How to keep your PR skills sharp during the summer, internship or not

By Melaina Lewis

Take a deep breath, because it is OK to not have a summer internship. Internships are valuable when it comes to professional development, but there are still multiple ways to have a productive summer while keeping your PR skills sharp.

Last summer I decided to work instead of accepting an intern position.  It was difficult to pick an internship when I didn’t know what specific type of PR I liked best. However, I still wanted to expand my PR knowledge. So, I discovered my own ways of keeping my PR skills fit during summer.

Take this time to “get to know your career goals.” Evaluate what type, aspect and style of PR you enjoy the most. Do you thrive in creative environments? Work well with a team? Like to design, to write or research? Consider taking the Golin Harris g4 Model: Find Out.  Are you a catalyst, strategist, creator or connector?

Once you know where you belong, here are some other tips and tricks to keep up with the ever-changing PR world:

Practice press releases: Follow current events in the news or pop culture. Pick an event and practice writing a press release. You will quickly learn how to format, word and edit a press release. For example, Kate Middleton delivers the next heir to the throne. Write a release that announces the gender of the baby and the royal couple’s desire for privacy. On a more serious note, the President addressed the issue of global warming recently. Imagine you work in the press secretary office; it’s your responsibility to write a release about the speech and the President’s actions. This practice can also apply to local happenings in your area.  When finished, send it to an upperclassman, or executive board member for feedback. The quickest way to learn PR is to throw yourself into the action.

Stay current: Keeping up with the news and trends helps with press release skills, but a great PR professional knows their current events. Being aware helps develop marketing and problem-solving skills. Recently, Abercrombie and Fitch’s CEO released a statement excluding plus-sized women from their brand, receiving a lot of backlash. Keep track of what happens next in the situation, and compare it to what you would have done had you represented A&F. PR pros never know when situations like that will occur, and have to create solutions on the spot. This skill is valuable and could always use practice.

Networking: Now is the perfect time to developing networking skills, and grow a professional contact list. Currently, you may not be seeking a job, but ask questions and explore your options. Reach out through social media, e-mail or phone calls. Ask them to go for coffee or lunch, and establish a relationship. Professional mentors are a huge asset to PR students. You’ve got the time – use it!

Be a bookworm: Catch up on these hot summer PR reads via PR Daily: Reading List

Establish / Update a Resume: If you haven’t started a resume yet, this is the perfect time. Begin to outline everything you’ve accomplished and start compiling a list of what you want to accomplish. Take the time to update your resume (or LinkedIn for that matter). Fill it with quantifiable data and action words. Feel free to add splashes of creativity that are unique to your personality while still maintaining professionalism. Get wordy!

Offer freelance services: Search around in your area for small jobs. Local businesses or organizations need help updating websites, organizing events, writing releases, establishing social media or designing ads. There is experience everywhere. Create your own opportunities!

Follow trends, and social media: Trends in PR are huge. There is always a new trend on the horizon, and many to uphold. Get ahead, and gain the competitive edge.  Create a blog, start podcasting, or get acquainted with social media analytic tools. There is so much to learn.  Make sure you’re following the best PR twitter accounts. Here are a few: PR Daily, PRSA Central Ohio and Mashable.

Best of luck PR stars! Don’t fret, you’ve got this.

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