Inside the Internship: Corporate Communications Internship, CNO Financial Group

by Evan Mimms

In May 2017, I became a Corporate Communications Intern at CNO Financial Group. CNO Financial Group is middle-income America’s valued financial security partner. They provide health insurance, life insurance, and retirement solutions via their three companies: Bankers Life, Colonial Penn, and Washington National. My daily tasks included writing and editing content, designing and executing graphics, competitor research and analysis, new intranet development, and using content management systems.  

CNO has home offices in Chicago, Carmel, Ind., and Philadelphia and counts on insurance agents across the country to sell their products, but also sells some products directly to the consumer. I worked with a lot of departments and employees on many projects, spread across all three locations. It was an amazing experience to collaborate on diverse projects including but not limited to development of a revamped intranet system, drafting and posting announcements for other departments, and analytics. The internship taught me a little bit of everything.

CNO Financial Group Interns

I am headed into my senior year at Loyola University Chicago with more clarity on what I would like to pursue. Last year I had a class, Public Service Communications, where we had a McDonald’s corporate communications expert come in to speak about the differences between corporate and agency communications. After my experience on the corporate side, I want to pursue an internship/job at a communications agency to figure out where I ultimately want to end up.

With 18 credit hours, internship/fellowship applications, PRSSA, and Inigo Communications, I’m looking at a crazy semester. I can’t wait to embrace this challenge and prepare for a long and successful career in communications.

Inside the Internship: Communications Intern, Neuguer Communications Group

By Ellie Bonin

This summer, I had the opportunity of interning at Neuger Communications Group in Minneapolis, MN. Neuger is a smaller firm with a variety of clients that I was able to work with. From education to engineering to manufacturing, they do it all! My daily tasks usually included market research for press releases or social media, proofing different document including brochures and press releases, creating meeting agendas, and utilizing WordPress to make changes to a client’s website.

Neuger has two offices, and are based in Northfield, MN, but I spent my time at their newest office in the North Loop of Minneapolis. I worked alongside another intern and a few other colleagues on a daily basis. Since it was such a small team at my office, I loved collaborating with them during projects whether it be brainstorming or proof reading. Since I was able to work with others, I got more hands on experience than I ever could have hoped for.

Since I often worked on many projects a day from a variety of industries, I had to ensure I was thinking and working like the client. Writing a press release for an engineering company and creating social media for an elementary school includes different language, tone, and overall message. Being able to change these elements of writing definitely took practice, but improved my skills as a writer. Working with a variety of clients gave me a broader understanding of how to write for a specific industry and how communications plays a role in a given industry.

At some point in my life whether it be a profession or hobby, I want to work with a non-profit directed at helping those in need, specifically within education. I got the opportunity to go to a photo shoot for a non-profit aiming to improve the quality of life for youth, families, and seniors. Neuger Communications Group was updating their website and needed new photos of youth and senior programs hosted by the non-profit. I tagged along with one of the photographers and communications counselors to go to these programs and capture the joy the non-profit creates for others. I loved interacting with others to tell them why we were there and learn more about the programs. One of the reasons I enjoyed this so much was because I was to see how this website update will benefit those in need.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at Neuger Communications Group this summer. I was nervous going into it only have completed one year of college, but I would encourage others to dive in and learn and experience as much as you can when given the opportunity. After working at a smaller firm doing real work for real clients, I can’t imagine spending my summer any other way. I gained so many new skills and insights that will definitely help me in my future within public relations.

IMG_1056Me with the other Neuger Communications Group Interns!

Inside the Internship: Digital Marketing Intern, MKJ Marketing

By Maggie MacCurdy

I have heard many professors and industry professionals explain how communication and marketing agencies fall on a spectrum. They range from having multiple clients in a variety of industries to having clientele all in the same field. My instructors have made the benefits of each type of agency very clear; the former allows for a breadth of knowledge that spans many business types and the later gives you depth in a single one. It wasn’t until this summer, when I was nowhere near a classroom, that I understood just how different specific and general agencies can be.

In June 2017, became a Digital Marketing Intern at MKJ Marketing, where I had the opportunity to create social media copy, edit websites, and write both B-to-B and B-to-C blogs. MKJ is a smaller agency, but they are sought after by clients across the country because they cater to a very specific type of business: funeral homes. The funeral service field can make some people uncomfortable, which is understandable. Most of the public only interacts with the industry when they have lost a loved one, so funeral homes aren’t often associated with happy memories. However, at MKJ, I’ve learned that the dedicated people that run these homes are some of the sweetest and most compassionate individuals you will ever meet. Once I understood MKJ’s unique clientele, my time there could not have been a more positive experience.

Everyone in the office is so familiar with MKJ’s clients, that they can list the services offered by a funeral home across the country by memory. They know the preferences of each home: how they like their social media posts written or what types of pictures they prefer to use. They put in so much care to cater to every client. Even the MKJ owners touch base with all their clients regularly for feedback on posts, websites, and ads. Because we know our clients so well, everything we do-from the shortest update post to a full website-is customized to their business and personality. The MKJ team’s depth of knowledge about the is clients and industry as a whole, shows in every aspect of their business

Even though MKJ focuses on such a specific market, I’ve learned so much about the communication industry as a whole. After this summer, I am comfortable working and navigating applications that are vital to every modern communication professional, like Business Facebook, Sprout, and WordPress. Before MKJ, I had only written social media and website copy for myself and Loyola organizations, now I’ve done both for dozens of businesses across the U.S.

