What’s it like to start a PR internship virtually?

Written by Jess Richardson, Intern at FanclubPR

My first day as a PR intern went something like this: Woke up. Got changed. Made myself some peanut butter and banana on toast with honey (aka fancy brekkie) and a big cuppa. Went back up to my bedroom. 

I started my internship at Fanclub in May and - in case you’ve been off-planet for the last 3 months - we were slap bang in the middle of a pandemic. I already had a few worries about starting a new role in a new place with new people; now I had to add to all this newness being remote. Luckily none of my coworkers had ever started a job in the midst of a national lockdown either, so it was new to everyone.

How can you get the most out of a virtual internship?

Ask away - Sat behind a screen, it’s not easy to know if what you’re doing is right, but putting what would have been a shout across the office into a written question initially felt a bit awkward. Without asking those questions, however, I think I would have spent a lot more time panicking and less time learning.

Make notes - Although asking questions is completely normal, sending a message every five minutes could be a tad distracting. Taking notes throughout the day on things I was a bit unsure of or found interesting meant I could address any issues more organically the next time I spoke to the team, and has also given me a valuable record of things I’ve done. 

Get stuck in - Before starting, I had a big concern: will working remotely leave me feeling left out? It’s hard to feel part of a group when you’re new, even when you’re allowed to be within 2m of each other. Getting to know people without the aid of natural interactions sometimes means jumping in head-first. For instance, in a game of “Desert Island Crisps” that we played during my first Friday drinks with the team, I revealed that I like to eat my crisps topped with slices of banana. Although this was a revelation my colleagues didn’t need, want, or ask for, it definitely broke the ice. 

Get out - How do you avoid getting bored of your desk whilst WFH? The answer seems obvious but working by a window and going for a run in the morning or a walk at lunch has saved me from resenting my desk too much. To combat Zoom fatigue I’ve also been encouraged to take meetings by phone or without video if I needed to. 

Be proactive - Sometimes I’ve finished a task before being formally given the next one. I try to use this time to think ahead or read around the subjects I’ve been working on. 

What are the benefits of a virtual internship?

Being an intern, even virtually, has given me insight into the broad spectrum of opportunities within PR. Every day has brought something new and I’ve been able to try a bit of everything; from research and writing, to brainstorming creative campaigns, to pitching to the media. Concerns about feeling alone, out of my depth and being left to my own devices never transpired; my colleagues have never been more than a Slack away and always incredibly happy to help. 

In some ways starting from home has been great. Holding meetings via Zoom meant I could frantically google terms like KPI and SOV to keep up with what was being said. Working within familiar surroundings has helped when I’ve felt nervous or unsure. The challenge of keeping Friday drinks interesting in the digital sphere has led to some novelty activities such as a Zoom-taught salsa class and rap-parody pub quiz. And, perhaps most importantly with the hot weather we’ve had, I’ve been saved from the commute on the Central Line.

Myself & the lovely Fanclub PR team

How to get an internship in PR?

You’ve likely found yourself here because you’re considering a career in PR. It’s an industry that is eclectic and fast-paced; with no two days on the job the same, it’s a role best learned on the job. With a host of agencies and in-house roles boasting clients across a range of sectors, an internship is a great opportunity to understand just exactly what PRs do day-to-day and get to know what type of PR suits you, but you must be prepared to jump straight into the deep end!

At Fanclub, our interns have joined our team in paid roles since the agency’s inception- many of whom have stayed with us for exciting years of their PR career. It’s not just an industry that welcomes interns with valuable experience and opportunities to learn- it’s bloody fun. It’s no surprise that roles are competitive.

So what are employers looking for in a PR intern? And what will give you the best chances in the application process?

What will a PR internship teach me? What will I be doing? 

What you will learn and what you’ll be tasked with doing will vary from agency to agency depending on their specialism. Fanclub is an agency that operates in many different sectors, with interns learning about something new every day! 

First and foremost, be prepared to learn a lot about the media landscape. Any PR internship worth its salt will give you a good grounding in what the media is, its various channels, how each channel is used and how journalists and influencers like to be contacted and spoken to. You’ll also learn the different forms of PR - B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer)- as well as the number of channels we either feed into or own.

At Fanclub, we have a mix of B2B and B2C clients, meaning that not only will you learn about issues impacting consumers, but you’ll also have a brain filled with knowledge across a range of different business sectors; from tech and e-commerce to business consultancies and the marketing industry. No day is ever the same, so a role within a PR agency is perfect for those that constantly crave to learn and want to become a jack of all trades, whilst still being a master.

You can expect to be helping to develop creative campaigns, to raise awareness of our clients and their services, pitching to the media, researching suppliers to bring an event or digital concept to life, or finding the most suitable influencers to partner with.

How do I find PR internships? 

Job sites like Indeed or The Dots are your first port of call, and if you’re a recent or soon-to-be graduate, Milkround is a great start as it specialises in graduate internships. PRWeek and the PRCA even host PR Internships Awards- so you can check out best-in-class opportunities on PRWeek Jobs.

You won’t need us to tell you, but Linkedin is an incredibly powerful resource for making contact with potential employers, as well as keeping up to date on industry work and news. It’s potentially one of the best ways to get you started by keeping tabs on the creative work and thought leadership that’s shaking up the industry. Identify agencies and employers who get you excited, make some connections on Linkedin and keep your ear to the ground for intern ads. 

How do I make my PR internship application stand out? 

Firstly, make sure you do your research on the agency or role you’re applying to -who are its clients? What work has it done before? Is any of it relevant to your own experience or skills? Join up the dots and show that you’re invested in it and what it does. It’s surprising how much this can be overlooked in favour of detailing your own skills, but it’s just as important.

Your cover letter is an incredibly valuable tool that should be used to demonstrate any relevant skills which would apply well to PR- these include copywriting (make sure you proofread your CV as evidence!), communications, creativity, analytical and critical thinking and attention to detail. Not just that, it needs to show who you are. Don’t be afraid to give it some personality.

Communicating is literally what the industry specialises in, so the way you communicate yourself is your first chance to showcase what you can do. Your application needs to show why you’re a good fit not just for the agency but for the industry- this is especially important if your education or experience isn’t a seamless transition. If you’ve got a degree in accountancy, what draws you to PR?

How can I prepare for an interview? What kind of questions will I be asked? 

As an entry-level role, employers won’t be looking for experience. They want an intern who is eager to learn and proactive in the learning process. Outside of the basics around why you are interested in PR and what you can offer, you might be asked to complete some basic skills tasks - perhaps even write a short press release. Make sure you have a broad understanding of the news agenda, too. 

Working within a team is fundamental to a PR role- so expect questions which explore your personality, motivations and values.

Ultimately, the interview process will be different everywhere. But one thing that is imperative, is looking into the agency or company itself- not just the PR work they do, but what their values are and who they are as a team. Go beyond their website and check their social channels and the way they are covered in the industry press. With this info, make sure you ask them questions back- the interview is your opportunity to see if the employer is the right fit for you, too.