Kudos to The PR Council’s 110 U.S. public relations firms for signing a new policy ending unpaid internships and urging others to do the same.
Although most of the Council’s agencies already pay interns, the policy effective January 1, 2020, confirms that all member firms will pay U.S. interns at least minimum wage for their respective markets. The new policy will be added to the Council’s Code of Ethics.
This is a significant move by the important U.S. PR trade group that represents more than 80% of agency revenues and some 12,000 employees. Besides doing the right thing, the Council’s policy should also help attract more diverse talent. The Council’s Find a PR Firm link is now the perfect place for prospective interns to begin their searches.
“I’m proud that our industry is putting a stake in the ground on this issue and I hope others will follow,” said Gail Heimann, PRC Board Chair and Weber Shandwick President. “Properly shaped and managed Internship experiences are critical to preparing young talent for future positions; internships that are fairly compensated are an important way to bring a more diverse body of accomplished talent into the industry.”
“By making it crystal clear that our members pay interns, we avoid any misperceptions and misinformation,” said Kim Sample, PR Council President, explaining, “when we recently surveyed members, we found a few points of confusion, including whether some colleges and universities require that internships be unpaid.”
The new policy states that member firms believe, as a matter of principle, that paying interns is in the best interest of the intern and the firm, even if the student is receiving course credit. Unpaid, short-term “externships” (no more than two weeks) consisting of only shadowing are permitted.
For the past decade, this blog has called for an end to unpaid internships, especially when firms bill clients for internship time or when interns are assigned work usually performed by full-time employees. Due to the increasing number of professionally focused college PR education programs, internships are no longer just a training ground for inexperienced talent. This fact and the cost of college underscore the logic and need to pay interns.
A Council member who has long called for all agencies to pay interns, Tony Signore, CEO & Managing Partner, Taylor, said, “The C-Suite across all industries has turned a blind eye to this issue for too long. Separate from the legal implications, paying interns is unequivocally the proper and ethical decision to make.”