What makes a good PR internship?

INTERNS (1)Not all PR internships are created equal.  Some PR firms, and in-house comms teams, offer really fabulous internship experiences for students and graduates but there are others that are really below par and a disappointing experience for the intern.  I imagine they don’t add much value to the company either.  So here’s my quick and easy guide to offering a really solid PR internship for PR employers.

Why are you doing it?
What are you hoping to get out of offering interns experience?  Some firms like to use it as a tester before they hire junior staff, some feel that it’s their responsibility to help grow good talent for the industry so do it because they think they should, and some are really busy and need extra pairs of hands to help and interns are a good short-term gap fill for that.  All of those reasons are really valid, but you need to make it clear when hiring interns what your reasons are and whether there is any real prospect of a permanent role (or the opportunity to apply for one) at the end of the placement.

Should you pay interns?
The short answer is, yes.  Interns should be paid at least minimum wage by law* although it seems some companies haven’t quite grasped that idea.  Be aware that HMRC are clamping down on employers who don’t pay interns and there can be a hefty fine involved if your company is found to be employing them for less than they are legally entitled to.  Travel and expenses is not enough I’m afraid – they need to be paid properly. Both the CIPR and PRCA have campaigned for properly paid PR interns and it can affect your membership of both organisations if it’s found you are taking on unpaid workers.

*The exceptions to this is if they are volunteering to work for a charity with no benefits in kind (so no promise of a job at the end of it, for example), if they are undertaking a student placement for less than a year or if they are purely shadowing an employee – that means not working for the company at all and only observing.

How long should internships be?
This is pretty much up to you but I would suggest that anything less than a month is a bit of a waste of time for both parties.  It takes that long to really get used to doing a job and so for them to be useful to you, and for them to actually learn anything, three to six months is probably a better length of service.

How do you find the best interns?
Social media is your friend here.  There are lots of students and graduates constantly looking for PR experience so using your Facebook and Twitter accounts is a good first step.  The hashtag #PRjobs is also a useful tool on that front, you can advertise your internship on PR Job Watch – my PR recruitment Facebook page with 7,000 members for FREE and Future Rising is also currently free to use.

You should also consider using the university job boards as many of them are free to use as long as you are paying at least minimum wage.  Creative Opportunities from the University of the Arts London is a particularly good one.  There are also a couple of paid job boards worth considering; Media Argh charge only £30 so that’s definitely worth a punt.  The Guardian online can get some good results but at £480 for a week is a bit ouchie on the price side and PR Week is similarly expensive unless you already advertise loads with them in which case I suspect you’d be able to negotiate a deal.

If you’re looking to improve your company’s ethnic diversity you can also send your internships and entry-level job role details to me and I’ll pass them on to the alumni network of the Taylor Bennett Foundation and encourage them to apply.  We don’t charge a fee to hire one of our alumni, but we do ask that you make an appropriate donation to the charity should you take one on.

Ask for something specific during the recruitment process – 400 words on why they want to work there, a one minute video selling themselves, a campaign idea for a particular brand, proof of their social media prowess etc – it’ll weed out the applicants who just apply for everything and will make it easier to identify those candidates who really are committed to the industry.

What do you expect?
It’s important that you set expectations with your interns from day one and that includes very basic instructions like the hours they should work (and is it actually okay for them to walk out the door at 5.30 or is there an unwritten rule that everyone stays until the manager says to go… make it clear), what to do if they’re ill, what they should do if they’re going to miss a deadline, what they should wear (this sounds obvious but it worries many interns), when they should take a lunch break, are there confidentiality issues and non disclosure agreements in place, if they have a late meeting out of the office which finishes at 4pm are they expected to come back to work afterwards, should they contribute during brainstorming meetings or just be there to observe, if they speak to a client how should they introduce themselves and so on.

Making these things clear from the outset means that both of you are aware where you stand.  You should also keep in mind that for many interns this may be their first and only experience of working in a professional environment and so they will inevitably make mistakes.  This is the whole point of interning – better to make mistakes then than when they go into their first permanent role.  Be prepared to make allowances and let them learn from those errors – although making them more than once means they don’t listen very well.

What should interns do?
This is an interesting question and of course the answer will vary from company to company.  As a rule of thumb you should treat them as a trainee account exec/press officer.  The whole point of the internship from their point of view is to find out what it’s like to work in the industry and so that means doing an entry-level role as much as possible.  You might want to task them with a particular project that they can concentrate on for the entire length of the placement, which they can work on in between the daily tasks they’ll be given.  This will also mean there’s less chance of them sitting around bored when there’s not much for them to do.

