Can't Add Staff? Add an Intern!

Can't Add Staff? Add an Intern!

Feature article by Linda K. Tucker, APR, media and communications officer, City of Sacramento

Who among us wouldn’t appreciate delegating research, web edits, social media sharing, and picture taking because frankly, there’s not enough of you or your team to go around? If adding a permanent position can’t be justified, often times an intern can. Make the case with your boss for an intern! The ROI for 20 hours a week is invaluable.

The City of Sacramento established our media/communications intern program in 2007. Our interns come through an agreement that we have with the Community College Foundation. The interns are employees of the foundation earning about $12-14/hr. The foundation bills us their time plus a small mark-up. Their duties have evolved over the years from being mostly media advisory writers to digital content masters. They write, they photograph/write captions, post/share, edit web copy, and under the guidance of our creative outreach specialist, learn how to produce quality videos for social media. Being college students, they’re fast and enthusiastic learners. We also gained experience in learning their trends and how they engage so we can be better at reaching that demographic.

Some advice we’ve learned over the years when starting an intern program:

  • Figure out the skill set you’re looking for. Mostly research/writing? Target the journalism majors. If you’re looking for more creative content producers, target marketing students. Write your job description to emphasize what you need most.
  • Aim to get an intern who is a junior so they can be part of your team longer. Look for someone who has already had some office experience and knows how to be professional.
  • Look for someone with the personality to handle a fast-paced environment.
  • Look for flexibility in their schedule in the event you need them for something urgent.
  • Give the interns a writing test and a quiz about the basic understanding of your organization’s business.
  • Expect to be on-hand to help orient and train them on your communications procedures during at least 25 percent of their time for the first month. Again, the assistance and creative energy you receive in return is well worth the investment.

Photo caption: Ellie Hong has served as an exemplary media and communications intern at the City of Sacramento since 2016. She’s a business administration/marketing major at Sacramento State.

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