Friday, February 3, 2012

Don't be Afraid to Ask the Intern

About a month ago, I began my internship at Sharla Feldscher Public Relations, a firm in Old City with diverse clientele. Not sure of what to expect, other than knowing I would be learning a ton from one of Philly's most seasoned and well-known PR professionals, I never would have imagined how rewarding my internship would turn out to be.

I have held five internships in total now, ranging from large non-profits to small PR agencies and as my experience has grown, a trend in the intern world has slowly begun to grow as well. In the PR blog, Flack Me, a post titled "Never Underestimate the Intern: Why PR Needs Reverse Mentoring," Kimberly Shrack goes on to explain the new-found importance of the intern in the work place.

Although interns are there to learn from the seasoned and experienced pros, we have a skill of our own that shouldn't be ignored - social media. "Reverse mentoring," a coin termed by General Electric CEO, Jack Walsh describes the idea of students teaching professionals about the web and its latest channels, applications and tools in a mutually beneficial relationship. This practice is being adopted by several large corporations and several other industries, however this mentorship is largely lacking in the field of public relations, although it is slowly becoming more realized and adopted.

My internship is the perfect example of building a mutually beneficial "reverse mentor" relationship. I have the opportunity to teach the associates of the firm about sites such as Twitter, Facebook and blogging platforms while they are able to help me with media and community relations. I am sought after when they need to know how to compose the perfect tweet and I knock on their doors when I have a question about writing the perfect headline for a release.

So if these relationships hold so much value, why is PR slacking in adopting them? A study published in the Public Relations Journal revealed 74% of respondents said their organization does not practice reverse mentoring. However, of these respondents who do not practice reverse mentoring, most could identify the benefits of such a relationship including improvement in social media skills and vocabulary (I am currently putting together a glossary of terms for my office) and involvement with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic mentor.

So while many of these relationships may be informal and occur over a casual conversation over lunch, perhaps a more structured and formalized program could lead to a more beneficial intern-employer relationship. The field of PR is drastically changing and it is the interns who are the ones helping to change it.

What are your thoughts on developing reverse-mentorships in the PR workplace? Let us know! Link

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