Stephanie Bateman is an account executive at Communicado in Melbourne working across a range of clients in the entertainment, tech and lifestyle space, in traditional PR as well as digital content and community management. She loves the dynamic nature of life in an agency, as well as the group of thoroughly talented people she goes to work with every day.
Stephanie graduated Victoria University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Communications (Public Relations), and spent the last 18 months of her studies interning in the corporate affairs department at Citipower & Powercor as a media relations assistant, and considers this the most valuable experience she had at university. Stephanie was inspired to get chase a career in PR by her god father who worked in the industry, and Stephen Fry’s character in ‘Absolute Power’.
It’s no secret that PR is a tough industry to crack, but it’s far from impossible. The questions I’m most frequently asked by students and recent graduates always relates to what it’s like once you’ve landed that first job. These are my top five tips on how to navigate the experience when you’re starting out.
1. Put your hand up
Regardless of whether you’re working in an agency or in house, no doubt you’re part of an organisation that has plenty going on. So when the opportunity to be involved in a new project or a new client looks like it might be on the table – go for it. It’s easy to second guess yourself and say ‘I’m not ready for that’ or ‘that isn’t in my skill set’. But you know what? You’ll probably never feel ‘ready’ and it will never be in your skill set unless you take the opportunity to learn. The best learning experience is in the doing, not the watching.
2. Expect to pay your dues (probably forever)
Generally speaking, coffee making and photocopying ends when your internship does, but you will still spend a fair amount of time building media lists, filing, researching, and reporting. In PR (especially in the world of agency) you will find a refreshing quality – no one is really ever ‘above’ a task. Whether you’re an Account Director with ten years under your belt, or 2 weeks into your career, if it has to be done, do it. In my short career I’ve driven a truck, bought jeans and hair product for a celebrity, and delivered paint and furniture to photo shoots. Did I ever think that would be in my job description? No. But I quickly learned my job description reads: whatever it takes.
3. Ask for advice
Your first job is no less of a learning experience than your time at university was, and your colleagues can be amazing teachers. Remember that everyone you work for was once sitting where you are, and they almost always want to help you. Ask to have your writing critiqued; ask if you can run your pitch by them before you send it to a journalist (or your boss).
4. Take criticism
But don’t take it personally. Because you’re going to get it whether you want it or not, so you may as well take it with the best attitude you can. It can be tough not to take it to heart, and we all do it sometimes, but once you recognise that it will serve to make you a better writer, speaker, or improve your pitches you’ll start asking for it.
5. Be Yourself
PR people are a certain type. We like to talk, we’re not shy, and we’re often described as ‘big personalities’. There’s a reason you chose this career. It’s probably because you couldn’t not choose it. Maybe it chose you. Being a wallflower will get you exactly nowhere in this industry. You’ll be surprised how what you’re passionate about personally can help you out in your career. Never underestimate the value of knowing stuff that no one else knows. You never know when some random geeky knowledge you’re hanging onto could be the missing part of a new business pitch.
PR is a demanding and sometimes all-consuming job. It’s a job you do for love not money (sorry). But it is job that will reward your competitive streak, push you to constantly improve and give you experiences you can’t have doing anything else. And why would you want to?
You can follow Stephanie on Twitter.
Wow. Has this girl got an impressive PR internship CV or what?
Emma Bedson, 20, currently studying a Bachelor of Communications (Public Relations) at RMIT, graduating in October this year.
Top boss at a consumer PR agency. Or perhaps Founder/Director of my own PR agency. The possibilities are endless…
You’ve had a busy interning life over the past year, tell us about your internships
Two Birds Talking
My first internship was at Two Birds Talking. I was the typical PR intern -running coffees, media kit packing, phone handling, booking and receiving couriers, editorial monitoring, database updates and so on. I assisted on a couple of events for Kookai and Nike. Whilst I liaised between their Melbourne and Sydney office during this internship, I had a chance to work at Two Birds Talking’s Sydney office as a fill-in PR co-ordinator. I hit the ground running at that time working directly on Kookai and Lovisa. If there is anything that I got from Two Birds Talking, it was MEDIA IS KING.
One Green Bean
Throughout the first half of 2012, I confirmed an internship with One Green Bean. I saved up for six months to pay for accommodation, flights and living expenses to intern full time with One Green Bean. During this time I prepared press kits and coverage reports, assisted with the production of events and performed admin and ad hoc office duties. I worked on a number of clients such as IKEA, Dunlop Volleys, Virgin Mobile and CBA. One Green Bean definitely showed me the difference between Melbourne and Sydney based PR.
