 - Remember that I need to send my daily update to the my team members and the Intern Coordinators. This helps them monitor my daily workload and to chart my overall progress in the program.
8:54 - Start monitoring for my accounts and preparing the daily reports for my teams. I currently monitor for three accounts: a consumer health/wellness product, a high-end appliance company, and an education institution. Every account has a different set of monitoring terms and that keeps me coming across some great stories. I use a combination of Google News, Yahoo! News, Factiva, and Radian 6 (social media monitoring). This spread makes sure that we have a good idea of what conversations are happening around our brand/the industry.
11:10 - Send my last monitoring report. Each account has a different setup for reports. My consumer health brand is probably the most demanding of all of my reports. Each media hit requires a detailed summary, and because we’re in the health arena, that can mean summarizing clinical studies and more. Luckily, my pharma background served as good prep. What’s also pretty cool is that my summaries (plus or minus a few changes) are gathered in a report to send to the Client each week. He sees my words. Pretty cool.
11:15 - Take a look at my emails and my to-do list to determine the next task. Although interns often receive requests to run errands to complete tasks, monitoring is our first morning priority, unless otherwise noted or OK’d by someone.
12:15 - Pry myself away from my creating a media list to run over to the hospital cafeteria and grab some lunch. I often dream about meeting a cute doctor over there. So far, no luck.
12:30 - Return to my desk and research the top radio stations in a market. Cision gave me a listing for every radio station in Charlotte, but every station won’t be an ideal way to reach our target audience.
1:30 - Add today’s media hits into a massive spreadsheet also known as “The Tracker.” This document captures every hit, impression numbers, the estimated value of the coverage, and how the hit measured up to a few key criteria. In addition to the updating the tracker, we also create “mock-ups” of each hit, so there’s record on file in case we (or a Client) needs to refer to a specific mention.
2:00 - Weekly meeting with the team members for one of my accounts. They discuss upcoming or current programs, go through tasks and responsibilities, and present any questions. Sometimes, I come out of these meetings with specific things to do (in addition to my regular duties), sometimes not. It depends on the week.
2:30 - Return back to my desk for the afternoon haul.
2:35 - Start feeling sluggish. Get up to grab a chocolate milk from the fridge. I am not a huge milk drinker but having chocolate milk at my fingertips has done wonders for my calcium levels, I hope.
2:40 - Research mommy bloggers for outreach. Due to the nature of many of our brands, our firm has great relationships with mom bloggers. Don’t quote me, but they’re like gold.
3:50 - Decide that I will need Pandora to help me finish out the rest of this day. Favorite stations: Erykah Badu, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Jay-Z.
4:15 - Receive an email asking if I can run an errand and grab 50 white, glossy folders for Staples. Our team needs these folders to stuff press kits for a media event. Errands are pretty common. Whether you’re asked to grab 18 boxes of cookies, or pick up stickers from a vendor, every task is important and there is a reason behind it. Plus, it gives us interns a chance to get some fresh air and hand the snooty cashier a corporate AMEX (even if it isn’t ours).
4:45 - Return to the office and see what emails I missed. My Account Exec needs something scanned, my Senior AE would like me to look through some magazines for a Client mention, and a fellow intern wonders if anyone has the latest issue of Shape because she needs to pull a Client story.
5:20 - Survey what I’ve accomplished for the day and begin making my to-do list for tomorrow. If it’s something that needs to get done during monitoring hours, I have to put a post-it on my screen before I head home. Or else, I am liable to forget until after 11a...Then it all comes back to me.
5:30 - Day’s done. Time to head home and get ready to do it again. NOTE: There are days when quitting time slides past 5:30 but you all get my drift!

So, there you have it! A day in the life...What did you think? Not bad, huh? Later on this week, I’ll present the top lessons that I’ve learned thus far now that I’ve reached the halfway point in the programs!


  1. Thank you for this post! I`ve been researching the duties of a PR intern and this gives a detailed, realistic picture of what`s in store from an actual intern. Since you posted this quite a while ago, are you now a PR exec? Anyway this post is great and I`ll check out the rest of your blog! Take care.

  2. Hi Karyn! I am just wondering about the mentoring/guidance/feedback you received while working at Weber Shandwick. Did you received frequent feedback or guidance? Did anyone mentor you?