Six Best Practices for New Interns (Besides Keeping the Coffee Pot Full)

Six Best Practices for New Interns (Besides Keeping the Coffee Pot Full)

By Andrew Woodcock

Congratulations! You just landed an internship at the PR agency of your dreams! What’s next? Besides scheduling a trip to the store for new clothes, office supplies and cubicle decorations, you’re going to want to prepare for the culture and environment of working in PR — especially if this is your first internship.

I started my first PR internship knowing very little about PR. And I truly mean very little. In college, I studied political science and Eastern European languages. I could explain to you the rationale behind the Warsaw Pact’s decision to invade Czechoslovakia in 1968, but if you asked me to draft a pitch note for a client, I’d just stare at you blankly before opening an incognito window to Google “how to write a pitch note.”

I learned a lot during my first internship — not only about the PR industry, but also about steps an intern can take to make the most out of their time. Even if you start out knowing virtually nothing about the industry (as I did), following these steps will help you to hit the ground running on your first day:

1) Dress for the job you want

These days, it seems that the workplace is getting less strict and more relaxed about what employees are allowed to wear. For example, wearing jeans in the office five years ago was a big no-no, but now it’s not uncommon to see jeans on everyone, from assistant account executives to senior vice presidents. Still, it’s better to overdress than to underdress. If you notice that your boss or supervisor dresses more formally, then you should match how they dress. Taking the extra time in the morning to look nice shows that you care about your job and enjoy where you work.

2) Take time to meet your colleagues

You’re going to be working with these people for the next four to six months. Don’t you think you should get to know them, so that they’re more than just an email address that gives you daily assignments? During the first couple weeks at your new internship, try to schedule meetings with the people you’ll be working with so you can introduce yourself, talk about what you expect from this internship, and get to know them as a person. If they like who you are as a person, they’ll naturally want to work with you more. People you’ll really want to meet are former interns: they have been in your shoes not long ago, and can share some good advice!

3) Overcommunicate

PR is all about communication. This applies not only to communication with clients, but also communication in the office among your coworkers. Make sure that you’re replying to your emails as soon as possible, in order to let your coworkers know that you read their message. It can be as simple as an “I got your note, I’ll get on this right away.” Update them with any progress or snags you hit along the way. Hitting “reply all” is also a good practice, so as none of your colleagues are in the dark as to what you’re doing.

4) Don’t be afraid to ask questions

A lot of interns are afraid to ask too many questions, fearing that they might be judged for seeming stupid or unprepared for a task. I can assure you that this is NOT the case! In fact, it shows your bosses that you’re thinking critically about the task, and are making sure that you want to get it done completely right. If you feel like you’ve already asked too many questions to your boss, go to a former intern; they’ve certainly done similar assignments during their time as an intern, and can point you toward the best methods and resources to get the job done.

5) Don’t be afraid to say no

This part might be the most difficult for an intern to be comfortable with. As a new intern, you’ll want to prove to everyone that you’re capable, dependable and hardworking. If a senior vice president emails you with a task to complete, it’s really difficult to say no, even if your plate is completely full for the rest of the day. Ask yourself though: is it a good idea to take on a task you know you won’t be able to complete to the best of your ability? The senior vice president isn’t going to be angry you’re too busy. Simply write back right away and explain you have too many urgent tasks to properly take on another. Ask your fellow interns if they have any free time for a new task; if they do, reply to that senior vice president with a solution: your fellow intern is free and is more than happy to take on that task!

6) Make your work clear, understandable and thorough

Employers look at interns to do the tasks that can’t be done by the employers themselves. They’re counting on you to do research, write reports, talk to reporters and more because they don’t have the time or ability to do so. That means everything you do must be very thorough, covering all possible bases. Doing research for a client? Use multiple sources (and check them! No fake news!). Pitching to a journalist? Write down the whos, whats, wheres and whens (don’t forget the time zones). Don’t just rely on Google; used advanced searches on social media platforms, scour websites, or ask someone for information. You want the final product to be easily understood and digestible, so that anyone can use it to consider next steps. Don’t be afraid to make some suggestions of your own, as well!

