As the current internship coordinator for the public relations area in my department, I receive lots of questions regarding the internship experience. Most of the questions are inquires from students seeking to obtain a public relations internship to earn degree credit. Additional questions are from individuals seeking a public relations intern, current internship site supervisors, etc. However, two weeks ago I received an internship question from a non-communications major. In short, the student sent me an email to ask whether the practice of making up quotes is common in public relations as the student has been asked to do this on several occasions by his/her immediate boss. (See the email below. Identifying information has been redacted.)
I applaud the student for seeking answers and for not disclosing the name of the company where this is an issue. However, it piqued my curiosity as to whether other students have come across this practice. During my tenure as internship coordinator, I have never had a student mention this particular issue. I have had to step in regarding issues between students and site supervisors, and most of those were easily rectified.
As for the student, I did inform him/her that the practice is unethical, and even provided brief unsolicited advice on how to address the situation. Yet, I wonder if other students, communication majors or not, would acknowledge their apprehension to this practice or just “go with the flow” because they were instructed to do it or they think their grade, job, etc. depends on them being in alignment with the company culture. Here is the email I received.
I am a [non-communications] major at GSU. I am currently interning for a large company in Statesboro and they frequently ask me to do things like write press releases.I have no experience in public relations, but I do have journalism experience…I wondered if someone would be willing to help me by answering a question I have about public relations, and I found you listed as the public relations internship coordinator, so you were the obvious pick.My supervisor often asks me to make up direct quotes for people in the company because they are busy. She says they can just approve what I’ve written instead of having to take time on an interview with me.…, this makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t know standard protocol for this situation or even if it’s typical, though. My supervisor is the head of marketing here, so I am predisposed to believe that she knows what she is doing.Thank you for taking the time to read about my confusion. I hope you have time to respond.