We all love the thought of having interns, but is it the best strategy for media purposes?

Ah, interns. A true “glass half full” situation for almost any tourism organization – on the plus side, you bring some youthful energy into the office, and an enthusiasm to learn something new–all for a very low cost (or even at no cost, in some instances). Heck, I was an intern at multiple places and truly did enjoy getting to know the people that worked at each respective place… but I didn’t learn all that much, and I don’t think I contributed a whole lot. #honesty

It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested, it’s just that there wasn’t a whole lot for me to do (this was also before social media became a “thing”), and not a whole lot of accountability for what I did (attempt) to do. It’s almost as if internships have just become a thing that companies do without much thought, a very “we’ve always done it this way” style of thinking. And while I don’t want to write off tourism internships completely, I do think there are some ways to have a more effective experience for everyone.

  1. Don’t assume your young intern knows how to use social media effectively for business. I cannot stress this one enough. Your intern may be well-versed in using social for their own purposes, but doing social media for a business is a completely different ballgame. They need to study up on what will make the most impact (so let them do that in their first week–take online classes/seminars, read articles, sign up for industry e-newsletters, etc.) and then let them experiment (you can still approve the posts). After they’ve got a few good posts under their belt let them do some live videos of fun things in your area, or interesting events. Yes, they will need direct access to the accounts, but don’t worry–you can remove them at any time if you feel so inclined.
  2. Let them own the social media calendar. You still have final approval, but make this is a weekly task for them. I am a HUGE believer in writing out the majority of your social media posts 1-2 weeks in advance (Facebook will let you schedule posts up to 1 YEAR in advance, so take advantage). If they are a part of a weekly or bi-weekly staff meeting have them get group input on what to post–consistency on social media will help everyone.
  3. Do not let your intern handle media pitching. Unless they are a very long-term intern, or there is a high probability they will become an employee post-internship, letting an intern handle media pitching is a horrible strategy. A lot of organizations understand how time-sensitive reactive media pitching can be, so I can understand the train of thought to let the least-busy person handle this job. But it is a mistake. Here is why:
    1. First of all, reporters/writers don’t want to be hearing from an intern. It’s as simple as that.
    2. Interns come and go, and sometimes it take many, many months for a writer to get back to you on a story they are working on–if that email address is now defunct, or it passes through to multiple people, they are unlikely to work with you any further. If you think you can solve this problem by having a generic “intern@xxx.org” email, see point 1.
    3. It’s easy for the ball to get dropped. Interns don’t have the emotional buy-in that you have for your region, don’t let a great opportunity pass by because someone didn’t care enough to see a request through.
    4. Every six months (or whatever) you’re having to explain to someone totally new what you have to pitch in your area. It’s a pain, trust me.
    5. What do I recommend instead? If no one else in the office has time, I say hire a local freelancer to do your proactive and reactive pitching part-time for a set monthly or hourly fee. They can log on to Sparrow, check any immediate requests and do proactive pitching based on the editorial calendars. They know the area, it’s a fun job to work on so they’ll (hopefully) stay with you a long time and you can see the fruits of their labor without stressing about a ball getting dropped somewhere along the line.
  4. Don’t have them write a bunch of press releases. If you’re still writing a bunch of press releases (and calling that your public relations strategy), please read my article on that so you can stop doing that intern or no intern.

Interns are great when utilized correctly. You are investing your time and energy in them, and in return they are helping you out and learning new skills. Make it a win-win for everyone!