As a public relations student, I was looking for an all-encompassing and hands-on internship experience to complement and build on the foundation I had developed at Western Continuing Studies. I had completed the course work for my program and was eager to put what I learned in to practice. One of my instructors alerted me to an opportunity at tbk Creative, and it sounded like the perfect fit.
After meeting for an interview with Megan Hutchison, an account coordinator at tbk Creative, and a co-founder and President, Andrew Schiestel, I was immensely excited about the potential opportunity. Not only would it be a chance to work for an award winning agency that serves some of Ontario’s largest and most iconic brands, it was a passionate organization with a foundation built on kindness. It was exactly what I was looking for to grow my career.
After the interview period concluded, I got the good news – I would be the newest addition to the tbk Creative team as their summer intern! I was thrilled.
It was evident my first day that tbk Creative is a creative place with a fast pace. I immediately learned I would be doing a lot of what I loved – writing. After years in marketing, I went back to school in 2016 to specialize in corporate communications. I wanted to learn more about communications strategy and best practices, and I wanted to learn the tools to communicate effectively. I knew the best way to do that was to dive right in, which is exactly what I did at tbk Creative.
On my first day, I wrote a blog article for Beverley Hills Home Improvements. It was my first experience blogging for a client, but only the beginning in sharpening my blogging skills. I would learn how blogging is part of a cohesive and comprehensive social media strategy. It would become second nature to think of topics and keywords on the spot. On that first day though, I was shown a pre-existing calendar where an Account Manager, Kylie McConnell, had picked blog topics in advance based on popular Internet searches. My first article was on how to Turn Your Patio Into An Outdoor Oasis. I loved researching and crafting a blog article that would appeal to the target audience. I also had to familiarize myself with the tone and style of Beverley Hills Home Improvements as a company and adjust my language accordingly. We addressed the importance of brand identity a lot in my program, but this was a great lesson in using a blog as an extension of the brand.
The First Week
The first day also initiated the onboarding process, which provided a closer look at how tbk Creative operates. Like any organization tbk Creative has unique processes and norms I started to familiarize myself with. There was a steep learning curve navigating the technology they use to connect, communicate and work. WordPress, Skype, TimeHarvest, Dropbox and Basecamp would all become well ingrained.
As the week progressed, I wrote another blog for a different client, Jiffy Lube® Ontario. I researched the company, the blog and the topic just like I had the first day; however, I was able to approach it with Jiffy Lube’s unique style and tone. I wrote about The Surprising Ways Summer Sand Can Damage Your Car. Through the account manager’s feedback from my first drafts, I started to develop a sharper blogging style. I also discovered a bit more about client relations from the blogs. Content is always sent to the client for review and you quickly discover the unique preferences and goals of different clients.
At the end of the first week, I set my goals for the internship. I wanted to learn and achieve a lot during my time at tbk Creative, but I only had two months. After some reflection, I narrowed down my goals:
- To build strong writing skills with a focus on writing clearly, concisely and in a reader-focused way
- To understand the processes and procedures used by tbk Creative and follow them correctly
- To navigate the agency experience effectively with an understanding of the various people and processes involved in project work for a client
- To gain a better understanding of WordPress – tbk Creative’s content management system of choice
I finished my first week proud of what I had learned and excited about what was to come.
The Second Week
My second week at tbk Creative was a whirlwind. I wrote two more blog posts – one for Beverley Hills Home Improvements on Repurposing Your Old Door as a DIY project and one answering the question of How Often Should I Go To The Dentist for Smart Smile Dental Centre. I loved that within two weeks I had written pieces for three different clients! The amount of autonomy tbk Creative provides increased my confidence. I had the freedom to work creatively with the guidance and feedback to ensure success. I developed a better understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the importance of linking to other content and ending with a call to action that serves the needs of the reader while also meeting client objectives.
It was also in my second week I incorporated promotion of the approved blog article I’d written for Smart Smile Dental Centre on their Facebook page and Google+. It was interesting to push the content I’d created on social media, and it emphasized the importance of a cohesive social strategy.
