Unpaid Internship Pays Dividends

logoI just finished up working an unpaid internship this semester with the Des Moines Menace, a minor league soccer team. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Prior to this I worked three other paid internships during my time in college. I decided I wanted one more internship, just to cap off senior year and broaden my marketing experiences that much more.

Here’s the kicker: I didn’t know the Menace internship was unpaid until the interview when I was offered the gig. It was 100 percent my fault that I didn’t know. I had interviewed for a full-time paid internship with them the summer before so I assumed that the internships during the school year were paid as well. I saw the job posting, knew that I had a history with the organization and liked my would-be boss (Adam) so I hit the button to apply. I wanted to work with the organization but I could not afford to take a 15-20 hour a week unpaid position. We talked it out, I took the weekend to think about it and we decided that since I already had my Fridays free for a potential internship I would work a full day on Fridays and they would hire another intern and split all the work between us.

On the first day I was extremely apprehensive. The summer after my freshman year I had accepted an unpaid internship with a minor league sports team in St. Paul. It was an awful experience and I ended up quitting after two weeks because the amount of time and travel required was not worth it. The first day with the Menace though, was awesome. Adam and I sat down and we mapped out a plan for my internship. We discussed specific things I wanted to learn about, specific projects I could complete for them that would be portfolio pieces for me, and short-term/long-term goals for the internship. For the Menace it was as much about me getting what I need out of an internship as it was getting done the work that they need completed.

The Menace only has a full-time staff of three people. The team depends on interns in order to simply function. Part of the reason I liked working there was that I was given real responsibilities that would not be completed if I was not there to do them. In addition to working on their social media and websites, my one main project was to create the 2015 Media Guide. This is a 40 page document that I created largely from scratch. In the process of creating the Media Guide I had to reformat excel spreadsheets upon excel spreadsheets of game results and season histories, turning them into documents that can be used to keep records for years to come.

While I’m incredibly proud of the work that I did for the Menace, the relationship that I developed with Adam was what really made the internship more valuable that I could have ever anticipated. He knew what a sacrifice it was for me to take an unpaid internship and did everything he could to make it worth my while. In addition to thanking me for being there every opportunity he got, he has become a mentor to me and someone I will continue to keep in contact with for years to come. We had many meetings where we would just sit and talk about my job search and strategies/tactics surrounding that. He tolerated me pestering him with questions about getting jobs via email at all hours of the day and provided a much needed sounding board. Most importantly, he challenged me and gave me needed shoves in the right professional direction. Just developing that professional relationship made the entire experience more than worthwhile for me and I am so thankful for it.

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McDonalds needs a McMakeover

In an effort to stop their worst slump in decades, McDonalds hired a new CEO at the beginning of March. Unlike his predecessor, who knew that McDonalds had a perception issue but chose to pursue a strategy which attempted to convince customers that their impressions of the company and its Big Macs and McNuggets were wrong, this new guy realizes that in order to change perceptions, McDonalds actually has to change.

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What McDonalds really needs to do is appeal to millennial tastes. Millennials represent one-third of the total U.S. population and command a huge amount of buying power. Increasingly, younger diners are seeking out fresher, healthier food and chains that offer customizable menu options for little more than the price of a combo meal. The percentage of people age 19 to 21 in the U.S. who visited McDonald’s monthly has fallen by 12.9 percentage points since the beginning of 2011, according to Technomic, while the percentage of customers age 22 to 37 visiting monthly during that period has been flat. Part of this problem is that the millennial generation has an abundance of choice in the market, and they’re picky with their loyalty.

McDonalds recently announced they are launching a clothing line. While well intended, I don’t think that is the most effective way to reach Gen Y – it is McDonalds once again trying to change consumers’s perceptions without actually changing. What McDonalds needs to do is completely overhaul their menu and being using fresher, healthier ingredients because millennials are currently passing up the Big Macs for more wholesome options like Chipotle and Panera. These restaurants have also worked to cultivate images of social responsibility that appeals to many young people, such as by offering organic ingredients and pork from “naturally raised” pigs.

Their March announcement that within the next two year they will stop sourcing chickens raised with antibiotics is a great first step, but MacDons still has a ways to go to re-brand and reintroduce themselves to millennials.

