by Alexia Lopez

As public relations professionals, especially in a smaller team setting, our interns are vital to daily operations, and the great ones prove to be assets to any company’s overall success. With the continuous, seasonal rotation of college interns comes the responsibility for a program to operate in a smooth and effective manner. Not only does it make transitions seamless, but an organized internship program also makes the most out of the intern’s time in – and out – of the office. 

Create a handbook

In a sense, it’s a guidebook to your company and a snapshot at what interns should expect on their first day and throughout the semester. This comprehensive overview is a helpful resource that they can reference for key links, tips and tools. At Breakaway, we created our handbook in Canva and designed it with simplicity in mind. We included some of the following elements:

  • A friendly introduction
  • Weekly meeting details
  • Where to park
  • Dress code
  • Client list and related links
  • Our favorite lunch spots
  • General PR tools and websites
  • Company holidays
  • Time off instructions
  • Links to our social media 
  • How to set up email

Show your appreciation

If you offer an unpaid or college-credit internship, it’s nice to reward interns in other creative ways. We typically like to treat ours to team lunches at the start and end of each semester. This allows us to get to know each intern, engage in a new setting and focus on team building for a successful semester or wrap-up discussion of their overall experience. If an intern goes above and beyond on a particular project/event, we like to provide gift cards. It’s also nice to celebrate birthdays with a tasty treat and birthday card to show that they are an essential part of the team. 

Be present

Interns often require consistent guidance and mentorship throughout the semester(s) so it’s helpful for team members to be readily available for questions and/or concerns. As college students, many interns have yet to have hands-on experience writing press releases and other forms of content so a guided walk through of new concepts makes all the difference. Often we hear from our interns that face time has helped them learn new techniques they would otherwise not have learned in their typical class setting. 

Creative farewells

When the semester comes to a close, another way to show gratitude for hard work is to offer written recommendations for future job hunting and/or digital recommendations on their LinkedIn profiles. These can be used post-graduation and beyond to showcase their work ethic if the internship was a good one. 

Developing a successful internship program will  require plenty of trial-and-error to the smaller details – especially when it comes to interviewing and selecting the right candidates. The interns that are especially memorable set the bar higher for future students and allow your team to adapt in areas of the system that aren’t working. It’s definitely rewarding when we see that a technique or process is showing results and positively impacting the professional skills and work of the students. That’s where the real magic happens for both parties!