One of the initial goals I set for the internship was to gain experience with WordPress. I had a major opportunity to do so in week two when I was tasked with uploading content to a landing page. tbk Creative was awarded three international digital marketing awards at the Web Marketing Association’s 2017 Internet Advertising Competition (IAC Awards), including:
- “Outstanding Manufacturing Website” for its work with Renin® in creating the website, www.renin.com.
- “Outstanding Retail Integrated Ad Campaign” for its digital marketing work with Jiffy Lube® Ontario (representing 59 stores across the province).
- “Best Marketing Website” for tbk Creative creating its own website, www.tbkCreative.com.
It was my job to upload a written press release to WordPress. Although familiar with the fundamentals of WordPress, it was my introduction to Visual Composer. Through some practice and back-and-forth with Megan, I finally created a page I felt proud of. Once published, a link to the page I had produced would be featured in an alert bar on tbk Creative’s website.
Learning a new skill and seeing the work I did on tbk Creative’s website was validating. I knew I was in for much more WordPress work as it’s the agency’s content management system (CMS) of choice, and I was eager to learn more.
Toward the end of the week, I started another project that was unchartered territory for me. It was a video editing task that required extracting “teaser content” from video footage of a webinar. Essentially, I would choose a short clip from the footage that could be used to promote our webinars. It was easy finding a clip from the great footage of Melissa McInerney, CEO and Chief Creative Officer, and Michael Ramsey, VP Digital at tbk Creative, talking about how to build award-winning websites. The tricky part was when it came time to use iMovie to create a branded teaser clip for use on tbk Creative’s social accounts. With some instruction and online research, I created a professional iMovie clip with the tbk Creative logo included as an overlay. After drafting the copy to accompany the video, I had successfully created a promotional webinar post. I also wrote a short training manual to assist people in completing a similar video editing task in the future.
When the week came to a close, I was proud of my accomplishments and happy to celebrate! In addition to all the major milestones of the week, I had continued to edit blog posts until ready for posting. I was getting more familiar with processes and getting to know the team. Everyone was surprised to hear the announcement of a new #RefreshFriday program at tbk Creative, an opportunity for employees to leave early or participate in a team activity every Friday at 3pm. I love that tbk Creative is an example of the ‘work hard, play hard’ motto. It’s an organization that values results and celebrates wins together. I think this is what makes tbk Creative such a close-knit team.
The Third Week
In my third week, I was tasked with creating the August Twitter calendar for Jiffy Lube® Ontario. tbk Creative manages the social media accounts of some of their clients, including 59 Jiffy Lube® stores across the province. The Twitter calendar is produced one month in advance with content that meets the goals and objectives of the client. The Twitter calendar also considers the current conversations happening online, and I was encouraged to incorporate timely tweets that are impactful and engaging. Drafting the August tweets for @JiffyLubeON was one of my favourite tasks because it involved a lot of creativity. I also enhanced my knowledge of social media strategy and best practices. There was a Twitter campaign going on during the month of August, with chances to win Live Nation gift cards weekly. It was a great learning experience in how to increase engagement on Twitter.
The week reinforced one of my favourite things about working at tbk Creative: the culture! I’ve discovered that you always get what you put into any major experience, so I was determined to take advantage of all the learning, personal development and team building opportunities I could. tbk Creative sets the bar high by investing in their employees and interns. One great example is through ‘lunch and learns’, which I experienced this week. It’s an event where the company orders lunch for the team and someone hosts a learning session on a relevant topic. This week, VP Digital, Michael Ramsey, provided an overview of Excel best practices as well as some tips and tricks. During this session, Melissa mentioned something that resonated with me. She said that our competitive advantage as an agency is the way we work. Working efficiently is essential, and Excel is one great way to accomplish that. I made an internal note to myself to remember this and apply it to all my work.