Be the Purple Cow

“Have the courage to be the Purple Cow”

Throughout my (ongoing) job search this has been my mantra. It comes from Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow which I would definitely advise every marketer to read. The premise of the book is that brown/black and white cows are normal, nothing special. A purple cow, however, would be remarkable. Something (or someone) remarkable is worth talking about, worth paying attention to – in my case, worth hiring. The Drake business school does a great job of churning out brown cows, but what employer wants a brown cow?

Throughout my job search I have struggled with how to market myself as the purple cow. My boss at my internship preaches to me that I need to differentiate myself from everyone else. I go to school in Iowa and I’m a twenty two year old woman, what’s remarkable about that? I figured that if I came to Drake and worked hard, recruiters would be banging down my door to hire me. Wrong. Drake sets us up as brown cows and gives us all the tools to become purple cows but only if we have the drive and desire to get there.

I found my purple cow, have you?

Everyone should blog

Blogging may seem trivial and only something that the fashion students have time for. However, it is actually one of the most important things you can be doing for yourself. Yes, it takes time and energy to get a blog up and running, and you may be thinking that you don’t have time for a blog. Wrong. The only thing you need to get a good blog going is some strategic planning – once a month sit down and write out an editorial calendar of the posts you want to create that month. Planning is the most important aspect to maintain a blog. TBD on an editorial calendar is bound to mean To Be Disastrous so take the time to plan on what you want to do and stick with it.

As someone trying to make their mark in the business world you need to blog because it is one of the easiest ways to leverage SEO and get yourself found. Every blog post you write becomes another webpage and every webpage is another opportunity to move yourself up in the Google Search Rankings. By doing simple things like sprinkling keywords though your post you can rank well for whatever you want to be associated with, whether that be marketing or fashion or even blogging itself. Unlike other marketing initiatives, with blogging you can improve your SEO with every post. Plus, a blog can be as formal or informal as you want to make it!

Blogs allow you to share your expertise and position yourself as an expert and thought leader in a way that just posting your resume on Linkedin cannot. Your blog should engage your readers and invite them to make comments or ask questions thus making it another platform for communication with potential employers or other cohorts of yours.

Bottom line: blogging is free, it’s easy and it’s something that every student needs to be doing.

#TheDress

It was the dress seen around the world. Last Thursday the internet found itself completely swept up in a debate about a dress: Is it blue and black or white and gold? What actual color is the dress? And why did a dress and rampaging llamas in Arizona take over our social media? There’s a simple answer for the latter question: we’d rather debate something positive, like the dress, than ISIS and Department of Homeland Security funding. Slide1Think about it, has anything negative or hard hitting every gone viral? Nope. Everyone was tweeting about this dress and I mean everyone from Taylor Swift to Jimmy Fallon to Kanye and Kim. Personally, I argued about the color of the dress with three different groups of friends.

As for the question about what color the dress is, there is a scientific reason for what color you see. I originally saw blue and black but later saw white and gold and was completely freaked out by it. According to scientists the colors you see depends on the brightness of the environment you’re in and the brightness of the screen you’re viewing the picture on. New York Times explains it really well here.

In today’s marketing world if something is trending on Twitter to the degree that #TheDress was any social media expert that’s worth their salt should be tweeting about it. People who saw blue and black couldn’t imagine how anyone could see white and gold, and vice versa. Twitter was in an uproar. Some quick thinking brands were able to capitalize on the situation and get in on the action. While some attempts were a little awkward…

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…Others completely missed the mark:

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Not to worry though, some brands did a really good job!Lego

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I was very surprised though that Oreo was late to the party Slide1

So… Black/Blue or White/Gold?

KG and Torii return to Minny

kevin_garnett_rookie_display_image2015 is primed and ready to be a great year for Minnesota Sports…. Or at least two teams. In addition to signing a new manager/coaching staff the Twins re-acquired Torii Hunter. Last week the Timberwolves traded so they could bring back Kevin Garnett. Garnett comes back to the Wolves to lend his experience to young players on a team trying to learn how to win. Hunter comes back to the Twins with exactly the same mission. Garnett is 38. Hunter is 39. Both are multi-time All-Stars. Both were among the best defensive players in their respective leagues. Garnett is a former league MVP, while Hunter received MVP votes in four separate seasons.

