What to Look for in an Internship

By Wendy Lalli

As a creative director and ex-recruiter I regard summer internships as invaluable experience for entry-level employees. When I’m considering hiring someone who is just out of school, knowing that they’ve been an intern while still attending classes tells me they have several positive qualities.  Here’s a rundown of those qualities in order of their importance: (1) They take themselves and their careers seriously, (2) They’re ambitious, (3) They’re energetic and (4) They understand that real life experience can teach you things you’ll never learn in a classroom.

But not all internships are equal.

Some internships, even if they’re at major agencies or prestigious corporations, may offer very little in terms of personal development. Others with smaller firms can provide you with unique opportunities to learn by “doing” that you’d never get in a larger company. Knowing this, how can you find the right internship for you?

Make it all about you.

Consider what you’d like to learn and how you’d like to learn it.  What skills do you want to have when you graduate that you currently don’t have or need more experience in?  Presumably, these are skills you know will be in demand now and for several years to come. This isn’t a minor point. While universities try to offer curricula based on the latest industry practices, change happens so rapidly that ensuring courses continue to be relevant can be very challenging. Plus, a professor may be teaching communications today the same way he or she taught it before the advent of mobile marketing, social media and other industry-wide developments.

Create your own internship program.

Internships can help you fill in the gaps between your academic knowledge and how marketing is currently being practiced. But you may have to use a little initiative to get what you need and want.

For example, if part of your internship duties is to proofread blogs written by product managers and marketing writers, ask if you can try writing one of your own. Even if you’ve never researched or written a blog before, your proofreading duties should give you an idea of how it’s done.  Offer to write on your own time if necessary. If your supervisor agrees to your request, ask them or the product managers or other writers you’re working with if they can suggest topics that would be most useful for the company.  You have nothing to lose from this effort and a lot to gain. If your blog is published on the company web site, it’ll be a great addition to your portfolio. And asking for help from product managers is a great way to deepen the relationships you have with other professionals. If the blog is well-received, you may be asked to do more – on company time!

Turn your boss into your mentor.

After you’ve been on the job long enough to have an idea of who does what, ask to have a short conference with your supervisor. Tell your him or her that you want to do as much as you can to help the department so you’re volunteering to work on your own time if there are projects that would be suitable for your skill sets. Make it clear that you want to get the most you possibly can get out of your internship experience by learning on the job, and add that you’re willing to make this effort in addition to the work you’re already doing.  Perhaps you could help with internal communications, social media postings, pro bono projects for charities, and so on.  This will enhance your book and, again, give you an opportunity to develop a closer rapport with your boss and other team members.

Be a big fish in a smaller pond.

If you intern at a smaller agency or firm you usually have more opportunities to do real assignments like blogging, posting, preparing ad campaigns, brainstorming on projects and more.  The fewer people available to do the work, the more work each one of them will probably get to do.  Whether you’re being paid or not, treat this position as if it was your first paid job. Because Internships, especially with smaller firms, are often auditions for future hires. If you do well as an intern, you may be offered a full time position on staff after graduation.

Socialize up and down the food chain.

As an intern, you’re considered part of the company team even if you’re only there for a few months. Take advantage of your insider status and try to get to know ALL your coworkers, not just your fellow interns. If some of the group meets after work on Friday nights for an end of the week drink, ask if you can join them. They’ll probably be delighted to include you but if, for some reason, it turns out to be a private party, take it in stride. Wish everyone a happy weekend and try to connect with people who are more welcoming.

Bring in some cookies or doughnut holes from Dunkin’ Doughnuts for the group one morning and send an internal email telling folks where they are. Remember, making friends out of professional contacts is the most productive form of networking, and feeding people is a great ice-breaker.

Take your contacts with you when you leave.

One of the biggest benefits you’ll enjoy as an intern is the opportunity to build your network. But this only applies if you know the names, phone numbers and email addresses of your colleagues. A day or two before your last day, stop by the desk of everyone you’ve met to say good-bye in person. Ask for their personal email address as well as that with the company and their cell phone number. Also ask permission to LinkIn with them. That way, you’ll still be able to reach them even if they leave the company for another job. On your last day, send a short, sincere email thanking everyone on staff and giving them your contact information.

Hope you find these suggestions helpful.