One final piece of advice: be confident and always do your best. It’s a cliché as old as time, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important! Make the most out of this internship; who knows, you might get hired at the end and be well on your way to becoming CEO before you know it.

Andrew Woodcock is an account executive at The Vandiver Group in St. Louis, Missouri. Follow The Vandiver Group on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Think Typos Don’t Matter? Think Again.

more than an typo, red pencil circles the typoI overheard a conversation the other day while working out at the gym. A woman I had seen there before- let’s call her Cindy- was telling someone about how she works in PR. Cindy was annoyed that her client called her, upset, because her name was misspelled in an article in the local business journal. “I have to tell people all the time that this is PR, not ER.” Cindy mused. “It’s not my emergency! A typo is not that big of a deal.” Oh, but it is Cindy.

Accuracy is extremely important in our field. Not only do we have to manage our clients’ reputations in the media, we also have to make sure the facts are correct and that we’re telling their story in a meaningful and impactful way. A single error could mean a devastating blow to a corporate reputation, and gives fodder to the rumor mill. And yes, typos matter. Especially when it’s your client’s name! Typos in your media releases indicate sloppy work. You always need to proofread your work before you submit it. Yes, an occasional error can happen – we are only human after all. But I’m talking about the errors that occur from just not caring very much about the ramifications of these seemingly small mistakes. You have to care. Our clients depend on us to care. And they deserve to have the highest quality work at all times.

How can you avoid these kinds of errors? Here are a few simple tips:

  1. Have a team of people who proofread documents before they go out the door. The more sets of eyes you have on that important release for a client, the better.
  2. Always use the spellcheck and grammar tools in your word processing program as another layer of protection.
  3. Sometimes it helps to print your document and read it on paper to catch errors. Computer screens make our eyes tired and less able to find simple errors.
  4. Try reading your document out loud. This can help you find errors in verb tense, especially, and it will help you decide if you are conveying the message you mean to convey.

Accuracy matters. Our clients depend on us to get it right. And when they look good, we know we’ve done the best job we can possibly do for them. It’s kind of a big deal!

The Business of Storytelling

Andy Likes, Senior Vice President


Over the last 11+ years in PR, I’ve had the opportunity to work with nearly every type of subject matter expert, including doctors, engineers, lawyers, financial planners and everything in between. One thing is certain with subject matter experts- they know their job and the company better than anyone. Read more

Going the Distance for Girls on the Run: The Queeny Meanie

Laura Vandiver, VP of Research


Every year on Dr. Martin Luther King Day, we honor a man who championed civil rights so that others could have opportunities, experience freedom and equality, and feel a sense of community. Here at TVG, we spend MLK Day serving our community in some way in order to honor Dr. King’s memory. This year, I spent some time creating awareness about and fundraising for Girls on the Run – St. Louis through unconventional means- an ultra run.


After several years of competing in Ironman triathlons, I was looking for a new challenge in 2017. An ultra run (any distance beyond a marathon distance of 26.2 miles) sounded fun. I started researching ultra marathons in the region, but nothing stood out to me. I kept having this recurring thought- what if I ran an ultra at Queeny Park? It’s one of my favorite places to run, so why not? You know that saying “If you want it done right, do it yourself?” That’s what I decided to do. And it’s how I came to the conclusion that running 32 miles in Queeny Park on March 11, 2017 would be my next challenge, and I’m calling it The Queeny Meanie!


I didn’t just want to run an ultra. I wanted to run an ultra for a cause. After my first season as a head coach for a Girls on the Run team last fall, it was an easy choice! The Girls on the Run curriculum not only coaches girls how to run a 5K at the end of a 10-week program, but also teaches topics on self-esteem, positivity, standing up for yourself and others, empowerment, healthy habits, goal setting, teamwork and cooperation, and identifying bullying behavior. These aren’t just running skills – these are LIFE skills. And seeing each of my girls succeed in their own big goals was an incredible experience. Girls on the Run builds confidence, and encourages girls to work together and to impact their communities in a positive way.

