5 Ways to Make Your Internship Program a Win-win for You and Your Intern

You’ve hired your summer interns, but are you doing your best to ensure that they and your organization are getting the most out of the experience?

There is no doubt that internships should be a mutually beneficial experience for the employer and the intern. Too often, I hear about disappointing internships where an intern’s primary responsibilities were relegated solely to making copies, answering phones, organizing online files or making frequent coffee runs.

While students should embark onto an internship experience knowing there will be a fair amount of clerical (aka grunt) work, the point of an internship is that it provides a real educational opportunity for students to receive hands-on, real-life training in the field of their major. Many former interns will admit that their internship experience was far more valuable in their decision to pursue their career than anything they learned from textbooks and classroom lectures.

I understand that you are a busy executive and that you don’t have the time (and possibly the patience) to hover over an intern all day. I don’t think you should have to, but I do firmly believe that as well-established experts in our field, we have an obligation to guide our industry’s future leaders, just as our mentors did for us.

In order to prevent any daily hand-holding sessions, employers can adhere to a few tricks of the trade I’ve acquired over my years overseeing various agency internship programs.

What Employers Can Do

1. Make a job description and stick to it
Doing this lets the intern understand the required duties but also lets your team know the boundaries of what they can and can’t ask of an intern. Once you get to know your intern’s capabilities and skill set, you may be able to add some specific tasks to the job description.

2. Have a program/timeline in place
Interns need structure. Don’t expect your intern to wait enthusiastically each day for you to decide what projects to give him or her. Understanding that you can’t anticipate every scenario, at lease have some structure and consistency in the program/schedule (e.g., Every Thursday is a “Lunch and Learn” session where the intern(s) brown bag their lunch and listen to company experts talk about their job and provide career advice)

3. Make the internship an enriching experience.
It’s typically understood that interns will be given a fair amount of grunt work, but make sure you allow them to have access to real business experiences. A client conference call may not seem like an exciting activity for you, but it can be a great learning experience for an intern.

4. Be a mentor
I know you are a very busy person, but as I stated earlier, I believe we professionals owe it to those interested in our field to provide them with an accurate glimpse into the field they would like to enter and the skill set needed. Make it a weekly habit to monitor your intern and give them feedback – whether it’s positive or negative – since it’s part of the learning process that lectures and textbooks can’t teach. Lead by example.

5. Don’t’ burn bridges.
Let’s face it, we’ve all been burned by a bad intern experience. As much as you’re ready to boot them out the door or vow never to have another one again, remember that the interns are still very young and don’t have much finesse in professional settings. And, though it’s hard to imagine, you never know how your paths might meet again (your intern’s aunt might be the contact you’ve been wooing for new business for years).

Best wishes for a great internship partnership this summer. If you have any additional tips to how you make internships an all-around success, please feel free to share them.

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A few grammar tips

Just some clarification on a few grammar errors I’ve been seeing lately, including one mistake made by a major U.S. newspaper.

immigrate vs. emigrate

One immigrates TO somewhere; one emigrates FROM somewhere

“My grandfather emigrated from Poland”

“My grandfather immigrated to the United States.”

 

should have, not should of

“I should have brought my umbrella with me”

or as a contraction: “I should’ve brought my umbrella with me.”

 

more than, not more then

“George is more than likely to show up early.”

 

4 Leadership Tips From Pope Francis

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Whether you’re a Catholic, a non-Catholic or an Atheist, we can all learn some great leadership tips from Pope Francis.

  • Speak plainly – Many of his predecessors were heavy on theological dogma and spoke in terms that often confused or bored their audiences. However, Pope Francis – though a theological scholar in his own right – understands the power of keeping it simple and speaking in plain language, which puts his audience more at ease and instills a sense of inclusion. Remember that a message can often be lost in flowery language, high-brow words, confusing graphs and overuse of industry acronyms.
  • Lead by Example – Pope Francis doesn’t sit in an ivory tower and dictate orders. He demonstrates leadership by practicing what he preaches. He chooses to ride around in a Fiat, not a Mercedes and insisted on paying his hotel bill in person after the Conclave. He doesn’t make rules that apply only to others and doesn’t ask those to do what he wouldn’t.   A successful business leader does the same.
  • Be authentic – The Pope stays true to himself. He chooses not to live in the Papal Palace but instead chose a small suite in the Vatican guest house because he feels more comfortable there and can interact more with people. No one respects him any less for that. Being genuine, being authentic and acknowledging who you really are, ultimately helps us interact more comfortably and in turn, more effectively with others.
  • Follow the Golden Rule – The Pope has talked about following the Golden Rule. Do you treat your colleagues, your customers, employees and vendors as you wish to be treated? Or do you lose your cool, pull rank, impose impossible deadlines and blame others? My words, not the Pope’s: “Don’t be a jerk.” You know who you are.

