PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

Intern Office Etiquette [Reminders]

I had coffee with some of the leadership from our PRSSA Chapter at MSU, including our professional advisors. Russ White from MSU University Relations, Kelly Rossman-McKinney of the Rossman Group and Jennifer Holton of the Michigan Department of Agriculture all gave their input on how we can make our students more prepared. The three of them all come from very different backgrounds in the public relations industry and we had a great discussion.

Some of the things we are planning for next semester include sessions on crisis communication, research and planning, media training, and others. But we also talked about one major thing students need work on: office etiquette.

I got some feedback from our advisors and Twitter, and I put together this list of things student workers in an office need to be more aware of:

  • You’re an intern, so act like one. Bring a pen and pad of paper wherever you go, ask a ton of questions, offer to help all the time and always have a good attitude.
  • Know how to interact with your co-workers. Talk and get to know with everyone in the office. If you work for a company with multiple offices, go work at the other offices. That’s how I landed my gig at the NAIAS starting next week.
  • It’s OK if your boss or anyone else asks you to get coffee. If they are in the board room and ask you to get coffee, consider it your access pass to the board room. Getting coffee for a superior is not a demeaning thing and no one is above it.
  • Moreover, you are not above doing anything in the office. Sometimes, you have to move the boxes, deliver notes and other not so glamorous things. Get over it.
  • Don’t be afraid to answer questions or make suggestions. Think it through before, though.
  • Answering the phones isn’t below you, either! I believe that every phone call is practice for the “real thing” – as a PR intern, I would make a lot of calls to the media and my phone experience helped a lot.
  • Don’t justify going on Facebook for hours at as time as “social media practice.” That said, try to stay as “billable” as possible.
  • Even though you’re an intern, don’t be afraid to ask for/take on more responsibilities.
  • Respect your co-workers. Don’t put the phone on speakerphone if you work in a cube and try not to have loud conversations on a break around co-workers who are working.
  • Don’t drink Diet Cokes that aren’t yours. But you should bring in leftover cake and other communal things to share. Hey, who doesn’t love a treat?
  • Especially with public relations internships, know and understand social media. You will be working with baby boomers and generation x’ers that don’t know how to use it but expect you to. Take on a social media project and be able to take ownership of it.
  • Always have something to do. If you aren’t assigned project, ask. If you still can’t find something, don’t be afraid to start your own project. Clean out the supply closet, create a company newsletter… anything to add your worth to the company.
  • As a college student, you probably live a crazy and wacky lifestyle, but never bring that to the office. Your co-workers probably won’t appreciate it.
  • After your internship, go back to the office once in a while and stay in touch.
  • Finally, you should never be “too busy” to help someone in the office. Refer to my “why I don’t say busy” post. Yuck, I hate that word.

It might sound blunt, but these principles help me every day. Truth be told, there is a large generation gap between our generation and past generations. Teresa Wu wrote a great guest post on Chris Brogan’s blog summarizing our generation. Although we may feel entitled to many things, we still need to adapt to the current work place.

All throughout high school, I worked both as a lifeguard and a swim instructor. Needless to say, I didn’t have any office experience before I started interning and working for The State News. I think alot of it has to do with your environment. If you learn from those around you, it will help you to fit it a lot more quickly.

*Southwest Airlines (@southwestair) contributed their thoughts to this post. Guess which airline I’m flying on my next trip?


Filed under: Internships, Professional Development, , , , ,

10 Responses

  1. aribadler says:

    Good post Nick.

    And for anyone wondering where Nick gets off thinking he can tell folks how to be a better intern — keep in mind he is one of the best interns I ever had working for me and would recommend him for a job in a heartbeat. πŸ™‚

  2. Sarah says:

    Great tips, Nick! As an intern, or even a new professional, it’s important to remember that you should be a sponge. Listen and learn as much as possible. Then volunteer for as many projects as you can realistically handle. I agree that you should get to know people in the office outside of your immediate supervisors and co-workers. You may be able to contribute ideas or work to other “sides” of the office while increasing your worth to the organization.

  3. Shannon Flowerday says:

    I think you make a lot of good points, but my internship was not nearly as structured as some of the things you suggested. The coke in the fridge was mine to drink if I wanted, it was out of the question for them to ask me to get coffee, and they loved hearing about what I did last weekend.

    I think its one of those things you need to feel out as you go. I was always willing to take on big projects and go the extra mile, and in that way, I think I gained more respect in the office. I was looked at like more of an employee and less of an intern, which was great.

    Lots of good points though. Especially the Facebook one. That is my biggest pet peeve at The State News!

  4. Great tips, Nick.

    I would suggest to always take initiative, be enthusiastic about any work they give you and proofread a printed copy of everything before turning it in to a supervisor.

    If you don’t know something, take time to learn it. I didn’t know how to use InDesign, so I went to the library and got a book about the program.

    The only thing that worries me is that I’ve never made coffee, since I don’t drink it!

  5. Teresa says:

    Thanks for sharing my post. These are some great tips and I definitely agree. Interns, outstanding contributions to the workplace or not, need to remember them β€” I’m not above getting coffee, making copies, or moving boxes!

  6. Brian says:

    Great post.

    In college I had an internship at a major record label doing PR. The label brought in guest speakers for us and it was a great intern program. A lot of it was doing “intern” work. I’ll never forget this one day, Beyonce’s publicist, Yvette Noel-Schur came to talk to us and she told us we should never be getting coffee for people at work. It was wrong and not the reason we were there.

    I listened to what she had to say and the next time a superior asked me to get coffee, I said no. I couldn’t believe it, but I was doing in the right thing (in my mind). Things were fine and the person just carried on.

    To my knowledge, out of the 10 interns in our department that summer, I was the only one to receive an interview for a full-time position after I graduated. Why? Because even though I said no to getting coffee, I didn’t just sit around and surf the net all day. I was a go getter and helped other departments when I had downtime.

    Internships are where I learned everything I know about PR and I vow to never make an intern get coffee or my dry cleaning or anything like that. So far I’ve been in the industry for 2 years, and have not had an intern.

    Now making copies is a whole different story.

    I’m not advising you to say no to coffee. I’m just letting you know that you should always have goals of what you want to get out of an internship. A lot of time interns forgot or don’t have goals and settle for mediocrity.

  7. nicklucido says:

    GREAT points, everyone!

    @Shannon – you’re absolutely right. Internships are different for everyone, so you just have to (tactfully) learn the rules before you break them.

    @Brian – goals at an internship are key, but it’s just as important to make sure your supervisor knows about the goals, too. Good stuff.

  8. andrewschreck says:


    Good post. I hope your “coffee example” is a metaphor for other things, at least as it relates to us. If not…Maria needs a warm up…


  9. […] when you graduate significantly increase. Work hard, learn a lot and check out my tips on interning here. Also, getting a top-notch internship doesn’t mean you have to go to Chicago, LA or New York. […]

  10. […] more general tips on interning, check out my post here. For some other great articles on first days, check out […]

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