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

Six Best Practices for New Interns

By Andrew Woodcock, TVG Account Executive

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 SVP 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 other interns if they have any free time for a new task. If they do, reply to that SVP with a solution: another intern is free and is more than happy to help!

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.

Think Typos Don’t Matter? Think Again.

By Laura Vandiver, TVG Vice President of Research and Strategic Insight

I 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!


TVG’s PR Pros are happy to help you proof-read and edit your documents! Call us at 314-991-4641, email us or drop us a line on Facebook.

The Business of Storytelling

The Business of Storytelling

By Andy Likes, TVG 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

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

Celebrate “Silly” Questions

By 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

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

8 Ways to Recharge and Get Motivated for the Upcoming Week

By Katie Miller, TVG 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!

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Giving Tuesday is the New Black (Friday)

Giving Tuesday is the New Black (Friday)

By Melissa Breer, TVG Account Executive

For the past several years, Black Friday sales have been starting earlier, with many stores offering sales days before Thanksgiving and stores now opening on Thanksgiving. Read more