Podcasting: Become Your Own Dr. Oz

A guest blog by Jim Harold 

Jim Knaggs

Jim Harold

Burned out and depressed.  This described me very well in 2005.  I was in ad sales, in my mid-30s and had given up on my dream which, if you didn’t guess, was not ad sales.  Then, one day, I heard about something that saved me professionally and, in many ways, personally.  It was…well, I’ll get to that in a minute.

Flash forward to today.   Here is where things stand:

  • I have a #1 Best Seller on the Amazon Kindle.
  • I have a dedicated user community that spans most English speaking countries.
  • I am making a living doing something I love while incorporating my 20 years of business experience.
  • I was just interviewed on a nationally syndicated radio show with 570 affiliates to talk about my book and my success.
  • My “product” has been downloaded over 10 million times since 2010, and is most popular of its type on the Internet.
  • I can’t believe all of this is happening to me after almost giving up all those years ago.

Yes, things have changed considerably in 8 years and the reason why comes down to one simple word:  Podcasting.

For those unfamiliar, podcasts are typically on-demand audio programs (though some are video) that can be listened to for free via iTunes and many other apps.  With the proliferation of smartphones, the ease of accessing podcasts is light years beyond what it was eight years ago when I started.

Podcast listening is growing in popularity every day.  According the 2013 Infinite Dial study by Edison Research, an estimated 32 million Americans have listened to a podcast in the last month.  My surmise is that these people are in higher SES categories than the average person which has obvious benefits to marketers, etc.

Long story short, I started a podcast on a subject that fascinates me.  I began as a hobbyist but now podcasting has turned into my full time job and given me the opportunity to become a published author.  I’ve gone from a very depressed man who thought his professional life had passed him by to someone who can’t wait to get to his desk each day.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that you ditch your current career and leave it all to become a carefree podcaster!

My message to you is that podcasting, regardless of your walk of life, is a great way to market your personal brand and enhance the success of whatever it is that you do.  While it might not become a full time job, and doesn’t need to be, it can become the conduit to increased stature in your business and a healthier bottom line.  All of this can be done by investing a little spare time and a bit of sweat equity.

Podcasts allow those willing to work at producing them to become “your own Dr. Oz.”

What do I mean by that?  It is my proposition that if most people needed a cardiothoracic surgeon (Dr. Oz’s specialty), the vast majority would choose Dr. Oz over another surgeon solely due to his celebrity.  FYI, if you are reading this Dr. Oz this is not a knock on your skills, I am sure you are a fantastic surgeon.

Hosting an audio podcast on a niche subject can raise you to the level of expert on your given topic.  It may not be quite at the Dr. Oz level, but the benefits can be substantial.  Also, the networking benefits of being a sought-after host of a successful program are innumerable.

The formula is simple, here are some examples:

  • Financial Advisor – Podcast on how to manage your money and answer listener questions
  • Dentist – Podcast on dental health issues and answer listener questions
  • Auto Mechanic – Podcast on car care and answer listener questions

You get the picture.   Enhanced credibility leads to more leads, which at the risk of overusing the word, leads to more sales which leads to more money for you!

The great news is that audio podcasts can be produced with a very small budget (I started out with a $50 headset and a PC).  Plus, once you get rolling you can expect to spend an hour or two a week producing a quality show including bookings, recording, etc.

A willingness to learn, a couple of hours a week, some elbow grease, and maybe a couple hundred bucks invested in equipment…sounds like a pretty good tradeoff to become “your own Dr. Oz.”  So, grab a mic and get started.  It worked for me!

If you want to learn more about Jim’s upcoming online class on podcasting visit PodcastWithJim.com.

——

Jim Harold is the President of Jim Harold Media LLC, and the host of numerous podcasts on the paranormal.  He is America’s favorite paranormal podcaster.  You can find his programs and books at JimHarold.com.

