I have some public relations needs for FamiliesGo! that I haven't been able to get to and I'm not ready to pay a professional PR firm. So I decided I would try going the intern route. I've made an effort to make sure I go about this first hire (so to speak) in a smart, methodical way, so I'll share what I've done and learned so far.
How to find an intern
I posted the opportunity through the career office at NYU because it has a great journalism school that turns out a few PR people each year. I also posted it to a local parenting list-serve hoping that parents whose college kids were home for the break would spot it. I also asked a niece who recently graduated from University of Delaware, which has a strong communications program and a lot of students from New York, if she could recommend any students from the class behind her.
These efforts yielded a half dozen promising resumes within a few days.
What to offer
I thought for a while about what I had to barter for the work the intern would be doing. And I came up with a few things. I can make appropriate introductions to people I know who work or have worked at sizable PR firms. New grads don't have many professional contacts and need them as much as anyone.
I can also be a reference when the intern is job-hunting after graduation (presuming they do a good job). Having real employer references—not from the deli where you sliced cold cuts on weekends—can definitely make the difference for a new grad in a tight job market.
I can also give them something that even some experienced PR folks have never had: The opportunity to see how journalists respond to PR pitches they receive. A half-dozen pitches and press releases wind up in my inbox every day. I can show my intern which ones appeal to me and which aren't appropriate, and why.
A friend in PR also suggested I try to send the intern to one or two industry events where they might learn things or make contacts that are valuable to them and that they can put to work to help FamiliesGo! It's not a good time of year for this type of thing, but it's worth looking into.
What to have an intern do
I have work that I need the intern to do. Specifically. I have a list of press contacts in the travel, parenting, and start-up space. I need it updated, expanded, and filled in. As valuable as they are I don't have time to search for names and hard-to-find email addresses for editors at all of these online and print publications. But it's a good, discreet task for an intern and something they are likely to be doing in an entry-level job.
Beyond that, I asked friends in the business what I could have the intern do that would be valuable experience for them and useful to me. One is to target one or two publications I'd really like FamiliesGo! to be in and to ask them to work on getting the company "placed" there. This is good for me, but also gives them a clip to add to a portfolio they can show potential employers. I think my plan is to shoot realistically—a Brooklyn newspaper or local parenting publication—and something higher profile like Time Out Kids.
They also suggested having the intern write a few press releases and develop a PR plan for FamiliesGo! for 2012 (and offered to provide a template for the latter). These are things I need and more items they can present as examples of their work when job hunting.
Where to put him or her (I work at home)
This is the part I haven't figured out and will have to wing a little. The intern would get more out of the experience if they worked at the same location I do. But I have a home office with one computer. I suppose that if they have a laptop I could set them up in another part of the house. They might be more comfortable and productive in their own home but they would also have less access to me, and access to me is one of the perks I'm offering.
We'll probably do combination of the two with the balance depending on how independent and flexible the intern is.
I hope it works out well. It will help me start the new year strong—and maybe I'll hire more interns for FamiliesGo! in 2012.