I have had four public relations and marketing internships during my college career. Each of them has been in completely different industries: institutional, non-profit, entertainment and human resources. Each of them were completely different in most ways except for one: my supervisors were incredibly too busy.
I don’t mean “normal” busy. Having work to do is typical and actually is a good thing, as it keeps us motivated and engaged in our jobs. But the trend in public relations seems to be to pile public relations associates up with all of the writing, social media, media relations and marketing communications duties. High-level executives see all of these tasks as similar and something “the PR people do.”
The problem is that public relations departments are often understaffed in ratio to the size of their organization. If you are running a relatively large company, common practice should be to hire multiple people as a part of your PR team. You need a director to coordinate all public relations activities. You need a writer to oversee writing and editing blog content. You need someone to oversee your media relations. You need someone to write marketing communications copy. You need someone to manage all of your social networking. To think that one person can do all this is crazy. But from what I have seen, it seems to be common.
One summer, I interned under an amazing supervisor. During my internship, she was promoted from public relations associate director to director of marketing and media relations. While I do think that she was thrilled to have me there because I did a good job, I think she was happier just to have a full time intern to lighten her load. She was responsible for all of the media relations for the company. She still did a lot of reporting and writing for the company blog. She still directed public relations initiatives. She managed the Twitter and Facebook accounts. She was way over extended, doing a job that really three or four people should have been doing.
That was a common occurrence with many of my supervisors. They handled journalism, marketing and public relations tasks. The question this begs is do companies underinvest in their marketing and public relations departments?
I would say yes, from my experience. Writing, managing social media, marketing and media relations are functions that go together, but require a lot of effort and are best done by a team of people, separately, handling the tasks they are best at. After having worked in-house and in an agency setting, I can see how in house public relations departments are notoriously understaffed.
Have you ever worked at an in-house public relations department? How were tasks distributed?