Vincent Geraghty, Executive Vice President, Executive Director of Production, Leo Burnett

Vincent Geraghty, an industry leader in the area of integrated production, is the Executive Vice President Director of Production for Leo Burnett USA.  Vincent is responsible for the integrated production on all Leo Burnett USA clients.


A 27-year veteran of the advertising business, Vincent has received numerous prestigious awards for his work, including a 2003 gold Clio for an Altoids integrated campaign, a 2005 Cannes Film Gold Lion for Altoids, and at 2013 Cannes Direct Gold Lion for the production of Coca Cola’s “Small World Machines”.  While Executive Director of Production, Vincent’s team has also won awards including the 2015 AICP Next Best of Show for Allstate “Social Savy Burglar” and Several Cannes Gold Lions for the Always “Like a Girl” production.  As the Executive Director of Production at Leo Burnett, Vincent is at the helm of a 300+ person staff and oversees two internal stand alone studios – LB Interactive digital production and The GreenHouse content studio.  The Leo Burnett production department produces world class print, mobile, retail, social, digital, broadcast, radio, experiential, out of home and branded content.


Prior to joining Leo Burnett, Vincent spent a decade at BBDO Chicago where he produced work for clients including Wrigley’s, Bayer, Aleve, Pizza Hut and Borden foods.


Vincent, his wife and three children reside in the City of Chicago with their two dogs, a cat, a large turtle and a lizard.

The best marketing conferences are…

By Chuck Kent, Director of Brand Content, Avenue

So, what are the qualities of the best marketing conferences — or any conference? What makes it worthwhile for those 225 million US attendees to spend of $115 billion annually to attend 1.83 million industry confabs (as of 2012, according to PwC; those figures, of course, including far more than just marketing conferences).

Conference-choosing criteria will obviously vary according to attendee, but allow me to offer a basic five-point guide that should apply to almost any conference. And, this being the Chicago AMA blog, I’ll use one example close to my brand marketers heart (yes, we do have hearts) to illustrate my points:  BrandSmart 2016, coming up April 28 in Chicago.

Five keys to choosing a great marketing conference

  1. Is it relevant?

Relevance should be judged on two dimensions, and the first is content.  Is the theme of the content relevant to you, specifically, and not just on trend with the industry at large? Are there enough streams within the theme to hit your individual needs?

Consider how BrandSmart 2016 is being structured. The overall theme is “Creativity: Connecting Ideas to Drive Results.” OK, so far so good: creativity is fairly well the heart of our business, from developing brand strategies (don’t get me going on how the strategy is really the big idea) to creating communications capable of breaking through to customers.

And that notion of connecting is huge; in a marketing world that still struggles with breaking down organizational silos and and bridging ever-expanding customer touchpoints, learning to connect internally and externally is more important than ever.

The conference also takes the big theme and channels it into three main content streams:

  • Built to win – for those in, or aspiring to leadership, looking for insights for succeeding in an uncertain future
  • Think differently —for those looking to inspire employees and the brand experiences they drive
  • Secrets of success — for those who need to turn data and the hardcore nitty gritty of marketing into actionable insights and bottom line results
  1. Is it challenging?

You don’t need predictive analytics to know that the typically predictable conference presentations get you nowhere.   Are the thoughts truly provoking?
Do they shake up your preconceived notions?  BrandSmart aims to do exactly that with, for instance, a session on how to take one of the deadliest-dull categories and inspire it to life in sometimes wild, always very human ways.

  1. Is it involving?
    Brand marketing is a business that loves to blather on about engagement—so make sure the conference you’re going to offers real engagement, not just “you sit, we talk” presentations. Two elements are critical here: scope and the quality of Q&A.  Some conferences have multiple thousands of attendees; there’s no way you’re going to get up close and personal.  They can even get too large to accommodate any audience questions at all.

BrandSmart limits itself to a few hundred attendees, and builds in plenty of Q&A time for each session. For instance, two sessions will feature agency/client teams detailing how they’re successfully bridging the divide between traditional yesterday and forever-changing tomorrow… and as much as a third of each session will be devoted to discussion with the audience, giving you the opportunity to both explore what’s worked for them and ask how they would handle challenges you’re facing in the client-agency relationship.