As the week came to a close, I completed another agency first for me – a creative brief. A creative brief is what guides and informs the designer throughout the project. It provides an overview of the project, including the client and goal of the project. It also includes the tone, messaging and any other details integral to the project. My task was to create a creative brief for a print direct mail piece that showcased tbk Creative’s recent work, a new corporate WordPress website for Hino® Motors Canada. I used an old direct mail piece as a template and worked with Megan to perfect my first creative brief.
I ended the week amazed how quickly July was flying by and encouraged by my accomplishments thus far!
The Fourth Week
The final week of July at tbk Creative started on a sunny summer day. I kicked it off with a public relations project – to write letters for important contacts to commemorate their work anniversaries. Public relations is all about communications that builds strong relationships between an organization and the public, and observing and recognizing the milestones of key people in the community is a great way to foster relationships. The tbk Creative origin story is founded on kindness, which is why it’s a huge part of the brand identity and how they conduct business every day. I was constantly amazed by the lengths tbk Creative goes to ensure a personalized approach to its relationships. Everything, from arranging flowers when a client’s loved one passed away to letters of acknowledgment with a Starbucks gift card when candidates interviewed for a position but weren’t successful for the role, spoke to the integrity of tbk Creative.
I spent one afternoon working on landing page content for BHG Orthodontics. My task was to revamp the content for two of the pages on their website to reflect a more conversational tone, create a clear flow of information and effectively incorporate keywords to fuel their Google AdWords Search campaign. It required I research orthodontics and retainers so that I could write clearly about the subject matter. I also had to consider what the audience would want to know and how they would want the information presented.
I spent Thursday of this week notifying award winners of the See and Celebrate Canada Contest Jiffy Lube® Ontario held to honour Canada’s 150th birthday. Afterward, I kept a record of the contest winners and their contact information. I was also given access to the strategy and creative briefs behind the campaign. It was interesting to see how an online campaign unfolds, from inception to prize distribution, and all of the details involved.
A major highlight of the week was reviewing and editing landing page content for two of tbk Creative’s services: Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) Compliance and Web Accessibility. This task involved reviewing edits from the copywriter and incorporating her comments to finalize the piece. In my public relations diploma program at Western Continuing Studies, we focused heavily on writing clear, concise and simplified copy, and this task was a great opportunity to apply what I had learned.
The CASL Compliance landing page content told the story of how the president at tbk Creative, Andrew Schiestel, became well-versed in CASL compliance, and how tbk Creative can help clients get compliant with the legislation. Before my internship, I didn’t know anything about Canada’s anti-spam legislation. As an aspiring communications professional, I’ll be sending commercial electronic messages. It’s important I know and understand the legislation to ensure compliant business practices. My experience at tbk Creative means I’ll start my communications career uniquely knowledgeable about CASL compliance, which will be a major asset.
The web accessibility landing page addressed web accessibility standards and the benefits of an accessible website for people with physical disabilities. It also described how tbk Creative can help clients through an audit, consulting, workshops and a corporate subscription to the software, AODA online.
AODA Online is an enterprise level web accessibility software tbk Creative made to help developers build websites that meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) as part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Like CASL, I wasn’t aware about the legal requirements surrounding web accessibility in the public sector. Not only is web accessibility a legal requirement, it’s an opportunity to increase business and positively impact the lives of customers. It’s important to me that I work for a company that prioritizes web accessibility. It makes business sense and reflects the integrity of the organization.
It was fascinating to learn how tbk Creative developed expertise in CASL compliance and web accessibility, and how they now offer their knowledge and skills as part of a unique service offering. I also loved knowing the editing process was sharpening my writing skills.
The Fifth Week
In July, I uploaded a news article to tbk Creative’s WordPress corporate website. It was about three international digital marketing awards tbk Creative was awarded at the Web Marketing Association’s 2017 Internet Advertising Competion (IAC Awards). It was my first time using Visual Composer. This week, I gained more website management experience. My task involved editing the appearance of the website by updating the menu structure. The overall goal was to add news and services to the tbk Creative homepage. The pages I had previously created on CASL Compliance and Web Accessibility would eventually be added as well. Projects like this one increased my comfort level and opened my eyes to how WordPress can be used to improve the look and usability of a website.
