Whenever we have a new position to fill in our PR firm, I find myself going through CV after CVs of enthusiastic young graduates listing ambitious internships to demonstrate their experience and initiative, almost all entirely dedicated to social media roles. . I need a young pro who can pitch in the media!
“Children these days,” we mutter to ourselves. “They’re only interested in Instagram.”
Except that it is far from my real experience. The young professionals I meet are indeed hungry for opportunities to pitch reporters and land traditional positions, even if for them “traditional media” includes blogs and podcasts.
The real problem is that many PR firms don’t give interns the chance to hone their pitch skills. Are we stereotyping Gen Z and assuming they prefer TikTok influencers to beat journalists? Do we assume that they are not capable of an effective media pitch? It’s probably a bit of both. But, as we think about how to activate our internship program after the long pandemic hiatus, we realize that such generalizations are a disservice to the intern, our firm and our clients, as well as our industry in as a whole, both in our approach to the media. awareness and engagement on social networks.
What a Modern PR Firm Needs
Public relations are increasingly associated with other communications and marketing functions, making the word “integration” a buzzword in the industry.
While it is true that social media is increasingly a responsibility of a public relations firm, companies should not overlook the importance of acquired media, especially when providing aspiring professionals with news. learning opportunities. Media outreach remains the cornerstone of our business, and acquired media can still earn the trust of an audience and bolster the credibility of our clients’ stories like nothing else.
We cannot have a generation of professionals who cannot pitch. Giving students the basic skills for a solid career in public relations begins with us, in the assignments given to them during internships.
Develop skills in communication with the media
It is a challenge to involve an intern with little or no experience in significant media outreach. The learning curve is steep and the stakes are high.
But including an intern in media outreach doesn’t necessarily mean letting it go all at once. It can be as easy as starting with inclusion.
In my firm, each member of our team brings intelligence and perspective – there is no room for anything less – and when it comes to identifying creative opportunities and planning a strategy. , everyone has their place at the table, including the interns. Even if they don’t yet feel equipped to contribute (although they often do!), The exercise of watching a team of seasoned professionals share ideas and create something that will grab the media’s attention is in itself. self an education.
One place where interns have proven their added value is creating targeted media lists. Just learning the breadth and reach of the media landscape is a valuable experience. But so does the delivery of these pre-designed, personalized pitches to the individual journalists on those lists. While it may seem like a tedious job, keeping up with these rhythms exposes an intern to critical aspects of media awareness, dynamics and critical thinking. There is no education like picking up the phone to make follow-up calls.
Talk to your interns about the value of this “rude work”. Explain to them how their efforts contribute to the overall strategy and thank them when they celebrate the victories along the way.
Social media requires strategy and experience
Just as you can’t read the newspapers and then know how to develop a media strategy, neither can you grow up in the age of social media and then inherently drive a digital strategy. Knowing what TikTok is isn’t the same as knowing what to do with it for a brand or how to assess whether it’s an appropriate forum for a given strategy.
There is a great nuance in understanding what makes a social media post engaging and strategic. Is it better to post more or less? How many tags are appropriate? Should the tone be conversational or professional? Such careful distinctions made at the finest levels of social media execution can have significant consequences for a campaign’s results.
While an intern may have a perspective to lend to these choices, the success or failure of campaigns should never rest solely on their shoulders.
As with media outreach, it is the responsibility of seasoned professionals to give interns a seat at the table, show them our work and reasoning as we go, so that interns can learn the critical thinking behind our choices, and not just how to use the Hootsuite planning tool. An experienced social media manager will be able to articulate the rationale for these choices and why each is important.
Encourage future pros you want to hire
In my office, in the midst of some recruitments for new positions, we discuss what we need from the future professionals we recruit, as well as our role in promoting these young people through our internship program. What do we need for today’s customers and for the industrial changes of tomorrow? One thing we know we can never have too much of is the pros with pitching chops.
In the midst of the ongoing Big Resignation reshuffle, even if you’re not hiring now, you might be doing it soon, and these questions are more relevant than ever. Taking the time to develop these skills in our interns is not only an investment in their future, but also in our own companies.
Emily Wenstrom is vice president of Stanton Communications, Inc.