You can learn more about my efforts and make a donation here:


Everyone should spend some time reflecting on how you can impact your community in a positive way. Find your passion and figure out a way to help others. I hope my small contributions will have big impacts- even if it’s only on one person. Then, I’ll know I made a difference.


Do you run for a good cause? Want to participate in The Queeny Meanie? visit us on our website to let us know! We are passionate about getting our employees involved in our community to make a difference and we are inspired to help others find that passion, too!



College Athletes in the ‘Real World’: What Lacrosse Taught me about Work Ethic, Leadership and Accepting Challenges

Annie Spewak, Intern


Up until a year ago, my life revolved around lacrosse. My dedication to the game often dictated everything I did from my social life to my class schedule, but it also earned me a scholarship to play Division I in college. Over the years, I’ve encountered people who think sports are rather useless; after all, most athletes will never go professional, and will never earn a paycheck playing the sport. Read more

So, You Want to Start a Blog…

Katie Miller, Account Executive

So, you want to start a blog? If you answered “yes” to this question, chances are you follow several blogs that have made you think, “I want to do that!” Whether they’re about food, travel, fitness, fashion and beauty, or pets, a good blog and an eye-catching aesthetic will make almost any avid reader want to become a blogger themselves. Read more

Make Kindness a Habit

Laura Vandiver, VP of Research & Strategic Insight

The election is finally over, and the holiday season is upon us. How are you feeling after more than a year of contentious campaigning, mudslinging, angry rhetoric and political commercials? Drained? Stressed? Maybe a little mean? Read more

The Polls Were Wrong! Why We Should Stop Speculating

TVG Staff

No matter which side of the aisle you support or who you voted for on Tuesday, chances are that you along with the rest of the country woke up yesterday surprised, stunned or happy with the Presidential election results. Read more

Celebrate “Silly” Questions Every Day, but Especially This Week

Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

According to Parade magazine, September 28 is “Ask a Stupid Question” day. When Marilyn vos Savant was asked if there was such a thing as a stupid question, she replied, “Yes”. Read more

7 “Motivational” Quotes to Get You Through the Work Week

Abbey Theban, Account Executive


Motivation comes in all forms – a great book, an insightful blog post, words of wisdom from a mentor, or in this case, some really tweet-worthy quotes. Take a few minutes from your work day to get inspired by these off-beat “motivational” quotes from some relatively famous people.


1. “Hey. They laughed at Louis Armstrong when he said he was gonna go to the moon. Now he’s up there, laughing at them.” – Will Ferrell, Blades of Glory

Will Ferrell is not only the songbird of his generation, but he is also a motivational mastermind. He explains that sometimes, you might have to prove yourself to others, like your boss or your coworkers. There will be plenty of people that try to tell you what you can and can’t do, but through perseverance, you can push past your obstacles. Just look at Louis Armstrong! Sitting pretty up there on the moon. 😉


2. “A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.” – Steve Martin  

Besides the obvious, I definitely think our friend Steve Martin was trying to tell us that the day is what you make it. A positive attitude helps you get through the work day and puts both you and your coworkers in a great mood. So keep that sun shining today, because honestly no one likes to work in the dark.


3. “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” – Mark Twain

The great Mark Twain is clearly telling us that prioritization at work is key. You have to ask yourself: what must get finished today and what can wait? Meeting your deadlines is an important part of success! So always plan to be productive… tomorrow.


4. “Accept who you are. Unless you’re a serial killer.” – Ellen Degeneres

Good ol’ Ellen is never short of inspiring advice. Her advice is easy: don’t be afraid to be yourself! Showing your personality to your boss and coworkers allows you to establish a bond with them and makes your work days much more enjoyable. Unless you’re a recovering officemate serial killer. Then please just stay in your office, thanks.