Another major project I worked on this week was a creative brief for a Beverley Hills Home Improvements print advertisement. It was my second time completing a creative brief, so this was a great opportunity to gain more practice writing a clear brief following proper structure. After the first brief I wrote, I received feedback that improved my knowledge and understanding for this brief. The Account Manager, Kylie McConnell, also gave me a lot of creative flexibility. There were two promotions going on – up to 40% off on all windows and a new entry door installed for $1,299. It was my job to pick images and follow the template to provide guidance for our graphic designer, but I also had the chance to create the content. Kylie was looking for a compelling hook that was also timely. The advertisement would go out in September, which means fall and back-to-school would be top of mind for consumers. I brainstormed and provided some options that focused on a fresh look for a new season, and how to get ready for the new school season. I also added content to promote the products and their features in the ad. I loved the creativity involved in this project, and I was thrilled to see the finished product.
I was very fortunate to work at tbk Creative when they enjoyed their team day at Boler Mountain. As a team building experience, the entire office did the Treetop Adventure Park course. It included zip lines, rope courses and other treetop challenges such as swinging foot bridges, Tarzan swings, pirate nets, tightropes and hanging logs, all suspended up to 30 feet in the air. It was challenging in that it pushed us to our physical and mental limits, but it provided a great sense of accomplishment and confidence at the end of the day.
I ended the week on a high note after the ropes course. I was proud of how many new experiences the past week had brought.
The Sixth Week
I kicked off Week 6 with a fun task for Beverley Hills Home Improvements. I was responsible for coming up with the social posts for September. It involved researching past social posts and considering what to highlight in September. The posts had to be timely and include any current promotions. It was also an opportunity to promote recent blog posts. I decided to focus on the fall season and back to school since they would be top of mind among consumers. I also interlinked the article to another recent company blog article I wrote about FiberCore structural technology since Beverley Hills uses it to ensure the durability and longevity of windows.
I also wrote a new blog article for Beverley Hills on Do It Yourself Landscaping Tips. This was a fun article to write because it involved a lot of research, and I was learning how to use content marketing to stimulate interest amongst consumers in new windows and doors.
I continued with a lot more blogging the rest of the week. I wrote another blog article for Jiffy Lube® Ontario about What You Need to Know Before Buying a Used Car and one for Smart Smile Dental Centre on How to Develop Good Oral Hygiene Habits in Children. Through back and forth with Kylie McConnell, the Account Manager, and our clients, I was developing stronger blogging skills. I was learning to blog strategically by incorporating highly searched key words, interlinking to other posts and including a call to action. I was also applying what I had learned in my diploma in PR program at Western Continuing Studies by breaking articles down into easy-to-skim components and using strong headings. Each article is designed to serve the reader and answer their questions, while ultimately referring back to core product offerings.
Later in the week, I researched guest blogging opportunities and credible linking opportunities for Jiffy Lube® Ontario. This involved reading auto blogs online and surveying twitter for auto conversations and trends. My goal was to identify any blogs or sites that aligned well with the Jiffy Lube® brand. Guest blogging and having credible backlinks to a client’s website can increase brand exposure and improves its SEO.
Earlier in my internship, I had reviewed and edited landing page content on web accessibility. One of tbk Creative’s services is helping clients develop and maintain accessible websites (adhering to WCAG 2.0) in accordance with the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation (IASR) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This week, I uploaded this content to a new services page. I enjoyed gaining more WordPress and Visual Composer experience. I was getting more familiar with the different options to enhance the page’s appearance.