Networking, of course, is it’s own kind of involvement, and the most common benefit to attending any conference. Again, unless you’re all about passing out the greatest quantity of cards possible, a smaller conference gives you a better shot at making quality connections.

  1. Is it teaching rather than selling?
    Then there’s the sales-meeting-disguised-as-an-industry-conference syndrome. BrandSmart, for one, is a conference “built on a foundation of takeaways,” that is, all sessions are selected based first on their ability to deliver useful learning.
  2. Is it a good value?
    Believe it or not, expense isn’t the main issue here (although some conferences are entering the cost stratosphere). The question is, will the combination of time spent, plus money laid out, multiplied by the people you meet tally as a net plus… one you couldn’t get just staying home and, say, reading the presenters books or blog posts? With its more-affordable-than-most pricing and more-interesting-than-most content, BrandSmart is a great example of a good value.

So those are my top five criteria for choosing a conference… and I hope you’ll use them to choose  BrandSmart 2016, which delivers on all key points of what “The best marketing conferences are…”

About the author
Chuck Kent is a volunteer member of the Chicago AMA Programming Committee, and the Director of Brand Content for Avenue, the B2B marketing strategy and activation firm.




Social Media Rules! How Can Higher Ed Marketers Reach Prospective Students?

When trying to reach Generation Z or Millennials, SnapChat, Instagram and Twitter are the “it” social media platforms. Print still serves a purpose — mainly driving the recipient to your digital presence – but social media is the place where engagement and conversion happens. That was the message Michael Mullarkey, chief executive officer of Chicago-based Brickfish, delivered at the Higher Ed SIG gathering that took place April 6.

The SIG meeting, which was held at Troquet North, was a discussion about how to optimize social media for colleges and universities. In keeping with our new format for these gatherings, the meeting was more of a moderated conversation as opposed to a presentation.  It was a huge success!

Brickfish, whose slogan is “Engagement is Everything,” manages the content and social media of large brands like Neiman Marcus and Hertz.  Relevant, fresh content along with a quick response to visitors’ queries is essential to the success of any enterprise. Generation Z and Millennials expect instance responses. Mullarkey believes Facebook is still important, but these cohorts spend most of their time exchanging rapid-fire communiqués with their friends on SnapChat and WhatsApp. Marketers need to become a relevant part of these exchanges.

Mullarkey also spoke about the shrinking reach of Facebook and Instagram. Once brands established their presence on these platforms, these firms monetized their sites.  You now have to boost your post to expand your reach and that requires paying for it. He offered some advice about how to get around having to pay, which includes unique, relevant content, engagement and short video.

Bottom line: For us higher education communicators, it’s new a world. We just need to fasten our seat belts and enjoy the ride.

Betsy Butterworth Dean Petrulakis

Betsy Butterworth and Dean Petrulakis

Co-Chairs, Chicago AMA Higher Education Special Interest Group

Eckrich and Operation Homefront – Redefining a Brand Through a Cause Partnership

BrandSmart 2016


Chuck Gitkin, SVP Brands and Marketing, Smithfield Foods


  1. A cause that fits with a brand can enable winning with customers, consumers, and the community
  2. For a cause partnership to be successful, the brand must speak in an authentic voice
  3.  A key to connecting an idea with consumers is to integrate the idea into every touch point



Chuck Gitkin, SVP, Brands and Marketing

logo_mainBrandSmart 2016

Chuck Gitkin is a twenty-five year career marketer, having worked in a number marketing and innovation roles for leading CPG companies.  Chuck has a depth of experience in consumer and B-to-B marketing.  He is currently SVP, Brands and Marketing for Smithfield Foods, with responsibility for all brands and marketing activity in Smithfield’s domestic Packaged Meats business.  The Smithfield brand portfolio includes Smithfield, Eckrich, Nathan’s, Farmland, and Armour, among a number of other leading brands.

Previously, Chuck led Marketing and Innovation for McCain Foods, held a number of marketing and innovation roles at Unilever, including an assignment in the U.K., and began his marketing career at Bristol-Myers Squibb with Clairol.  Chuck has also had experience in market research with Philip Morris, and started his career in retailing, completing the Saks Fifth Avenue Executive Training Program.  Chuck holds an M.B.A. in Marketing and International Business from NYU, The Stern School of Business, and an undergraduate degree from Tulane University.