Part 2 – 7 Tips for Planning and Executing a Successful NYC Consumer Media Tour :

MY NYC PicYesterday, I wrote the first part of my suggestions for a successful NYC Media Tour.  Here are the rest of my tips:

4.  Securing appointments – be persistent but not annoying!

It’s easy to secure appointments with editors with whom you have a good rapport; it’s much more difficult to get them with those you don’t know.  This is why having relevant information is important because usually an editor will listen and consider it when you do get them on the line. I usually send an email recap of what I want to meet with them about and then follow up with a phone call. If I get their voicemail, I leave a message, knowing that I’ll have to keep trying to get them live on the phone.  I always chuckle to myself when a junior PR executive complains that they haven’t been able to secure editorial appointments because the editor won’t call them back.  Editors receive hundreds of calls and emails per week; they don’t always have time to call you back, especially if they are the editor for a department. When that’s the case, I’ll call an assistant or associate editor (in that same department) to schedule appointments because I’ll invite them as well as their boss– this can sometimes ensure if one of them has to cancel, you’ll still be in front of the other one.  And, don’t eschew meetings with “just the associate editor” or with interns – I met with an intern only once and she ended up having a lot of clout (because of the skeletal staffs now) and we received nice coverage.

5.  Plan carefully what message you want to convey, but keep it simple.

It’s very rare that an editor will have more than a half hour block to meet with you.  So, you need to be concise and cognizant of their time.  About half of the editors I meet with conduct the “meeting” on the waiting couches in their lobby!  Meeting space at publications is typically limited, so your chance to hook up and present a 40-slide power point presentation is not going to happen. You need to know your talking points by heart. I’ve seen many PR pros caught off guard and tongue tied because they planned to go off of the power point and didn’t bother to really know the content.  Make sure you respect the editor’s time – don’t drone on and on and go over the time limit.  Also, be sure to define roles with your client; for instance, you’ll do the introduction and take notes and they’ll give the demonstration.

6.  Always be prepared for Plan B.

Editors are busy and things come up. It’s likely one will cancel or try to push back a meeting time.  Accept that this will occur and be flexible if your schedule permits.  If an editor does cancel and you cannot reschedule, still let them know that you’re going to drop off the press kit materials and product sample (if applicable).  For good measure, I like to get a dozen cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery (several locations in Manhattan) and drop them off with the kits. They will remember that! And always follow up with them to make sure they received your package – sometimes things (cupcakes 😉 can end up in the wrong hands and you want to get credit for that).

7.  The follow-up is sometimes more important than the meeting!

Within a day or two of returning back to the office, send a thank you note (or email) with a recap of what you talked about in the meeting and any next steps that need to occur, such as sending more information or other product samples.  Pay close attention in your meeting and take judicious notes for your client so that you can follow up at various times with any news or information that they spoke of or that you know would be of interest to them.  Usually, the magazines have anywhere from 4-6 month lead times so you can check up on them occasionally to see if they’ve spoken with their boss and what might be covered in what future issue.  To keep yourself top of mind without badgering them, email them any useful follow up information or suggestions for another angle.  Just remember – there is finesse to media relations – badgering editors is not part of that.  Your goal is not just editorial coverage, but a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with the editor.

Oh and one more thing, make sure you visit an ATM and bring cash for cab rides and tips in NYC – you don’t want to stick your client with those.

Successful travels!

7 Tips for Planning and Executing a Successful NYC Consumer Media Tour – Part 1:

ImageDespite the current array of online and social media channels with which we can communicate with media, there are still times when it’s important to meet with them face-to-face. I believe it’s beneficial to keep yourself and clients in front of editors on a regular basis in order to establish and maintain a good rapport and a professional relationship that’s mutually beneficial.

Tours are preferred if your client has a new product that’s very demonstrative and/or is also the first of its kind in the industry. If it’s a complex product, it’s advantageous to meet with media in person to show them all the features and benefits of the product, and why their audience would be interested.  It also helps them put a face with a name, so when you call or email them in the future, they’ll likely remember you.

Much of my career has been spent promoting an array of housewares and household products – from vacuum cleaners to painting tapes and supplies to DIY caulks and adhesives. I’ve worked closely with home editors at national consumer women’s magazines, parenting, and home shelter publications, most of which are headquartered at major publishing houses in New York City (with the exception of Meredith’s Better Homes & Gardens and its special interest publications which are in Des Moines).  Most of the products I’ve represented target women, whom we called the CHOs or Chief Household Officers.

With the exception of a few publications that have recently shut down (Parenting, Baby Talk), much of these publications aren’t going anywhere though they are stretching smaller staffs with more responsibilities.  This makes editors’ time sparse and precious which means you need to be very strategic when planning out your tour.

Here are some tips for getting appointments, having successful meetings and setting the tone for your client’s brand to get media coverage down the line.