It’s also a good idea to give them some training or induction of some sort.  The graduates I speak to about their internships mostly complained that they didn’t mind doing the junior work, but it would have been useful to know why they were doing it.  If you can spare someone to give an overview of the company, the clients and campaigns and why junior work is vital to the running of the team that would be helpful.  It also might be a good idea for them to fill in daily timesheets or write a daily blog so that at the end of the internship, you can use those to help them write about the experience on their CV.

It’s also okay to ask them to make tea and coffee – just as long as you’re prepared to make them one too.

Who should manage interns?

You might use taking on interns as an opportunity for your most junior staff to manage someone and that’s absolutely fine, there’s nothing wrong with that otherwise how will they learn?  But it’s a good idea to have some back up management plan in place to help guide your AEs when managing interns and to make them aware of what is expected both of them, and of the intern.

What happens after the internship?
Some firms use internships as a kind of ‘try before you buy’ scheme to see if any of the interns really shine and stand out as solid performers.  It’s not a good idea to promise a job at the start of an internship but the opportunity to apply for one, if available, will be a good incentive to get committed people on board.  Increasingly though, companies might offer internships with no intention of hiring one and that’s fine too.  In that case, it’s still a good idea to find a way to keep in touch with your intern alumni regularly – even if they go off to work for a competing firm you may decide once they have a couple of years of experience that you’d like to try and hire them so it’s best to remain on good terms with them and touch base regularly.  If they had a brilliant internship experience with you there’s every chance that they’ll want to work for you in the future and that opportunity might be many years down the line.






Filed under Careers, Graduates, PR, Recruitment

Graduate Job Podcast : How to get a job in PR

Screenshot 2015-01-14 09.51.08


James at Graduate Job Podcast interviewed me recently.  We talked about what graduates need to do to get a job in PR (and the best kind of tea to drink).  He asked me lots of the questions that graduates ask – what’s a good CV? What skills do you need What’s a decent cover letter?  How important is work experience? – so it’s really worth checking out if you’re applying for PR roles.

You can hear the full interview here.  If, like me, you don’t like the sound of my voice, there’s a full written transcript there too so you can read that instead.


Filed under Careers, Graduates, PR

50 PR agencies rated by employees on Glassdoor


Recruitment in PR is changing.  Gone are the darkest days of the recession where applicants were banging down the doors of PR agencies, it’s becoming a candidate led market where firms have to move more quickly to find and secure good talent.  Increasingly, potential employees are turning to social media to research the companies they apply to and a new job board is leading the way is employee review and rating community, Glassdoor.

Recently, Stephen Waddington interviewed Joe Wiggins, the lead PR for Glassdoor, a jobs board with a platform for employee reviews of an organisation.

Rachel Miller wrote about it here, and gives a really thorough overview of how Glassdoor works so I won’t repeat that all here.

On the back of the 150 PR internships, apprenticeships, work experience and graduate schemes post I wrote last week, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the top 50 agencies to see what their current employees say about them.  Some of these are global firms so the scores may be representative of more than just the London office, but it still gives a pretty good overview.

Helpfully, employees also list some of the questions they were asked at interview and rate the interview experience so if you’re planning to meet anyone there soon to talk about a job, it could be a really useful resource as part of your interview preparation.

These are listed in the same order as the PR Week top 150 agencies, rather than by their Glassdoor rating.  Keep in mind that some agencies have only had one review which may make their score look incredibly high or really low.  Ideally you need a few reviews to give you a better idea of a good average.