I interned with Undertow Media briefly before going to Sydney last year. On my return, I came back as a contractor to assist their account co-ordinator on Mt Hotham, Kathmandu, Tupperware and Domaine Chandon. It was at Undertow Media where I learnt what the role of a junior PR professional is really like. I pitched to media on a daily basis, refined my writing skills, contributed to campaigns, proposals, brainstorms and meetings. I was also responsible for account administration & reporting, which inspired me to write my third year undergraduate thesis on PR measurement and evaluation.
This has been my most recently internship. Having vast industry experience prior to Mango, the team delegated tasks to me not usually given to interns. I worked across a number consumer accounts creating, pitching and following up media materials. I secured multiple pieces of coverage both in print and online. I spent an extra week at Mango working with their social media team to create content and see how social media runs within a PR agency.
What was it about working at a Sydney based PR company that attracted you?
I researched a lot of agencies in line with the area of PR I’m interested in. Most of them are based in Sydney so I emailed a couple of dream agencies for an internship placement. I have previously lived in Sydney and have friends who live up there so making the temporary move up there was more exciting and thrilling than daunting. I loved the entire experience and would do it again in a heartbeat. Moving up to Sydney permanently after I graduate is high on my to-do list.
How did you juggle university course work and paid work while interning?
It’s challenging but it can be done. I wrote a lot of to-do lists and time management was crucial. I will admit there were more than a few all-nighters to get the assignments done but I managed to juggle it all. In fact, I actually prefer the adrenaline rush. It makes you more accountable to your tasks and there is no room procrastination.
What was your most valuable internship experience so far and why?
My time at Undertow Media was the most valuable experience, especially when I was contracted to assist one of their juniors.
I immediately felt part of the team the minute I stepped into the office. I gained a strong sense of responsibility and accountability for everything that was thrown at me. My time management skills were definitely tested (a crucial skill to master so I advise to get on top of it ASAP). Nonetheless, I completed tasks with a passion because I wanted to prove to myself and my colleagues I could handle agency life.
Undertow Media taught me so much about the industry and how to operate in PR. I recommend Undertow Media to anyone interested in a PR internship, I would safely say they have one of the best internship programs around.
Tell us about your favourite client pitch you got to work on and what you learnt from it
McDonald’s has been one of my favourite accounts to work on. I really got to own a project where I wrote media material, pitched to journalists and secured multiple pieces of coverage. I was able to learn how to develop relationships with journalists (a true love-hate relationship) and refine my writing skills. It was so rewarding seeing coverage and knowing you had some input in making that happen.
What’s next for you?
I don’t have any internships confirmed for the near future but you never know what’s around the corner. Right now I’m focusing on completing my thesis and graduating but I’m sure I’ll slip in a few more placements before graduating.
Emma shares her advice for other aspiring PR pros;
There have been so many quotes to get me through my interning ‘journey’. My mum told me this quote just before cold calling an agency and it has resonated with me ever since:
“Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it.” – We Bought A Zoo
For anything you want to achieve, it’s always going to be ‘no’ until you ask. No matter how whimsical your ambitions may be, throw yourself into the deep end and you never know what may come out of it.
Founder and Managing Director of Dig & Fish.
A leader of best practice marketing and communications programs for the food, drinks and leisure industries for more than a decade, Angie currently chairs Wine Communicators of Australia, and is a member of the Victorian Food and Wine Tourism Council and Starlight Children’s Foundation Advisory Board.
With a reputation as a straight forward, direct and pragmatic strategist who always pushes for the better answer or solution, Angie is the brains-trust for Dig&Fish, instilling best-practice operations and leadership across the entire way we do business.
Angie’s TOP 5 TIPS for Interns:
1. Take the initiative – the best interns make themselves indispensable by getting involved, asking good questions and becoming important members of the team. Be positive and get involved, it really helps.
2. Can do – just say yes and get stuff done, again the more value you add and the better experience you are going to have.
3. Ask – it’s not always easy to know what interns want to get from the experience so ask to get involved, ask for help and ask for information and learning. If you do points one and two then companies will be much more likely to provide education and knowledge opportunities
4. Add value – in media and comms if you’re asked to do the media monitoring then read with a purpose and add value to media lists, update contact details and identify opps that might be relevant for the employer and / or their clients. If you think things can be done better or differently, speak up.
5. Be organised – communicate your timetable and exam commitments well in advance – don’t make yourself really useful and then not be there when you’re needed or change plans last minute.
You can tweet Angie at @digandfish if you have any questions.