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George Ridout

“Thank you for calling tbk Creative! My name is George, what can I do for you?”

Answering the phone, responding to emails, and going on downtown coffee runs – this was my assumption of what it would be like to intern at tbk Creative.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was excited nonetheless – my friend Amanda Tadgell was a Digital Manager there, and I had seen the accomplishments tbk Creative had enjoyed, such as winning Small Business of the Year at the London Chamber’s 2016 Business Achievement Awards. When Amanda told me she would give me an opportunity to interview for the upcoming internship program – I was thrilled to meet the team and get an insider’s look at a successful digital marketing and web design agency. I had spent the last few months listening to marketing podcasts, reading articles and books, and was about to enter Business Marketing at The Lawrence Kinlin School of Business at Fanshawe College – I was hungry – and to see those principles carried out in a real business setting, meet the leadership team, contribute in some small way, and learn through osmosis was an exciting enough prospect for me.

But my naiveté was quickly dissolved on my first day. After a jovial greeting with the team and syncing Google calendars with each and every one of them, I was inserted into all project chatrooms and given access to the near entirety of tbk Creative’s Dropbox. I could see what each team-member would be working on for the day, and view exciting content for projects old and new. It was then that I began to realize that maybe I was in for more than I had initially thought. After the main process and procedure stuff was explained to me, Megan Hutchison – an account coordinator and my internship’s supervisor – handed me my first task. Rather than answering phones and licking envelopes on my first day –  I was to edit and rewrite biography content for Renin’s soon to be launched website with guidance from the team.

Needless to say, I was already thrilled with what was going to be a far more valuable stint than I had originally hoped for.

December

That first day I was talking about? That was December 12th.  In the weeks that followed, leading to the New Year, I was already involved in numerous projects. As I mentioned above, tbk Creative was in the final stages of launching Renin’s new website and branding strategy, and I was lucky enough to contribute to its final iteration. Aside from the biography content, I drafted a press release for the company that would evoke the new brand language – which was a blast to create.

On day 2, I was given the opportunity to draft Jiffy Lube® Ontario’s (59 stores) December email campaign. It was quite the learning experience to become immersed in the Jiffy Lube brand, analyze previous marketing materials, and use that to create something that although was new – was still on message.

I still remember it with fondness:

 An excerpt of Jiffy Lube Ontario’s December Email Marketing Campaign.

Along with Jiffy’s email design, I was also put in charge of posting on the business’ Twitter account: @JiffyLubeON. I would continue to do this every day at my internship, and it quickly became one of my favourite tasks – creating content, posting it, reading twitter analytics on the posts’ performance, and interacting with followers. The use of such a large social account truly elevated my understanding of building long-term consumer relationships through the power of social media.

Along with Jiffy Lube Ontario, it was at this time that I began handling Beverley Hills Home Improvements’ social accounts. tbk Creative generates an editorial calendar containing blocks of social posts with the design team a month in advance to ensure proper coordination quality – so on day 3 I was given the task of drafting the Content Brief for Beverley’s January social marketing editorial calendar. Creating an editorial calendar for the month ahead was a valuable experience – an experience I carried over to use for Jiffy Lube’s twitter account moving forward. Viewing a business’ social account in this way changed the way I communicated using the medium. Using daily posts to connect with people – with each post contributing to that connection – strengthened my understanding of social’s potential for long-term consumer relationships.

bh january email

One of Beverley Hill’s January social posts.

My learning continued on Friday – when I had training with the Digital Manager on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). We gathered in the boardroom, and Amanda led a presentation that opened my eyes to the realities of building an online presence. She talked of backlinks and citations, how their quality influences Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings, how to properly analyze a website’s SEO, keyword tracking, websites that could negatively affect a website’s ranking – I could go on – it was an almost overwhelming amount of knowledge (luckily I took notes). After this meeting, I was not only impressed with what I had learned but also with the fact that I was already learning so much.

tbk Creative’s emphasis on investing in their team – even their intern – blew away my expectations.

For my second week at tbk Creative, I used the information I learned about SEO to research Beverley Hill’s blog topics for 2017. Using keyword search results, I came up with the topics and secondary keywords for each, in order to strengthen the articles. The challenge here was coming up with 24 topics (they have two monthly blog articles) that had great search returns, were not touched on in previous blog articles, and still on brand for the company. With proper oversight, the freedom tbk Creative gave me to pick the topics was encouraging. I built a proposal document, which was sent to the client, and then I used their feedback to create a final yearly plan for their blog content. I’m excited to write on these topics in my upcoming months here.

This week wasn’t all planning though – I continued writing for Renin’s website – creating content for various pages, including the “Designers and Architects” Page below:

Renin Designers and Architects page preview

I was also introduced to Google My Business before the Christmas break. Megan went over Jiffy Lube Ontario’s 59 locations, the reviews they received, and how to collect analytics on each location’s performance. I was then given the task of writing responses to reviews – which would further strengthen the business’ standing in Google’s rankings.

“If you don’t have room to fail, you don’t have room to grow.”

As I walked home from tbk Creative that Friday, it began to lightly snow. It was December 23rd, and we had the week off for the holidays. As I made my way through the few blocks between tbk Creative’s office on Wellington St. and my home on Picadilly St. – my head was pre-occupied with all the work I had done, and I couldn’t wait to brag to my family what I had been up to.

Even though classes didn’t begin for me until January, my marketing education had already begun.

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January

Winter is in full force outside, but inside tbk Creative’s office – spirits are high.

It’s Wednesday January 4th, and tbk Creative officially launched Renin’s new website and brand identity. A lot of hard work from a lot of talented people has culminated to this moment. Renin is a 50 year old manufacturer with an extensive product line – and the undertaking of building them a website from scratch – coupled with new creative and branding – was clearly a daunting yet ultimately gratifying task for the team.

Earlier in the week, on Monday, tbk Creative’s CEO & Chief Creative Officer, Melissa McInerney, led a 2017 kick-off meeting in the board room, and I was invited to attend. It was interesting looking over the accomplishments of the previous year: where the company succeeded, what management wanted to improve upon, and what was in the action plan for 2017. Watching a business’ analysis on their previous year and what that meant for the company’s narrative was a unique experience, and gave me some real perspective on the group of people I had worked beside for the last few weeks.

I spent the month of January on various writing projects – including some remaining biography work for the Renin website. I also built a landing page for Beverley Hills regarding the various home shows:

Beverley Hills Home Improvements’ home-show landing page.

It was at this time that I also got to sink my teeth into my own topics for Beverley’s blog articles. My first article was a DIY about building a window reading nook. The best part of writing this article was that I experienced a blog’s contribution to a website’s success from inception to completion. After writing the article’s draft and it was approved by the team and client, I was taught how to upload it to WordPress, the use of headings and keyword tracking, and choosing the right banner image for the content.

I also continued writing email marketing materials for both Beverley Hills and Jiffy Lube®, and Megan helped me out by tweaking my content to better suit the medium (all those English essays made my first few attempts at email campaigns a little too wordy…). As you can see, the design team came up with some great imagery to complement it:

Along with the creative briefs (CBs) for the email content, and writing the social calendars for February, I organized the yearly print creative ad development calendar for Beverley Hills Home Improvements. In addition to interfacing with the various print media advertising reps and gathering all the dates and specs for the ads, I built a spreadsheet based on the previous year’s model in order to organize the team on not only the date an ad was due, but when it would reach the public, and where it would circulate. This experience was interesting as it introduced me to elements of project management, and was a great example of the various external elements one must consider when starting an ad campaign.

“Marketing’s job is never done. It’s about perpetual motion. We must continue to innovate every day.”

The most thrilling experience at tbk Creative this month was when Melissa walked into the office, looked at both Megan and I with a big smile on her face and said: “So who wants to help me name a real estate subdivision?”

Yes that’s right. I helped name a real estate subdivision. I think we can chalk that up to a bucket list item.

You see, Banman Developments was in the strategy stage of a development of two-story homes in London’s North-West and wanted a name that would attract potential home-buyers. The target market: first-time or second-time home buyers. The neighbourhood surrounding the future subdivision included schools, parks, and other newly built homes, and the brand had to evoke these elements. This task was very difficult yet extremely invigorating. Megan and I researched the area with Melissa, giving us feedback, and I committed a few of my afternoons to brainstorming themes that the development could approach with their branding strategy. My desk was littered with scribbles and words, my laptop slowed by the dozens of tabs open on images, words, and articles for inspiration. After pitching a few potential candidates; building on ideas while throwing out others; and asking for feedback among the dev team in the office; the new housing community had a name: Vivera North.

This name would connote the French “vivre”: to live – acknowledging the passion and personal growth one feels when buying their first home; the influence of your surroundings on your daily life – while also indicating its location and the prestige affiliated with it. To further build the theme of life and growth, the imagery of rich, vibrant plant life was incorporated with the brand, suggesting to the viewer that Vivera North would be the perfect place to spread one’s roots and grow as both a person and a member of a community.

Acting as a contributor in this process was immensely satisfying and I am so thankful to have been involved in the process. Thanks Melissa!

February

It’s February now, and I’m thoroughly enjoying handling Jiffy Lube Ontario’s Twitter account. We’re using the theme #CarLove for the marketing and social contests, and it’s a blast coming up with the social posts and interacting with the followers. Every Friday is #JiffyLootContest day for Jiffy’s twitter. We send a blast out to our followers to reply to our Friday’s post for a chance to win a $50 gift card from our draw – follow them today! (okay shameless plug I admit, but who doesn’t like free stuff?). I look forward to this every week, as it’s so interesting to see all the varied responses we receive, and I’ve become committed to growing the account’s impressions.

Twitter Analytics is a great tool for navigating a business’ social, and it’s enhanced my skills noticeably. Running the #JiffyLootContest is also building my project management skillset – compiling the entries, using a random selector, and running the contest’s email account to gather the winner’s address, release form, and contact the prizing team was all a useful experience.

The main highlight of the month though came from the daunting – yet rewarding – task of writing my largest pieces of content yet: submissions for the Web Marketing Association’s  2017 IAC Awards. The IAC Awards are an international advertising competition that reviews websites, email campaigns, social campaigns, and everything in between. tbk Creative had submitted in previous years and had won for their web design and digital marketing work before, so the pressures were high. Luckily Megan and I tackled them together. The companies whose work I was to draft the submissions for: Renin’s new website and tbk Creative’s very own website.

Looking back, the creation of the IAC Awards submission was a massive undertaking and invaluable experience for so many reasons. I interviewed Melissa about tbk Creative’s thinking process on their own website, and the creative vision behind Renin’s new website and brand. I read the process documents detailing the problems the manufacturing company faced when they came to tbk Creative, and how their previous marketing decisions influenced their current business. I studied both websites extensively. I wrote and wrote and wrote, choosing the best images of the websites to properly showcase them. The team had put so much work into these projects, it was daunting thinking that how I showcased that work would affect their success in receiving the awards they rightly deserved.

An excerpt from our submission to The IAC Awards for tbk Creative’s work on Renin’s new WordPress website, logo and brand identity.

Much of my February was committed to this, but I have to say I am immensely proud of the final result. Along with the research, writing, and image compilation involved, I learned quite a bit on building pages with WordPress from a front-end perspective – especially the subtle tweaks of pixel spacing and its contribution to a page’s look.

It was a fun experience that carried over into the building of the very landing page you’re reading now!

“If your stories are all about your products and services, that’s not storytelling. It’s a brochure. Give yourself permission to make the story bigger.”

PS: In the end, the team’s talents were not ignored and were awarded the following: Renin® won “Outstanding Manufacturing Website”, Jiffy Lube®Ontario won “Outstanding Retail Integrated Ad Campaign” and tbk Creative’s own website won “Best Marketing Website”. Great job team!

March

As March draws to a close, I realize I’m nearing the end of my internship here. It’s somewhat ironic as I feel like I’m just now getting a full grasp on my writing assignments. I still handle Beverley Hills’ social account and Jiffy Lube’s Twitter, as well as producing creative briefs for their respective email marketing campaigns.

