Monday, August 15, 2011

Intern Experience: Go Get Me Coffee!!

I seriously hope you haven’t heard that before…outside of the movies anyway. I can promise you that you won’t hear that in Dii or anywhere at RTC for that matter. With an internship at RTC you’ll be working on real, relevant work that can be added to your résumé with pride not fluff.

There are a number of projects you may be tasked with in Dii, some interesting and some less so. Once I got settled in, the first project I was assigned was a daily check of the FDA warning letter site to make sure we didn’t miss any new digital marketing fails. RTC deals a lot with pharmaceutical clients so Dii keeps a close eye on what the FDA will and will not let you do in an ad. Reading warning letters is often dry and most of the time you won’t understand half the words on the page, but it does grow on you and you’ll begin to see patterns and learn what to avoid so the FDA doesn’t crack down. Reading these was rarely thrilling, but afterwards I was allowed to draft a one-page Perspective, summarizing the letter and how our clients and fellow marketers should respond in the future. These Perspectives get posted on the RTC and Dii blogs, shared on Twitter and around the office. Having your name on something that lives in so many places feels really good as an intern.

Perspectives aren't all FDA related though. The Dii team tackles a different theme each month. You find something interesting that fits in, summarize it and describe what the implications are for users or marketers. It’s as simple as that. It’s fun, and featured in all the aforementioned places. Every now and then, if you write up something super interesting, it’ll be featured on the WPP (RTC’s parent agency) reading room for people all around the network to check out. In case you weren’t sure, that is extremely cool and rewarding. Don’t be surprised however, when your first couple drafts come back edited to death and feeling like someone else wrote them. It takes a while to get into a groove of writing a good draft from the start. After two summers I still haven’t totally figured it out. It might be a good idea to brush up on your writing technique and find your voice before you start.

The other big thing I did with Dii was research; lots and lots and lots of research. If you have a talent for Facebook stalking or you’re a Google search Jedi, this is the job for you. With Dii it’s mostly qualitative research, so there isn’t a lot of numbers (thank god for that). Most of it deals with digging through mainstream and health-related social networks and extracting bits of conversation. These are for the trademarked Soundbyte presentations that give clients some insight into how their patients feel about certain topics. As an intern you’ll spend a lot of time on these, doing the research and building the Power Points. Unfortunately your name doesn’t go on them but you’ll feel good knowing that an actual client will be seeing your work at some point. I actually got to present one to a client once (over the phone anyway) though we were cut short by time. Another time I walked a multi-agency pitch team through the research findings, which was cool. These projects are a great way for you to improve your design, presentation, and general Power Point skills. You’ll go through numerous, and sometimes frustrating, rounds of edits, but you’ll learn the best way to organize information on a slide, how to make the information more scanable, better formatting methods, etc.

You’ll also have your “intern project” to keep you busy. You can choose anything of interest as long as you can tie it into digital or marketing. I did mine on gaming and you can see it here. These projects are presented at the end of your internship and the guest list is often large. When my presentation was scheduled I was shocked to see the names of the CEO and President on the list. In the end they couldn’t make it but I did have an audience of at least ten people. To see the other intern presentations check out the sidebar on the right.

While Perspectives and Soundbytes were the two entrées of my experience, I had a million other little side projects. I know other interns who’ve made detailed spreadsheets, internal presentations, organized files, and sometimes you just peruse blogs looking for interesting information. Like with most internships, there will be spikes in activity and periods where you have nothing to do. When in doubt, ask to sit in on a meeting with anyone on the team. It’s a good chance to observe the day to day activity of the agency and you’ll get to know some people in the other departments. What surprised me in my first summer was that I could actually participate and share my opinions without being shut down. RTC really encourages intern participation so speak up and make yourself look good.

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