PR grads share their internship 'horror stories'

PR grads share their internship 'horror stories'

Public relations is a magnet for gregarious communication graduates due to its image as a sexy and glamorous occupation. The reality is anything but for PR interns.

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

A number of current and former interns used B&T’s survey ‘Adland: An Intern’s Perspective’ as a chance to air their grievances and to name-and-shame the “intern abusers”.

Of those who took part in the survey, 95% completed unpaid work in PR. Unpaid placements also ran much longer than paid ones.

Up to six months (38%) and up to two months (37%) were identified as the most common running times for unpaid placements within the PR industry.

It is important to keep in mind however that these arrangements may have occurred on a one or two day a week basis over that time period.

That duration is slashed to up to two weeks (50%) and one month or less (50%) for paid grad work.

The majority of comments which mentioned PR were also negative.

One participant said: “Long hours, unpaid labour. Was also made to use my own car and petrol and run errands all around the city every week without reimbursement for travelling costs. Overall terrible treatment from the PR industry.”

Another added: “I felt I was taken advantage of. My work experience lasted for 16 months but I had to wait another year before I was offered a full time paid graduate position.”

One person shared a story about travelling from Melbourne to Sydney for an unpaid internship within a prominent Sydney PR firm.  They covered all of their own travel and accommodation expenses and was left to organise the agency’s store room before being thanked for the “free labour” when the month was over.

Another said they were employed on condition that they complete a six-month unpaid internship. They were given $8 a day to cover transport costs but their work was charged out to clients at the rate of $200 an hour.

Andrea Kerekes, chief executive of Access PR, branded these situations “horror stories” and said PR firms need to realise that grads can be “valuable contributors”.

“The agencies think that they are offering more than they are receiving. Or at least can go to sleep at night pretending this is the case,” she said in her opinion piece. For more click here.

Interestingly, despite the horror stories, 58% of unpaid interns still said their placements were more valuable to themselves and not the employer.

Unpaid placements are also common place in media agencies, with 83% of survey respondents saying they completed unpaid internships within media agencies.

The most common duration for unpaid media placements was identified as up to two months and up to six months (33%) while 40% of paid placements ran for up to six months.

Half of those who undertook unpaid work were then offered paid employment.

Unpaid interns did however say that their employer benefited more than themselves (54%) the remaining 46% said they gained the most from their placements.

Katie Rigg-Smith, Mindshare CEO, told B&T last week that both parties, interns and agencies, need to manage expectations to ensure they are both benefitting. For more on her response to the figures click here.

These figures are pulled from the 300-plus responses to B&T’s report, for the full story click here.

See how the treatment of PR and media agency interns compares to digital and marketing.