A new client has changed things up a bit for me though: Smile Dental Centre. In this stage in the game, the business wants us to “fix” their existing website, so whilst the dev team and Michael Ramsey (tbk Creative’s VP Digital) have been working to enhance code and SEO quality, I get a new blog article to write. Writing for this client takes a substantial amount of research and of course governance and review from one of the centre’s dentist’s, but it was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed!

Something else that I really liked about this month was the opportunity to pitch a few of my ideas. Jiffy Lube Ontario is running a large online contest in the summer, yet had not settled on a good prize giveaway – so Kylie McConnell, an Account Manager at tbk Creative, tasked me with brainstorming up something and writing a pitch for it. This was particularly enjoyable for me as I had already interacted heavily with the company’s Twitter following – and I felt I would be able to come up with something that appealed to both the business and their followers.

I went out to lunch and luckily our recently warm weather made the walk in Victoria Park a good catalyst for getting me in the mood for summer. After eating and brainstorming for a bit – I conferred with Megan and another team member – and together we agreed on an idea that had massive appeal, was relevant, and was still on brand for Jiffy Lube: but I cant tell you what it is yet.

At the time of this writing, the campaign is still pre-launch and therefore confidential. As excited as I am to tell you about it – it is just as cool admitting that I am part of a marketing initiative too “hush-hush” to talk about.

What I can tell you about this task is this: I learned not to get too attached to an idea.

The first iteration of my pitch was not chosen, and after some company feedback – they liked various aspects of the idea, but wanted changes – and working with Kylie on the details, I was to draft a proposal for the new idea.

“Good marketers see consumers as complete human beings.”

Drafting this new proposal was even more fun than the last – as since the client had collaborated on it (and we were close to finalizing it), it furthered my ambition to write it. I must admit that in retrospect it’s a better idea than my original. Don’t be afraid to let go of a direction you love – the more angles you use to look at something, the more you’ll see.

April

As I’m writing this, I have less than a week left of my internship. My time here has flown by. It’s been an eye-opening journey, and an incredible learning experience. The amount of content I have helped produce feels like a real accomplishment, and my skillset has noticeably improved: writing content for email campaigns and blog articles take half the time they did when I started, and @JiffyLubeON’s Twitter account has enjoyed consecutively higher impressions each month. I am now well versed in various platforms: Slack, TimeHarvest, Dropbox, Basecamp, WordPress, TweetDeck, Campaign URL, Google Analytics, and Twitter. But beyond those outcomes, tbk Creative has also shown me the possibilities in my industry, and introduced me to a newfound passion of mine: creative.

Although the SEO and high-quality backlink building I learned here is an essential aspect of the business, I couldn’t help but get swept up in writing content, brainstorming ideas, and studying and interpreting a company’s brand. It wasn’t always easy though. Sometimes you’d work on something for a while and come up with nothing. Sometimes the idea you like isn’t the one chosen – and later you can see that the direction taken was better for the company than what you had thought of. Yet these frustrations, mental roadblocks and little compromises of working in the creative space only make the rush and eureka moments all the more enjoyable when they come along.

Although I had always enjoyed writing, working with tbk Creative’s design and web development teams and watching them communicate a brand though various elements was amazing to watch in practice. The UI/UX of a website design; the images the team chooses and why; what a website’s layout says about a brand – all of them are invaluable elements. It was an amazing experience watching the team build something greater than the sum of its parts.

If I had advice to give a new intern it would be this: You’re there to learn – so ask as many questions as possible. Lose your fear and challenge yourself –  you’ll make mistakes, and you’ll grow from them.

  • George Ridout, tbk Creative

    Leaving tbk Creative won’t be easy. Yet as I set my sights on the approaching summer term at Fanshawe College, I know that what I learned in these last few months I will take with me for years to come. Thank you to the entire tbk Creative team for everything you have taught me, and for setting me up for success. Special shout out to my internship's mentor Megan Hutchison, and to Amanda Tagdell for getting my foot in the door! PS: I can’t promise that in the future I won’t peek my head in the door and steal some of your candy.

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