October 25, 2014

Cash for interns – is experience payment enough? (The Student Perspective series)

This guest post from Carly Smith is part of The Student Perspective series – a set of posts contributed by future stars of the comms industry.

There has been an ongoing debate as to whether interns should be paid for their work or not. Being one of these interns I thought it would be interesting to give an insight as to what I thought…

If you speak to anyone within PR or the University you are told that experience is needed when applying for jobs. It is therefore necessary for graduates to have a balance between education and real life experience. However this is easier said than done.

For some students their work experience is not a pleasant experience. They spend the entire time being the office ‘dogsbody’ – making tea, photocopying and washing up. Of course we understand that when we graduate we won’t jump to the top and be shouting orders but what do we gain? Fortunately my experience has been a positive one, I work on specific areas and am given ‘real’ work to do which benefits both myself and the business.

I think it is important to establish with a company, before the internship commences, what you want to get out of the experience. And don’t forget an interview is there to see if you are compatible for each other. I was very conscious when I went to the interview for my placement that the company I approached had probably been approached by many other individuals asking for the same thing. That is why I never even considered getting paid for it because I wouldn’t want to price myself out of the market.

So how much is fair?

Should it be the same as the person whose position you are experiencing? Enough to cover your travel and living costs? Minimum wage? A ‘token’ for your hard work? It sounds clichéd but it depends.

I am of the opinion that you pay to attend University where you learn and in your work placement you are gaining their experience and knowledge. Plus it is only for the short term, this experience you gain will help you get a paid job at a later date, maybe with the same company. It is also important to remember that the employer is taking time out of their working day to supervise you on projects and mentor you along your journey. It is mutually beneficial for both parties.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggested that interns should be paid £2.50 per hour. This is less than minimum wage and would provide a benchmark for employers. It would also make placements increasingly available as a choice to less well off individuals who otherwise might not be able to take part. But would this set amount make the grey area clearer or would internships disappear because employers didn’t want to pick up the costs? It also raises the issue as to whether there would become ‘unofficial interns’ who still wouldn’t be paid.

10 Yetis Public Relations Agency in Gloucester are setting a good example for others by paying their interns. Andy Barr, Managing Director, said:

“As soon as someone has been part of a team for longer than two weeks, they begin contributing towards the bottom line of a business and therefore they deserve to be rewarded and compensated for their efforts. I don’t think anyone should have to work without payment, as it is both degrading and unfair.”

It would be interesting to hear others thoughts on this debate. Are you an employer who takes interns? Do you pay them a wage or not? Are you taking part in an internship? Do you think interns should be paid?

Carly Smith is currently in between her 2nd and 3rd year at the University of Lincoln studying Marketing and Public Relations. She has a work placement at a local PR agency one day a week on an unpaid basis.

It’s vital that we don’t cut corners when it comes to ethics

– By Eamonn Moore.

There’s a great history of public figures being caught making unguarded comments by the press and media, but such cases appear to be rife this spring/summer.

First there was Bigotgate. Then there was Snookergate. Then Lord Triesman was shown the red card after apparently making some unguarded comments about Spain and Russia bribing officials at this summer’s World Cup. And now Sarah Ferguson has been caught allegedly offering to sell access to her ex husband Prince Andrew. What’s next?

In my previous blog post, I looked at how Gordon Brown’s PR should be handled post-Bigotgate, but did not tackle the ethics of the situation – something that I now feel I should address, especially after the thought provoking discussion on ethics in this week’s #CommsChat.

The whole issue of ethics and the media has always been and will always be a hot potato. Do we have a right to know everything that public figures say (even if it’s said ‘behind closed doors’) or is everyone entitled to their privacy? Should we perhaps only be alerted to conversations that are of genuine national interest, and if so, what constitutes ‘national interest’?

Personally, I feel that there are circumstances when it is genuinely important that the contents of a private conversation are aired – Watergate perhaps being the best example of this. However, in cases such as the one involving Lord Triesman, the desire to have a sensationalist headline (and increased sales) seem to have been received by some as a neglect of ethical standards by the newspaper in question. Whether his allegations are correct or not, you could argue that Lord Triesman has a strong case to say that he has been the victim of entrapment. Furthermore, surely potentially irreversibly damaging England’s 2018 World Cup bid is not in the ‘national interest’? Gary Lineker certainly didn’t think it was.

Working in public relations, I am acutely aware of the importance of ethical and responsible media reporting. We rely on the media to do our jobs, and they rely on us, so I see it as our duty to help uphold, support and encourage the highest ethical standards. Indeed, if the media fall short of such standards, it often impacts on the world of public relations (and vice versa).

Various recent public mudslinging matches between PRs & PRs, and PRs & the media have shown us that it cuts both ways. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being critical of something (or someone), provided that you go about it in a considered manner, choosing to value ethics over link-bait opportunities, and always aiming to offer constructive criticism by suggesting possible areas of improvement, rather than just celebrating perceived misfortune. It seems to me that events of late have left the PR world feeling somewhat tarnished.

The world of communication is developing apace along with technology, but if we’re not careful, we risk losing sight of the basics, especially when it comes to ethics. As PRs, it is our duty to both protect and enhance our industry’s reputation from within by being positively and proactively ethical at all times (even when we’re being critical of something). If we don’t fulfil this duty, the whole industry’s reputation could well be left in tatters, and none of us want that, do we?

The launch of #CommsChat on Twitter – fancy it?

#CommsChat, a weekly Twitter-based chat about anything and everything to do with communications, is inspired by chats like #JournChat, #PRstudchat and #BlogChat, which focus on specific subjects / participants.

These chats are typically based / moderated out of the USA, which means that the times are often challenging for people based in Europe.

#CommsChat has been developed with these things in mind, and will hopefully be shaped even more by you after reading this post.

The top line framework of #CommsChat

  • A weekly chat on Monday nights at 8pm UK time (1 hour duration)
  • Wide-ranging topics connected to communications, including: traditional and social media, PR, blogging, marketing, journalism and lots more
  • Special guests will be invited to take part most weeks based on the subject matter

Help shape #CommsChat

The rest of #CommsChat and its make-up will be determined by you over the next few weeks.

  • What would you like to see?
  • Any thoughts on subjects / topics?
  • Is there a format from another chat you’ve taken part in that you really like?

All this feedback will help us collectively create an engaged community and host sessions that add value to everyone taking part.

Put a date in your diary

The first #CommsChat is scheduled for 24 May 2010 at 8pm (UK time).

Although based out of the UK, it is open to anyone from everywhere – comms professionals, bloggers, journalists, students – basically anyone with an interest in / passion for communications.

Over the next few weeks we’ll provide you with more information about how it will work.

But the primary objective is simple: encourage like-minded people to get together for an hour each week to share their tips, hints and lessons relating to the world of communications.

It should be a lot of fun…and we look forward to hearing what you have to say.


Adam Vincenzini and Emily Cagle

Staying connected / useful links: