PR Trainee Insights from Munich

Carina Handelmann

Carina Handelmann

I had a very conventional start in the PR world. I studied linguistics in Düsseldorf and went to London to get a Master’s degree in Public Relations.

After two six-month internships I have started a traineeship at Ketchum in Munich where I work on three corporate communications accounts. This is my first “real” job and I would like to share a few of my observations. I try my best to do that without using phrases like “fast paced environment” and “skill set”.

What surprised me the most is that even though every PR person I know has a college degree most of the time theories do not inform the everyday work of a PR consultant. In the very first week of my internship in the communications department of a trade association in Brussels I had to submit a communications plan. That was not a fun assignment because I only had a very basic grasp of lobbying and had included a SWOT analysis, which confused my boss a lot. I feel that in some areas PR is considered a craft that doesn’t need theoretic underpinning. I think strategy and consulting are at the heart of our daily work but it takes on a different form.

At university I was introduced to many models and theories but I find it difficult to incorporate them into my tasks. I think that is because we mostly explored idealized two-way communication situations with three main players: stakeholders, companies and the media. However, lecturers fail to mention another important player: The internal communications unit. That is one of my biggest learnings: Always distinguish between the various, sometimes conflicting, interests of your clients. It seems to me that the lines between marketing, PR and areas of work of big consulting firms remain blurry and the best you can do is to distinguish between situations where you promote your client, a product or other corporate interests etc. and actively seek out what you enjoy the most.

I think it’s crucial to be proactive because if you do not seek out tasks you enjoy at an early stage you end up with your colleagues’ leftover projects. In a way, being new and more or less inexperienced is excellent because your colleagues’ expectations towards what it is that you’re supposed to do are not set in stone, which makes it easy to take your pick when it comes to your tasks. It took me a few months to realize that even though I am new at the job but I am still a consultant and I should live up to this. And I cannot learn to become a great consultant if I just volunteer to do the legwork.

Carina Handelmann is a Corporate Communications trainee at Ketchum Pleon Change, Munich, Germany

Leave a comment