Another task I started this week was monitoring and contacting registrants for an upcoming webinar on how to build your next website to win awards. The webinar, scheduled August 30, would feature tbk Creative’s CEO and Chief Creative Officer, Melissa McInerney and VP Digital, Michael Ramsey. It would review best practices and topics behind building a high-quality website that can stand the test of time against its competitors and achieve key performance indicators. I had already created a teaser video to promote the webinar and knew I would be recording highlights the day of the webinar. I appreciated the opportunity to get involved further by being the main point of contact for registrants. This task also involved the use of the webinar service, GoToWebinar, which I had no experience with prior to this project.
By the end of the week, I’d done a lot of blogging and gained significant WordPress experience. I reviewed my goals from the beginning of my internship and was thrilled to see that I was on track with learning what I had sought out to, plus more.
The Seventh Week
At the beginning of the week, I made edits to blog articles I wrote the previous week based on client feedback. At this point, I was developing a better sense of client goals and the voice of each unique brand. It was my first exposure to clients in an agency setting and a good introduction to client relations.
As the week progressed, I wrote another creative brief for Beverley Hills Home Improvements. This brief was for a double-sided handout that would be distributed at a tradeshow. The client had emailed a mock-up of what they envisioned along with key promotions to highlight and details to include. Putting a vision into words can be challenging, but is extremely important in designing effective print collateral.
The Tradeshow handout designed from my creative brief.
Much like I did last week with the Web Accessibility services page, I uploaded service-oriented content on CASL Compliance to a new WordPress subpage this week. This time I was more familiar with WordPress and Visual Composer. I uploaded the content faster and focused on enhancing appearance.
I also made some edits to the Web Accessibility page based on internal feedback. It was fascinating to learn the various features and options I could include on a page using the WordPress component Visual Composer, such as forms and call to action buttons.
A major goal I had for my internship experience was increasing my SEO knowledge. This week, I was trained on how to use Keyword Planner, a Google Adwords tool to research keywords and their historical search volume, to create a blog calendar for Beverley Hills Home Improvements. I started by doing some research on current conversations and trends online relevant to windows and doors. I also did a competitive analysis to see what competitors were blogging about. I used this research to create a list of possible topics, which I then looked up on Keyword Planner to find the most searched topic ideas and keywords to use.
After I had a good list of topics that included highly searched keywords, I considered timing and when in the year each topic would be most relevant. Some times of year have a very clear connection to a given topic. I also did some research on how to write an effective blog title. An effective title should entice your audience to click, read and share your content. According to a Buzzsumo article, here are some tips on writing good headlines:
- Headlines should explain the direct impact the content will have on the reader (e.g., 6 Tips That Will Make You a Landscaping Pro).
- Emotional headlines drive social media engagement.
- Lists and numbers are powerful in headlines (e.g.,10 is the most engaging number to start a headline with).
- The optimal amount of words in a headline is approximately 15 words.
I applied these tips to writing catchy blog titles.
Once the calendar was created, I wrote the second Beverley Hills Home Improvements blog article for August, An Indoor Plant Guide. Keyword Planner revealed that ‘indoor plants’ was a highly searched term in Ontario. There was also lots of data online about the health benefits of indoor plants, the right plants for a beginner and information on how to care for household plants. I knew that I could connect plants to window and doors with tips on how to adorn windowsills, hang plants from curtain rods to frame windows and position pots and tree type plants by doors. It was a fun blog to write, and an even more interesting process once I learned the strategy and data behind a given blog topic.
Toward the end of the week, I promoted the Smart Smile Dental Centre blog article I had created on the Smart Smile Facebook page and Google My Business. As I had done before, this involved drafting a brief synopsis of the article to entice readers and selecting images to accompany the posts.
An exciting new contest for one of our clients was announced this week too. Jiffy Lube® Ontario and Entertainment One partnered to promote the release of the new film Logan Lucky with a chance to win $1000 when people visit JiffyLubeContest.ca. I drafted a promotional tweet to announce the contest on Jiffy Lube® Ontario’s Twitter account.