5. “If you fall, I’ll always be there.” – The Floor

Hi, just your friendly reminder that you always have a support team behind you. You’ve got people to both revel in your accomplishments and to pick you up when you’re down. There will be plenty of times where you will fall flat on your face, but don’t worry, a cushy floor made up of your friends and colleagues will be there to catch you!


6. “If at first you don’t succeed, then skydiving definitely isn’t for you.” – Steven Wright

Sometimes we have to accept that we can’t be perfect at everything we do. It is inevitable that we will make mistakes, but it’s what we learn from them that will make us a better employee and a better person. But really, let’s pretend that failure is not an option for skydiving, k?


7. “Sometimes you just have to put on lip gloss and pretend to be psyched.” – Mindy Kaling

My girl Mindy is always there to give us a little dose of reality. Everyone has tasks at work that they don’t want to do, but that doesn’t mean that you can put them off forever. Real life is learning how to do those painful tasks with a glossy smile on that beautiful face of yours!



What helps motivate you? Do you have a favorite quote that you live by? Tweet us @VandiverGroup, and let us know!



Refocus at Work after Summer Vacation

Laura Vandiver, VP of Research and Strategic Insight


Ah, summertime…the magical few months when most Americans tend to travel and relax on family vacations. I just returned from a glorious week in the mountains of Colorado, but now it’s time to refocus on work and attack my to-do list. But what is the best way to do that? How can the transition back into “work mode” be made smoother? Here are a few tips I’ve been thinking about this week since my return.


1. Plan for your return before you leave.

Yes, before. Most of us are very focused on getting things wrapped up and organized so we can leave for vacation with tasks/projects delegated and all of our emails answered. But some simple planning before you leave can make your transition from vacation a lot easier. For instance, block out your calendar for the day you return. Spending that first day in meetings doesn’t help you get caught up on what happened while you were away. Use the time to go through your emails, have catch-up chats with co-workers, and prioritize your tasks (see tip 2).


2. Prioritize your tasks.  

While you’re away, work life keeps churning on. It also means you were probably assigned some new tasks to complete upon your return. Identify your tasks – old and new – and get them on paper. Prioritize each task by the level of urgency and the deadline for completion. Put time on your calendar to work on these to get you back on track more quickly. And remember: client work almost always comes first!


3. Check-in with your co-workers.

Having quick check-ins with your co-workers will help get you up-to-speed more quickly than trudging through a long thread of emails. Ask about the meetings you missed (and gather notes from those meetings, if possible), how your clients did while you were away, and if there is anything you delegated that did not get completed in your absence.


4. Limit your distractions.

I know, it’s hard. You get back from vacation and you’re glued to your phone again. But at least for that first day back, try to limit distractions from your phone, social media, and anything else that beeps, has notification settings, or is likely to draw you into a black hole of unproductive behavior! Try to find a quiet space to work so you can make progress on your task list.


5. Take breaks.

Getting back to work after vacation is a transition period. Sometimes it takes a few days to get back in the swing of things. Don’t be too hard on yourself! Be sure to take breaks during the day to take a walk, listen to music, or grab a snack – whatever will help your mind stay focused throughout the work day.

Vacation is a vital part of maintaining a good work/life balance. Don’t be afraid to take your vacation time because you’re worried about the pile of work when you return. With a little planning and some specific strategies, your transition back can be easier and more efficient. So go explore this summer!



Have you taken a great vacation this summer? Have upcoming plans? Tweet us @VandiverGroup, and tell us about it! We would love to hear your tips for making the vacation-to-work transition easier.



Making the Most Out of Your Weekend: 8 Ways to Recharge and Get Motivated for the Upcoming Week

Katie Miller, Assistant Account Executive


What are you doing this weekend? Will those activities lead to a better work week? If you feel more tired on Mondays, lack motivation during the week or are in serious need of a pick-me-up, here are eight tips to help you use your weekends to recharge and prepare for the week ahead.


