I’m a history nerd. Big time. My bookshelves are peppered with Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough biographies. When I was offered an internship in the media and film relations department at The Henry Ford – America’s Greatest History Attraction, needless to say I was thrilled. When they offered to extend my internship for another semester, I was ecstatic.
I’ve had a host of great experiences during these past six months and have plenty of stories to tell. From photo shoots with HOUR Detroit magazine to escorting Jim Leyland and the Detroit Tigers coaching staff on a tour to the opening of Driving America, the new automobile exhibit in Henry Ford Museum.
More importantly, I’ve learned a ton — about history, about The Henry Ford’s awesome attractions and events, about the practice of public relations. Here’s some advice on finding success once you’ve secured that internship, based on my own experience.
Demonstrate your value
Every day ask yourself the following question: how am I contributing to my organization/company? The more you put into your internship, the more you will get out of it. Yes, you will likely have “busy-work” from time to time and you should do it well and without complaint – it’s part of the job description and it eases the burden off your supervisor or the other employee who would have to do it otherwise. But look for opportunities to offer original thought and suggestions, too.
I can’t tell you how many ideas I’ve suggested to my supervisors during the course of my internship. Some of them were probably bad ideas but that’s besides the point – it shows I’m engaged and eager to take initiative.
Be a brand ambassador
Good interns, like good employees, represent their organizations in a positive way. This is 10x true for public relations interns. That may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people will trash their boss or company, publicly, via social media. Public relations interns should know better, and successful public relations interns will instead leverage the power of social media to reinforce their organization’s message.
If you look at my Facebook Timeline or Twitter stream, you’ll see plenty of Foursquare check-ins at Henry Ford Museum. I try to post a picture and highlight something fun happening at the museum every day I’m interning (and even some days I’m not).
There are two things to keep in mind before firing off status updates and tweets from your personal accounts. First, be transparent about the fact that you work for the organization. Failing to disclose that is when you start to toe the line of ethical practice. I have @thehenryford intern (proudly) written on my Twitter profile description. If you’re interning at an agency (i.e. a company that represents several clients), a good rule of thumb is to include “[client]” when publicizing something from your personal social media accounts.
The second thing to remember is the most important…
It’s hard to adequately and competently represent your organization’s brand if you don’t believe in it. People – followers, friends and IRL (in real life) – can tell when your not being authentic, and authenticity is the essence of our profession. It’s why we put such a high premium on third party endorsements, whether that be in the form of an news story, testimonial or even a Like on our organization’s Facebook page.
You have to love what you do. If you don’t, my suggestion is to move on and find an internship you do love. There’s a reason internships are for only one semester. But if you do find an internship you love, an organization you believe in, great people whom you care about and if there is still room for you to grow and learn new things, talk with your supervisor about staying on another semester.
I’m glad I did.
About The Henry Ford
The Henry Ford, in Dearborn, Michigan, is the world’s premier history destination and a National Historic Landmark that celebrates American history and innovation. Its mission is to provide unique educational experiences based on authentic objects, stories and lives from America’s traditions of ingenuity, resourcefulness and innovation. Its purpose is to inspire people to learn from these traditions to help shape a better future.