What a PR Internship Teaches You that Classes Do Not

By Riley Sims

Internships are meant to be a way for students to learn more about the field they’re interested in and apply what they’re learning in a professional setting. Going into my internship, I knew that I didn’t know everything about the field of public relations and I was willing to learn. During my internship at Breakaway PR, I was able to learn many interesting aspects of PR that surprised me.

Knowledge of Journalism is Extremely Vital
Prior to my internship, I learned in my PR classes that relationships with journalists and basic knowledge of journalism is extremely important. As a part of my degree program, we are even required to take a journalism class during our second year of college. However, I feel like my degree program could have delved much further into the field of journalism. The PR program at my university is extremely tied into advertising, with the Advertising and PR majors’ requirements differing by only three classes. I came into my internship with a wealth of advertising knowledge and how PR is an important part of it but was surprised that advertising was a minimal aspect of my daily work, especially at this agency. Instead, I relied completely on the knowledge from the few PR specific classes that I’ve taken, leading me to have a greater understanding of the two fields. My biggest piece of advice for students wanting to study PR is to consider a program that puts a greater emphasis on journalism or even consider minoring in journalism to give you a considerable leg up.

PR is Behind the Scenes of Media, a lot
Of course I knew that PR plays a big part in the media and interacts with journalists to get coverage for clients. However, I was still surprised and fascinated to see how it works and the plethora of tools there are to help PR specialists. There’s Cision, which allows you to find media contacts and outlets. Another handy tool is Help a Reporter Out (HARO), where journalists can find subject matter experts with the help of PR professionals. I used to think it was more about who you know and, while relationships (built on trust) can help you get coverage, there are so many resources to help PR professionals get their word out. Now when I consume media I’m far more cognizant of how everything works. For example, when I’m reading an article with a quote from an expert, I know there’s a high probability that a PR person supplied the spokesperson rather than the journalist directly reaching out to that expert.

I really appreciated my time as an intern at Breakaway Public Relations and gained a plethora of knowledge here. I was able to put into practice what I had been learning at school and gained so much experience that can’t be taught in the classroom.