1. Take time for yourself.

Sometimes we try to cram so many activities into our weekend – grocery shopping, weekend trips with friends, date nights, cleaning, etc. – that we forget to take some time to be alone. Instead of filling your days full of activities, make some time for yourself, even if it’s only for a few hours. Some of my favorite “me” time activities include baking, reading a book, or taking a walk . I always feel refreshed and centered afterwards. Making time for yourself allows you to recharge and reflect on life, think through problems, or just escape from your other responsibilities for a while.


2. Take a break from technology.  

Remember what you used to do for fun before “fun” was found within the depths of an iPhone? We live in a world where technology rules over almost everything that we do. Knowing that most of our work weeks will be consumed by computer screens, it is important that we take some time to unplug on the weekend. Try going somewhere without your phone, or staying off of social media for a little while. You’d be surprised at how cleansing it feels to not be constantly glued to a screen, checking in on the latest apps, or replying to emails. Giving yourself a break from technology will reduce headaches and help you sleep better, and who doesn’t want that on their weekend?

3. Plan a mid-week pick-me-up!

Take some time on your weekend to plan a mid-week event, giving you something to look forward to before the next weekend. Plan a Wednesday date night and try that new restaurant that you’ve had your eye on, or see a that movie everyone in the office is talking about. Looking forward to Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday is much more exciting than waiting for the week to pass by until Friday. Having a little bit of fun mid-week will help you relax outside of work, thus boosting productivity during your hours in the office.


4. Sweat it out.

As we all know, exercise is imperative for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Exercise reduces stress, releases endorphins that increase your mood, and boosts your overall morale throughout the week. Take some time on the weekend to get moving, as your time may be limited during the week. Even activities as small as walking the dog can make a huge difference in your health. Find a yoga class or a hiking buddy and a killer playlist and get your blood flowing over the weekend! Bonus points if you sweat your stresses away on BOTH days – you’ve definitely earned that extra cookie.


5. Prep for your week.

I always notice that there are certain parts of my weekday morning routine that slow me down, and that my days go much more smoothly if I prepare them in advance on the weekend. Simple things like preparing your meals for the week can make your morning/evening routines each day far less hectic. I prepare my lunches that I will be taking to work with me in advance. I find that it helps me stay on time in the mornings. And, as an added bonus, if you prepare your meals in advance, you are far more likely to practice healthy eating habits, giving you more energy to power through your work week!


6. Declutter your space.

Do you find that the amount of clutter in your home increases as the week goes on? Me too. Like many, I get stressed out by clutter. No, cleaning isn’t the most fun activity to spend do on your weekend, but for many, it can be therapeutic. Organization makes every part of your weekly routine easier, so be sure you take some time to clean. A clear space equals a clear mind. And a clear mind will lead to a more stress-free week.

7. Make plans to see friends.

It’s not uncommon to become more introverted than usual during the work week. I find that there are weeks when I am just too tired to step outside of my routine (work, gym, dinner, prep for the next day, sleep), to catch up with good friends. That being said, I always make sure that I put time aside to see them on the weekends. Seeing your friends is a great way to step outside of any work-week stressors, relax, and have a good time – even if it is just for girl’s night out or Sunday brunch. Seeing your friends will keep you centered so you have a fresh state of mind on Monday morning.

8. Make a list of your goals for the week.

On Sunday evening, I find myself sitting down and reflecting on the previous week, and the week ahead. Making a list of everything I’ve accomplished the past week, and setting goals for myself for the upcoming week helps me feel motivated and ready to tackle Monday morning. Making a list of goals will help you stay on track and hold you accountable for your own productivity throughout the week. Reflecting on everything you’ve already accomplished will make you feel like a superhero! The perfect vibe for Monday morning— if you ask me.




Do you use any of these tips in your weekend routine? Have any more ideas on how to maximize your weekend? Tweet us @VandiverGroup, and let us know!