At the beginning of my internship, I listed one of my goals for the summer as improving my writing skills. Now, I know what you are thinking: shouldn’t I already have strong writing skills as an intern at Porter Novelli? The truth is that you always have room to improve your writing, no matter how fantastic your skills. Don’t believe me?
After my first month here, I joined a writing workshop with all the members of PN’s technology practice. Senior VPs and interns alike turned out to refresh their prose. I walked out with plenty of tricks and tips, and pulled out four key pieces of advice to help you out:
1 & 2: Keep it concise; don’t use jargon. I clumped these two together, because excluding jargon and “life sucking” words keeps writing concise. After a few weeks here, I was attached to anything with an “ize” at the end. I wrote about customers utilizing solutions to optimize results. The writing seminar made it clear that unlearning this jargon was the only way forward. There is plenty of marketing speak you will pick up within your first week as an intern, but be careful what you repeat. Every word needs to have meaning and purpose and if there is a simpler way to say it, use that word instead.
3: Find the active voice. Basically, the action is completed by the subject of your sentence. This also helps keep sentences concise. Avoid “to be” verbs, which generally lead to passive voice. To better explain, here is an example from Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.
“The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive:
I shall always remember my first trip to Boston.
This is much better than
My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me.
The latter sentence is less direct, less bold and less concise.”
Side note – a great verb does not need an adverb.
4: If you are stuck, take a walk. Writing is like any other skill; you need to “stay in shape” to perform your best. Try writing every day and don’t multi-task when you write. Focus. If you are focused and still can’t seem to get a word on paper, take a walk outside. Moving around will get you thinking again.
If you are looking for more positive feedback on your next assignment, try these four tips. Afterwards, let me know how it goes. Do you have any additional tips to add?
– Brianna Wagenbrenner, Porter Novelli Atlanta
PR News editorial intern Danielle Aveta recently offered sound advice for future interns on getting the most out of PR internships, and how to make a positive mark in the process. The article featured advice from current PR interns in a variety of organizations, compiled into “7 Tips to Make the Most of Your PR Internship”.
“On a Roll” © June 24, 2012 <rs> snaps’ photos, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
Since the Porter Novelli Intern Blog features real world advice from interns around the Porter Novelli network, I thought this was a great opportunity to expand the list. Why leave it at seven tips, when it could be 10? So, I’ve put together three more to help interns stand out and grow in that oh-so-important PR internship.
- Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. Winston Churchill was not speaking directly to aspiring PR pros, yet his axiom applies to you. Many of you will graduate with impressive grades, work experience and student leadership positions. This is a good thing, and worth striving for, but do not let these accomplishments spoil your attitude as you enter the professional world. No longer are you the king or queen of campus; you are now playing on a much bigger field full of veterans. As millennials, we have been accused of bringing a not-so-endearing sense of entitlement into the workplace. Don’t perpetuate this stereotype: show up ready to work, add value and learn from those around you. Now, reference Danielle’s first and fourth tips – don’t be afraid to bring new ideas and show your personality. But, let a positive attitude guide your actions. Be confident, not cocky, and earn the respect you expect.
- Show up early, leave late. A well-known American actor, director and comedian (among other professions) famously said, “80 percent of life is showing up.” Well, I don’t believe that 80 percent of an internship is just showing up, but when you arrive and leave can certainly set the tone for your work. It surprises some new interns to discover that many of the best learning opportunities pop up on the periphery of the 9 – 5 workday. This might mean setting the alarm extra early so you can still snooze, meeting friends a bit later on Friday night or even missing the first pitch of the baseball game. However, those extra hours show you have the desire and the drive to be a part of the team.
- Dress the part. One thing new interns occasionally struggle with is appropriate business attire. Stepping into the buttoned-up office environment can come as a shock to those who, just a few months earlier, rolled in to their final exams sporting sweatpants and hoodies. Research shows dress is critical to establishing positive first impressions…and maintaining them. Don’t forget that an internship is essentially a two or three month interview, so this tip matters from your first day to the last casual Friday. Need help? CBS News and Forbes have some pointers to get you started.
Last September I joined the PN family as a monitoring specialist in Porter Novelli Radar. Working in Radar isn’t your everyday PR job. We don’t pitch journalists and we don’t write press releases. Heck, we don’t even work on an account team! That begs the question…what do we do?
The best part about PN Radar is that we constantly answer that question in different ways, but this is how it usually works:
- Client A calls one of our account teams. Crisis!
- After a member of the account team briefs us on the situation, we analyze every relevant social media post, print article and broadcast hit about the client and current issue.
- We use those data to glean insights and compile a comprehensive report for the client and account team.
- The account team typically uses the report to brief the client on the current media environment and how they’re being discussed. Based on what’s out there, the account team advises the client to help them through the crisis.
When I started working in Radar, I couldn’t have been more excited. I also couldn’t have been more nervous. Radar was an entirely new creation at Porter Novelli. No one was 100% sure whether it would be a success or not. I knew I was lucky to have this job but felt I could just as easily lose it. What do you do in this kind of situation? These tips can be applied to almost any position, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- It’s going to be a bumpy ride. It’s rare anything new will run smoothly the first few times. Learn from it. Refine the process. To this day we are still tweaking the way we do projects and format our reports. Rather than running from the obstacles, tackle them head on—they’re bound to come up no matter what. Make the best of those challenges!
- Ask questions. If you aren’t sure what to do, don’t be afraid to ask. Remember: your company created this function to see it succeed, so they want to help you. Asking questions opens up a dialogue and can help define your role in the organization. Figure it out as a team – it’s a lot easier than trying to figure everything out on your own.
- Challenge yourself. Always push to do more than you’re asked. Not only can it improve the way you’re viewed in the organization, but it can also boost the image of the entire company.
- Don’t be afraid to try something new. You’re in a new position, so the doors for creativity are wide open. Have a great idea? Tell someone about it and try it out!
- Be flexible. Embrace this one. You’re helping to define what your job is – be ready for that description to change every so often and adapt to those changes. Being flexible is the best way to take on those obstacles I mentioned before.
It all boils down to letting your excitement override any of your misgivings. Doing something completely new and out of the norm is scary, but it can be the best experience you’ve ever had. It certainly has been for me.
– Kaylea Notarthomas
In November, I posted two columns of advice from my interviews with Porter Novelli Atlanta HR Manager Tia Jackson. Besides sharing tips on preparing your portfolio and resume, Tia outlined basic steps for building and strengthening your professional network. In this final installment, we’ll review some interviewing basics that—believe it or not—some young PR professionals just seem to miss.
Eight MUSTS for Interviewing
- Dress appropriately: clean, pressed and proper
- Mirror the tone of the interview
- Be confident, positive, enthusiastic and genuine
- Listen to the questions that are asked…then answer
- Get a business card from all the interviewers
- Do not mention salary during your first interview
- Send a “Thank You” note within 24 hours of the interview – hand written cards are much preferred
- Have appropriate follow-up on your application status: try a call or email once every 2-3 weeks to follow-up
I hope this series is a useful resource for college students or young professionals looking for that next PR opportunity. Be sure to check out parts 1 and 2:
- SEAL THE DEAL: Start Building Your Resume and Portfolio Now!
- SEAL THE DEAL: Perfect Your Professional Network!
—Mark Avera, Porter Novelli Atlanta