1. If it isn’t new, at least make sure your “news” is relevant and interesting to that editor’s audience. 

New products in general can be newsworthy in and of themselves. When I worked for a vacuum cleaner manufacturer, we came out with several upright vacuum cleaners that made it first to market with unique and convenient, new features.  However, keep in mind that a change in color or model number is not newsworthy – in that case you can get away with an emailed news release.   Also, consumer editors typically don’t find useful or relevant, industry data such as how many units were sold or the company’s market share or growth.  Having relevant content and news gives you a better chance of securing an appointment with an editor.

2.  Put yourself in that editor’s shoes and think of what info is important to him or her.

Besides having relevant information to the editor’s particular beat, make sure that you put yourself in their shoes and understand what would help make their job a little easier.  First, do your research and know their columns, writing styles and what they usually cover.  In addition to a straight new product release, I also like to include tips for using that product and/or ideas of how to include the product in a wider theme.  Help them come up with a feature story angle. For example, a new air purifier product requires a news release, but I know it’s rare to get a feature article written just about that product. So, I’ll focus on a broader theme such as Spring Allergy Solutions or Indoor Air Quality in which I can research good stats from reputable agencies (like the CDC or EPA) and make a case for why an air purifier is part of a solution for allergy sufferers.  The product may not be the “star” of the article, but its relevance and importance in a broader topic gives it even more credibility and likelihood for coverage.

3.  Strategically plan out your appointments so that you give yourself plenty of time to avoid frustrations that could impact your presentation.

Most of the editorial publishing headquarters are located in a fairly compact radius in mid-town Manhattan.  In many cases, a number of the publications you may be meeting with will be at the same address, but on different floors.  Hearst (located on 8th Avenue & 57th) houses magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Country Living, O, and House Beautiful among others.  Planning appointments at Hearst always saves me some time because I can schedule appointments only 15 minutes apart (note that you will need to keep going back downstairs to the lobby after each appointment and go through security for your next appointment). However, if you’re going from Hearst to say “Ladies Home Journal,” which is located more downtown on Park Avenue, you’ll need to schedule at least a half hour – time to grab a cab, travel and get registered at the security desk.  I like to use car services which are both time and cost-effective.

PR: A job to die for? I don’t think so.

Did you know that Career Cast’s annual list of the most-stressful jobs in America shows Public Relations Executive as No. 5 for 2013?  Jobs that are listed as more stressful than PR Executives this year are, in order: Military Personnel, Military General, Firefighter and Commercial Airline Pilot.

Really???   Are you kidding me?  I mean, I’ve been in the PR business for nearly a quarter of a century and I most certainly understand the challenges, but do I really believe my job is nearly as stressful than dodging RPGs from insurgents over in Afghanistan?  Or flying a 747 through a huge storm system?  And, how about the firefighters who risk their lives daily?  Does their cortisol level beat out mine when I fret over a typo in a news release that has already gone out on the wire?  I just watched “Backdraft” again last night and there is no comparison between my work stress of writing against deadline or getting hung up on by an editor to their saving lives whilst ensuring they don’t lose their own in an apartment blaze.

Look, don’t think that I don’t take my job seriously.  I do, very much so.  I always strive to do everything I can to ensure success for my clients and my company.  But dodging a bullet is only a figurative expression in my field of work.

What’s even more ironic is that Police Officers are listed as number 10 on the list.  Their hearts skip a beat every time they pull over a car, not knowing if the driver is high on drugs or armed.  Yes, that probably is on par of how I felt when my team and I stuffed and sealed 200 press kits only to realize that somehow the personalized cover letters did not match the contacts on the address labels!  It’s possible I suffered a mini-stroke over that one.

We PR folks are not daily risking our lives nor others’ and we don’t witness gruesome scenes of carnage on a regular basis – well, unless you consider those beautiful uneaten, melted desserts at the two empty tables at a media luncheon I hosted, where half the invitees were a no-show because it poured in NYC. Ugh, that was a horrible scene now that I think about it.  It was painful. After the product demonstration and brief speech from my client, the most exciting thing to happen with the 7 editors who did attend, was how thrilled they were to run over to the window and watch a hawk gliding majestically over Central Park.  Okay, so maybe I stand corrected.  That was stressful.  But, we did still get some media coverage.  There’s always a silver lining in PR.

What I’m trying to say is that we all have to do our jobs and make sure we do them well – for the sake of our clients, their customers, our bosses and our colleagues.  Let’s just keep our work in perspective: in PR it’s always just an ordinary day when no one dies doing their job.  Let’s be happy about that.

Check out Career Cast’s full list at: http://www.careercast.com/jobs-rated/10-most-stressful-jobs-2013