How First-Year PR Students Can Stand Out: Lessons from Michelle McTeague, Publicity Manager at Shaw Media

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As the first year of my public relations program comes to an end, I now understand the importance of securing an internship in the field. An internship in PR allows you to hit the ground running, get hands-on experience and really get a feel for the industry.

That’s why it’s important that, as first years, we bring our “A” game to interviews and always leave a great impression on potential employers. Though graduation is still three years away, it’s never too early to start preparing for internship opportunities.

Michelle McTeague, Publicity Manager at Shaw Media, offered us her advice at this stage in our professional careers, speaking from experience and her in-depth knowledge of the industry. After graduating from Durham College with an Advanced Diploma in Public Relations, Michelle accepted a publicity internship at Bell Media. She went on to hold positions at TIFF, Dancap Productions Inc., and FLIP Publicity & Promotions Inc. Today, as a publicity manager, her portfolio includes Food Network Canada, Showcase, Slice, and Lifetime.

Here is Michelle’s expert advice on how first-year PR students can prepare for their internships, and really stand out from the competition.

What can a student do to make their resume stand out?

It has to be attention grabbing, great format, unique and uses keywords. Your resume also has to be error-free, make sure to always spellcheck. It has to be as detailed as possible and very strategic.

What are the key documents/materials to have in your portfolio?

A cover letter that is tailored to the specific job position, key writing samples, mock releases, event flow, and mock event. A range of your writing shows the employer your thought process, how you were being strategic and how you leverage different social media platforms and other tools.

Many first-year PR students may not feel the need to think about their internships right now. Why is it important to start preparing for your internship in the beginning of your program?

Preparing now gives you a sense of where you want to start. Networking and keeping in contact with the employer is also very important since it could be where you first officially begin working in PR. Also, be passionate about what you want, it will show in your work.

Are there any specific extra-curricular activities that employers look for on a resume that first-year PR students should be involved in now?

Employers look at any extracurricular activities that enable you to showcase some of your skills. However, make sure you identify and draw out what is relevant to the job. Also, include what sets you apart from the competition. Personal development should never stop.

Can you outline the expectations vs. reality when it comes to internships?

Don’t have too many expectations. Go into any opportunity with the mindset that you are a sponge, you want to learn and absorb as much as possible. Instead of expectations have a set of objectives. For example, “By the time I finish my internship at Google, I want to know how to write an effective press release.”

Are there any skills you think we should focus on now to prepare for internships?

Time management, prioritization, organizational skills and communication skills are very important skills to hone and to have. When it comes to prioritizing, if you’re not sure what’s most important to complete, or how to prioritize a long list of tasks, never hesitate to ask your employer or professors for advice.

What precautions should first-years have online when entering this industry?

Think before you do anything!

How can first-year PR students build or improve their social media presence or personal brand?

Share your interests, and think of how you can be your own publicist. You could also showcase your favourite brands in positive ways (like in a blog post!).

What sector would be the most beneficial for a first-time intern? Agency, in-house, corporate…?

A great place for first-year PR students to start, especially when you’re young, is agency. Be prepared to give your all! Finding the right placement can be rewarding professionally. If you’re not sure where you want to work, base the decision on your heart-of-hearts and the products you want to promote. Try everything to find out what you want. Also, remember doors never close!

Written by: Tomiko Stanton is a first-year student at Humber College, in the Bachelor of Public Relations program.

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