1. Brunswick: 3.9 stars. 91% would recommend to a friend. 100% approval of CEO.

2. Edelman: 4.1 stars. 85% would recommend to a friend. 96% approval of CEO.

3. Weber Shandwick: 3.9 stars. 82% would recommend to a friend. 96% approval of CEO.

4. FTI Consulting: 3.3 stars. 62% would recommend to a friend. 100% approval of CEO.

5. Bell Pottinger: 4 stars. N/A would recommend to a friend. N/A approval of CEO.

6. H&K Strategies: 4 stars. N/A would recommend to a friend. N/A approval of CEO.

7. Freud: 3.6 stars. N/A would recommend to a friend. N/A approval rating of CEO.

8. Ogilvy PR: 2.7 stars. 46% would recommend to a friend. 56% approval of CEO.

9. Finsbury: 1 star. N/A would recommend to a friend. N/A approval rating of CEO.

10. MSL Group: 3.1 stars. 50% would recommend to a friend. 60% approval of CEO.

11. Ketchum: 3.9 stars. 78% would recommend to a friend. 95% approval of CEO.

12. Instinctif Partners: 2 stars. N/A would recommend to a friend. N/A approval of CEO.

13. Golin: 3.5 stars. 79% would recommend to a friend. 100% approval of CEO.

14. Good Relations Group: Not listed

15. FleishmanHillard: 3.3 stars. 65% woud recommend to a friend. 85% approval of CEO.

16. Cohn & Wolfe: 3.8 stars. 78% would recommend to a freind. 93% approval of CEO.

17. Fishburn: Listed but not rated.

18. Chandler Chicco: 2.7 stars. 24% would recommend to a friend. N/A approval of CEO.

19. The Red Consultancy: Not listed

20. Tonic Life Communications: 2.4 stars. 47% would recommend to a friend. N/A approval of CEO.

21. Portland: Listed but not rated.

22. Burson Marsteller: 3.2 stars. 64% would recommend to a friend. 61% approval of CEO.

23. Four Communications: Listed but not rated.

24. Exposure. Not listed.

25. We Are Social: 3.8 stars. N/A would recommend to a friend. N/A approval of CEO.

26. Maitland. Not listed.

27. Lansons.  Listed but not rated.

28. The Communications Store. Listed but not rated.

29. Brands2Life. Listed but not rated.

30. Porter Novelli: 3.3 stars. 65% would recommend to a friend. 84% approval of CEO.

31. Hotwire: Listed but not rated.

32. Nelson Bostock: 5 stars. 100% would recommend to a friend. N/A approval of CEO.

33. The Big Partnership. Not listed.

34. Hanover. Not listed.

35.TVC Group. Not listed.

36. Buchanan: Listed but not rated.

37. Powerscourt. Not listed.

38. Pegasus. Not listed.

39. Red Door Communications. 4 stars. 100% would recommend to a friend. N/A approval of CEO.

40. Camargue Group. Not listed.

41. Frank Not listed.

42. Kraeb Gavin Anderson. 3.4 stars. 100% would recommend to a friend. 100% approval of CEO.

43. Cake: 2.9 stars. 53% would recommend to a friend. N/A approval of CEO.

44. 3 Monkeys. Listed but not rated.

45. Octopus Group. 3 stars. 100% would recommend to a friend. 100% approval of CEO.

46. Eulogy. Not listed.

47. M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment. Not listed.

48. Axon Commuications. Not listed.

49. PPS Group. Not listed.

50. Waggener Edstrom. 2.9 stars. 50% would recommend to a friend. 66% approval of CEO.





Filed under Careers, PR, Recruitment

What skills do you need for a career in PR?


Head over to Comms2Point0 where I’ve blogged today about the skills you need for a career in PR.

1 Comment

Filed under Careers, Graduates, PR

Social Media Streamlining For The New Year

likeAs it’s the first week back after Christmas, I’ve a stack of emails to answer from over the holidays.  At the Taylor Bennett Foundation we ran four programmes back-to-back last year and this has been my first chance to catch my breath before we run our next programme in the spring. We’ve also had to move out of our office space and don’t have a new one to move into so all our office equipment is currently in storage.

I already work from home a fair bit, but Continue reading


Filed under Careers, Social Media

2015: 150 PR agency internships, apprenticeships, work experience, graduate schemes & entry-level roles

apply now

Jan 2016: Please note that the 2016 version of this list is now available here.

One of the things I’m most often asked about is the importance of internships.  Do you really need experience to get into PR or can you go straight onto a graduate scheme?  In my experience, it’s absolutely vital that you have previous PR experience before applying for an entry-level job in communications. One of the things I often advise those job hunters to do is to look at the PR Week top 150 agencies and start looking for work experience, internships, apprenticeships and graduate schemes offered by those firms.

So to kick 2015 off in style I’ve done the hard part and trawled through websites to bring you the top 150 companies’ internships, apprenticeships and entry-level opportunities in this handy list.

For an detailed look at careers in the PR industry including how to write a decent CV and cover letters buy my book: How To Get A Job In PR

Continue reading


Filed under Careers, Graduates, PR