Torii Hunter Signing

Most importantly, both were fan favorites when they were in Minnesota and their teams are hoping they can bring some much needed excitement and success back to the Twin Cities sports scene. I’m not a Timberwolves fan but as a Twins fan I can tell you that they desperately need some fan support right now and to create some excitement. Having not made the playoffs since 2010 and finishing with a below .500 average since then as well they [hopefully] finally hit rock bottom and made some major changes this off season in hiring a new manager and bringing in some new impact players. This is a perfect opportunity for the Twins and Timberwolves to capitalize on the fan excitement on getting these two players back and run a joint advertising campaign. I think something even as simple as putting up a few billboards up around the cities with the two guys shaking hands or something could do wonders for fan sentiment on both teams. I addition to that a humorous commercial would be best to showcase the personalities of these guys and remind the fans of what they’re like. Torii has made some great commercials for the Twins in the past and I have no doubt he’d be up for doing it again.

All in all while I’m not a huge fan on the new Twins manager I’m hopefully that Torii can get the clubhouse going and light a fire under the Twins this year as KG will be trying to do with the Wolves.

Taylor Swift, CMO

Swift on the cover of Time Magazine, November 2014

Swift on the cover of Time Magazine, November 2014

In high school I loved Taylor Swift; I even went to one of her concerts. A huge country fan, over time I began to resent Swift’s gradual shift over to the poppy side of the music world. 1989 changed everything. She does whatever she wants and doesn’t care what she looks like doing it (Read: Taylor dancing in Shake it Off music video)

I like Taylor Swift now, and I’m over it. She’s done what she wants to do, and she hasn’t apologized for it along the way. Not only is she a great writer and singer, she is a brilliant marketer. At 25 she has more marketing tricks up her sleeve than most seasoned professionals.

First, she has managed to re-brand herself from a country princess to a pop queen, and she has managed to do it without burning any bridges in the music community. She did it slowly, over time as each of her albums became progressively less country and more poppy. Her music is so good though that singers (and fans alike) from both generes love her and have continued to follow her career and her music as she bridged the gap. Influencers are important for any brand and it’s even better when your influencers are authentic and enthusiastic supporters of your brand.

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Engagement with customers, or in this case, fans, is something that a lot of brands struggle with. Taylor Swift is amazing at it and I think that is one of her greatest strengths. She’s truly interacting and engaging in the lives of these fans. She knows who they are. She’ll both talk to them and listen to them. This winter she got in the holiday spirit with Swiftmas in which she unapologetically stalked her fans on social media to find out about their lives to she could hand pick Christmas gifts for them. The rational side of me wants to think that she had one of her many assistants do the actual cyber stalking but Taylor still handwrote letters along with the gifts to each of her fans. She also recently sent a fan a check for $1989 to help with the fans’ student loans. Seriously. She actually went out of her way to do these small things for fans. I have never heard of another artist/actress/politician, anyone famous doing things like this. Doing things like these coupled with never being involved in any type of scandal has endeared Taylor to millions of fans across the world.

She also knows exactly what her fans want and caters to that. This is a quality that many brands lack. Apple is one of the few brands that seriously knows their fans and works tirelessly to come up with products that they will like. Swift released her first album when she was just 16. Her most recent album release, 1989 was just shy of her 25th birthday. Swift’s fans have grown up with her through her five albums. Her debut album featured angsty teenager songs such as Teardrops On My Guitar and Picture to Burn. Known for writing her songs almost entirely by herself, Swift, a teenager herself when her second album was released in 2008, is able to tap into the spirit of the average teenager and write songs that speak to them. The album’s most popular song You Belong with Me was about a nerdy high school girl who ultimately ends up with the hero football player. With the releases of Speak Now and Red Swift, now a snarky twenty something took to mocking her exes in her songs – something that all twenty something women love to do. She has gained a lot of notoriety for those stunts but I think her writing songs like that has done a fantastic job of generating her great PR as the media (and America) tries to guess which song is about which former fling as well as allowed her to differentiate herself from every other pop star out there. Finally, with 1989 Swift has really come into her own skin and flawlessly made the leap from Country to being firmly ingrained in the pop music world. Instead of hating on her exes, in this album Swift makes fun of herself and more importantly has fun with it. Swift has been described as a “serial dater” which she fully owns and dramatizes in Blank Space.

As a marketer I have come to really respect Swift first for her perfect rebrand of herself and also because she’s just really awesome at marketing herself and her products. I’m excited to see what new and innovative thing she comes up with next..