“Comms?” my friends said, furrowing their brows. And perhaps you cannot blame them.
Communications can be, compared to other business sectors, difficult to describe. In fact, the best way to understand the industry is to be in it. This means that when I applied to Brands2Life’s Junior Account Executive scheme – our version of an internship – I only had a basic understanding of what my role would be like.
How could I impress? And how could I make sure I am as useful to the business as possible?
Having now been in the role for nine months, I have a better understanding of the answers to those questions. For World Youth Day, I have assembled my top three tips for making the most out of the start to your comms career.
Knowing what’s being said in the news is one of the most important aspects of comms.
In a basic sense, a communications agency is the mediator between an organisation and the media. A key function is to act as a conduit between the two.
Both the media and organisations rely on us. Media because we provide them with news and expert opinion; organisations because we ensure the media knows what they’re doing, planning and thinking.
This core function is one of the best ways to show your worth as an intern. At Brands2Life, while senior employees are still very involved in media relations, much of their time also includes areas such client relations, campaign planning and management of the accounts. Junior team members, however, have much more time to focus on tracking relevant events being covered by the press and keeping both the agency teams and the clients informed. Doing this can lead to direct results for the client.
As a fictitious example, let’s say the BBC has released a new TV series about the future of dating. If one of your clients provides a dating app service, an insider’s opinion on the future of dating might be useful to a magazine writing an article about the series. You could then put your client forward to talk about it. In this case, if you spot the release of the TV series, you would be making a direct impact for your client.
So, from what I have learnt, keeping a constant eye on the news is the first step to consider when doing a communications internship. Demonstrate throughout the interview process that you not only know what’s going on in the media, but have opinions on how the agency’s clients could have a voice on the news.
Sometimes opportunities are not as obvious as my future of dating TV series example. This leads to my second tip, stolen from my boss: Be curious.
During my internship, I’ve seen first hand the benefits of being curious in everything you do. When opportunity is not in plain sight, digging beneath the surface will often be rewarded.
As a real example, a manager recently asked me to research upcoming news events for a cybersecurity client. Trawling through databases online, I found ‘World Chess Day’. And instead of moving on, I considered my boss’s advice and used curiosity to answer the question: how can we relate cybersecurity to chess?
In the end, we found that chess and cybersecurity strategy share several links that could work well in an advice-led article. So, we explained our idea to the client and ended up placing the finished article in a reputable online title.
It was rewarding to see my idea all the way through. So, if you use curiosity in everything you do, you will make a bigger impact as an intern.
While curiosity can help you to find relevant conversations, it will have a more profound effect when combined with a good knowledge of the organisation you work for.
It’s not just about knowing the product or service being sold. It’s also about who it’s being sold to, why people are buying it, and how it’s helping them. Knowing these insights will help your team find the gaps in conversations your competitors are not addressing.
To gain this knowledge, you will probably be given a comprehensive briefing of the clients you’re working on, when you start. But don’t stop there: it’s important to continue your research of the companies independently. Make sure you have gone through all the material on file, explored the website, checked how they’re covered in the media, research their competitors, ensure you know what their business objectives are, and keep asking questions.
Although it’s natural to prioritise more urgent tasks, taking the time to find out about the organisation you work for is a worthwhile investment.
When starting your internship in comms, the first month can often become a confused exercise in orienteering. Strange words and abstract targets signpost the path to success. But by keeping a constant eye on the news, exercising a voracious curiosity, and taking time to research your client or business, I believe you will make the most out of your opportunity.