As the week came to a close, I started working on the WordPress landing page for this internship journal. It was great to finish the week with a project that enhanced my WordPress knowledge and offered an opportunity to reflect on my experience so far. With the end of my internship fast approaching, I was feeling sad, but also appreciative of what I had learned so far and excited for the future.
My Last Week
During the last week of my internship at tbk Creative, I focused on finalizing the landing pages for Web Accessibility and CASL Compliance. I also spent time creating this Internship Journal page. My knowledge of WordPress had drastically increased since starting the internship. In addition to gaining a better understanding of WordPress, one of my internship goals was to have a landing page I worked on go live. I can proudly say that I’ve met this goal! Not only have a number of pages I worked on been published, some of them were pages I wrote content for. I’m now confident in my ability to navigate and use WordPress as a content management system effectively. I’ve worked with members of the tbk Creative team to create a visually attractive page. I’ve also increased my familiarity with Visual Composer, a WordPress page building plug-in I used frequently to add various style elements.
Later in the week, tbk Creative hosted its regular webinar series, How To Build A Website to Win Awards, with Melissa McInerney and Michael Ramsey. I recorded footage to create a teaser video to promote the series on tbk Creative’s social media accounts, including on @tbkCreative.
As the week drew to a close, I looked back at the initial goals I set for my time at tbk Creative. I went back to school to focus on corporate communications as a career. I wanted my internship experience to enhance my writing skills with a particular focus on writing clearly, concisely and in a reader-focused way. At tbk Creative, I had the opportunity to blog, create and edit content for landing pages, create promotional content for social media and write a marketing communications plan, which all helped me meet this goal. I relished the opportunity to write for a variety of purposes, platforms and audiences. I move forward in my career confident my writing skills are strong and versatile. I’m particularly confident in writing for the web, where it’s especially important to write clearly and concisely as readers are inundated with an overwhelming amount of information. I also feel more familiar with SEO and content marketing. I’ve gained knowledge of best practices to ensure a website can be found in major search engines for words and phrases relevant to what the site is offering. I’ve also learned how content marketing is connected to SEO. Content marketing doesn’t explicitly promote a brand, but is intended to stimulate interest in products or services through content that is engaging, educational or impactful. I’m excited to continue building on the skills and knowledge I’ve developed.
I also set out to understand the processes and procedures used by tbk Creative and to better understand the agency experience. Thanks to my time at tbk Creative, I’ve learned how to use Slack, Skype, Time Harvest, Dropbox and Basecamp to work more efficiently and productively. I’ve also learned what it’s like to work in an agency setting, including the various people and processes involved in project work for clients. I’ve valued the opportunity to witness and participate in client relations and communications. The ability to see a project unfold and contribute through various tasks has been a major career accomplishment that will serve me well in my future career.
In addition to my professional goals, I set a personal goal for the internship. I wanted to gain confidence, resist perfectionistic tendencies and take on challenges that scared me. I knew that speaking up with ideas, asking questions and seizing any opportunities that scared me would offer the most personal and professional development. I made a conscious effort to work toward this goal every day of my internship, and it’s a practice I will continue throughout my life. It’s not always easy, nor something I will always excel at, but it’s something I’ll strive for.
My advice to future interns is to always attempt anything and everything that scares you. It’s what you’re scared to do that usually offers the most learning and the greatest sense of accomplishment. I took on a lot of challenging projects that were new to me at tbk Creative. These projects were my favourite in hindsight.
Through this opportunity, I’ve also discovered what I want in my career. A culture that supports creativity, innovation and inclusivity is hard to find, but worth looking for. I hope my next work experience offers growth opportunities and the freedom to pursue new challenges like I had at tbk Creative.
It was bittersweet to end my internship. I was so impressed with the way tbk Creative invests in their interns and provides the work opportunities and resources to really learn. I was given the responsibility and autonomy to spearhead a variety of projects, which grew my abilities and confidence. I leave with an enhanced resume, and I’m excited for the next journey in my career.