Smithfield Brands

Smithfield brands

Think Differently – Opportunity Identification or Breakthrough Ideas


Lindsay Avner, Founder & CEO of Bright Pink


Bright Pink was founded in 2007 by Lindsay Avner to educate and empower young women to take action and be proactive with their breast and ovarian health. Nine years later, the organization is poised to reach 14.4 million women nationwide in 2016 alone. In a world where everyone is trying to capitalize on “pink,” Avner has built a brand that stands out in a saturated market and deeply resonates with her target audience. She has honed the ability to innovate in the basics and will discuss techniques for capitalizing off of existing trends in better and smarter ways. Similarly, as a result of working in the nonprofit space, she has mastered the ability to grow exponentially in the face of limited resources and will discuss techniques that translate to the for-profit sector. Bright Pink’s consistently relevant branding reaches women in an effective, authentic manner that triggers life-saving action. In part, this success is due to strategic marketing partnerships that drive results—because we all know content can’t be created in a vacuum. Lindsay will present best-in-class case studies and cover tips for forging and maintaining partnerships that work.

Three things the audience can expect to learn:
• How to stand out in a saturated market
• How to grow exponentially with limited resources
• How to form marketing partnerships that drive results

“Getting Creative with the B2B Agency of the Future”

Erin Paul, Director of Design Strategy, Trinity Brand Group

Linda McGovern, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing, USG Corporation
Michael Hensley, Co-Founder/President, Gyro (Chicago and Denver)


What is a B2B “agency” today? What are successful B2B agencies doing to keep clients? Andperhaps most important of all — how will they need to “get creative” to keep client
relationships thriving in an ever-changing future? As in the morning session covering B2C, Erin Paul will interview the leaders from a very agency-client partnership, this time B2B: Linda McGovern, SVP of Global Branding for USG and Michael Hensley, President of Gyro (Ad Age’s 2016 B2B Global Agency of the Year). Attendees will get a real-world look at how to make the client-agency relationship mutually productive, and also have the chance to ask questions of the participants.

Key Takeaways:

1. How to recognize and deal with the biggest current challenges in client agency relationships.
2. What capabilities clients expect any single agency to offer — and how to meet those expectations.
3. How agency and client resources need to evolve.
4. What kind of talent agencies, and clients, will need to develop or recruit in the future.

Embracing Change and Design as a Catalyst for Better Brand Engagement


Dyfed “Fred” Richards, Chief Creative Officer & Partner, Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope_Logo_RegularAs it becomes inherently more clear that the world as we know it is changing, brands must continue to adapt and evolve. In this presentation, Fred will discuss the ingredients of good design, the pitfalls of category language, how consumers respond to and shop the categories where your products live, how to educate consumers through packaging and branding, and tackle the question, “How can you use packaging to tell your brand’s story while inspiring change in consumer behavior?” This vibrant presentation will allow attendees to gain an understanding of how to create better briefs, build better relationships with clients, and have packaging be considered throughout the entire process of building a brand drives business growth.

Brand-Building and Data-Driven Demand Generation


Craig Greenfield, COO, Performics Worldwide


Performics logoToday, consumers move seamlessly and simultaneously across channels and devices in the path-to-purchase. Every brand touchpoint is part of a holistic, omni-channel shopping journey. The lines between physical and virtual shopping have blurred, with mobile as the key integrator. No matter where, each and every moment could be “shoppable.” Throughout this journey, consumers have come to expect highly personalized experiences, aligned with their wants and needs, in specific moments. Yet, many advertisers still treat every customer and moment the same. Intent is the largest marketing variable. It shapes how people discover content, dictates paths-to-purchase and mediates meaningful interactions with brands, regardless of media type. In today’s landscape, successful advertisers are identifying intent at each consumer decision point, matching that intent and turning it into conversions.
  • Move from mass marketing to moment marketing, and pull strategy to predictive strategy
  • Build a process to understanding consumer intent, extracting meaning from data: consumer journeys, search keywords, device, geo, demographics, CRM etc.
  • Create an intent hypothesis, a vision of experiences that you think will best engage each of your audiences by moment
  • Leverage in-market data (clicks, leads, conversions)–powered by advanced analytics–to continually validate and refine your intent hypothesis