As I write this, the spring semester at many colleges and universities has ended, lending students of all types of fields to internships at companies big and small, including a significant number of those interested in communications.
While there may not be anything dramatically different about this summer's crop of interns, nor the roles and responsibilities that they may hold within our teams or agencies, it is almost impossible to ignore the challenge that PR finds itself in versus other summer seasons. That's not to say that every year, any industry couldn't say “there has never been a more challenging time than now” when referring to the trials and tribulations currently befalling it. However, the pace at which technologies and tools are affecting communications as a whole is definitely an unenviable one, in my opinion.
So, what does this mean for our current field of interns? We have even less time, and more distractions, involved in transforming someone's internship of a few short months from basic job experience into the initiation of becoming the game-changer that it should be. Yes, I said that. Game changer.
Is everyone destined to be the “rock star” PR pro, landing hit after hit, or someone who develops digital concepts that the rest of us can only stop and stare at? Of course not.
With those possibilities in mind, however, we should be doing three things with our interns – our future employees, in many cases (and by our, I mean our industry's) – setting them up for success, showing them why our teams are great, and demonstrating to them what great work looks like. That great work could include how we pow-wow every morning for 15 minutes to address anything an entire office might need to be aware of, or that the good idea doesn't just come from “the top.” Setting them up for success doesn't just mean showing them what a briefing book looks like and asking them to duplicate it with new information, but it does mean one should get a glimpse into the planning, execution, and results feedback loop that we all encounter every day.
One might say these sound like perfectly “typical,” or even “traditional” bits of feedback or thoughts on internships, and not those directed purely at digital activities, and one would be correct. There is no distinction for today's interns, today's future “us,” those growing up in the 2000s, when it comes to “digital” and “everything else.” With that in mind, realize we need to introduce a fresh group of aspiring PR pros not to what PR looks like now, but what it is going to look like moving forward – and separating out digital research tools, who “pitches bloggers” vs. who “pitches media,” and how tools like Twitter or Facebook fit into plans.
Just as faxes or emails changed our day-to-day activities after becoming widely accepted, these services and platforms have done the same in recent years, and will only become more common. The price of failure – meaning, not success – is far, far higher and more quickly struck.
Let's create a new generation of game-changers this summer, shall we?
Tom Biro is a VP at the Seattle office of Allison & Partners. His column focuses on how digital media affects and shifts PR. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tombiro.