One of my favorite aspects of my internship at MKJ is the range of projects I’ve gotten to work on. I not only write for many clients, but for MKJ’s blog and social accounts as well. Before starting this position, I had difficulty changing the voice of my articles. Everything I would write sounded like me, which is lovely when I want my personality to shine through a boring philosophy paper, or a blog post like this one, but not when I’m writing an article for a business four states away that has its own voice. Now I can get in the mindset of the client after a brief conversation with an MKJ team member. When I’ve written for MKJ, my style has changed along with my audience. These blogs are meant for current and prospective clients. They need to sound like the author is familiar with the industry, and to subtly promote MKJ services, which sounds far simpler than it was. I needed to research all the blog topics, like social media’s effect on the funeral industry and staff training programs, only to write about them like I had known what they were all along. You can read the MKJ blog and try to figure out which posts I wrote, but if I’ve done a good job, you won’t be able to tell.

I am so grateful to everyone at MKJ Marketing, from Courtney who took a chance on hiring me to Tyler who let me share his office for 2 and a half months and everyone in between. I would recommend an MKJ Marketing internship to anyone that asked me and probably to a few people that didn’t ask at all. Beyond that, I think every marketing or communication student should have experience with a specialized agency. Take a chance on the internship at the niche business, in my experience, it was 100% worth it.


No Risk, No Reward #PRSSANA

by Evan Mimms

My alarm went off at 5 a.m., putting me in an immediate “snooze-button now” mode. But in that moment, I recognized the amazing opportunities ahead of me, and waking up was not a problem.This was PRSSA National Assembly and I was ready. I got dressed, suit and all, and embarked on my journey to Seattle, Washington.

I signed up for the day-of-competition with no expectations, but all of the drive in the world. This competition was being judged by Edelman professionals. At around 6 p.m. the previous night, each of the contestants received the client briefing and supplemental information from Treehouse (a non-profit in Washington state). The entire flight I read, reread and highlighted EVERYTHING.

About the Client – Treehouse
“Treehouse is Washington’s leading nonprofit organization addressing the essential education and enrichment needs of kids in foster care. The youth Treehouse serves struggle against tremendous odds: backgrounds of abuse and neglect, parental substance abuse, low incomes, and moves from foster home to foster home while in the care of the state.”

Treehouse is all about increasing the graduation rates of foster students. All kids deserve the same opportunities no matter their background. My group had compassion and drive to give our all in creating a communications plan that would reach Treehouse’s intended goals.

We developed a month-long campaign, entitled “Community Roots,” that targeted multiple audiences, culminating in a huge community event bringing together each target. Each “root” was a different week of focus, with the main event bringing everyone involved together to plant a symbolic tree. Our goals included: increasing donations/volunteering by 20%, increasing social media engagement by 30%, and increasing foster parent applications by 5%.

I sat across from my team member, Josie, at the reception dinner as we both doubted ourselves to the point of “oh we definitely didn’t win.” When the Edelman professionals announced our campaign, “Community Roots,” as the winner, Josie and I looked at each other with shock and excitement in our eyes.

PRSSA is all about realizing your full potential. From collaborating with other students to meeting professionals, the opportunities are endless. Joining PRSSA was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself and my future.

Inigo: Chicago’s First Student-Run Agency

By Kelcie Boring

Inigo is Loyola University Chicago’s student-run public relations agency and the only student-run agency in the Chicago area. Inigo was founded January 2017 by 16 Loyola students with the guidance of advisors, Cheryl McPhilimy and Marty Gahbauer.
McPhilimy is an invaluable asset to our agency with an extensive background in the public relations industry. Her firm, McPhilimy Associates Inc., specializes in working with executives, leaders, and boards on issues of messaging, strategy, visibility and public perception, particularly in high-stakes, high-profile situations.
Gahbauer has over 20 years of experience in the advertising and marketing industry, having spent most of his career specializing in account management at Leo Burnett.
Over the course of the past semester, our agency has constructed Inigo’s brand architecture- name, mission, values, and structure- a challenging task that has provided insight into what it takes to create, manage and sustain a startup (in our case, a public relations firm).
Inigo gives students the chance to gain valuable agency experience – hello, resume builder- but also the opportunity to learn project management, a highly-valued skill that is difficult to get in entry-level internships. Members of our team also master the art of networking, whether it be guest speakers or attending events at Chicago’s tech startup incubator 1871, we are constantly growing our professional network.

Kelcie Agency Format
The structure of our agency mirrors the structures of many well-known professional agencies: an agency director, assistant director of new business, assistant director of internal relations, assistant director of finance, account supervisors, and account executives. Anyone is eligible to apply for a leadership role at Inigo. As an account supervisor, I have learned the necessary leadership skills it takes to be successful in an agency management position and I would highly recommend applying for a leadership role if you are interested!



Stepping out of My Comfort Zone

By Jacob Voss

Beginning my journey into freshman year at Loyola, I had no idea what I wanted to do,what major I wanted to pursue, what job I wanted to have and the list goes on. But then I decided to go the communications route, and I felt like I had narrowed down my interests enough. But as I continued to learn more about the communication industry, I began to learn that under the umbrella of communications, there is so much more: advertising, public relations, media, crisis communications, graphic design, etc.

This past summer, I was a Media Intern at Starcom Mediavest Group in the Chicago Loop. At first, I was very skeptical about if I wanted to accept the internship. It was strategic media planning, and frankly, I didn’t even know what exactly that was at the time. But I accepted the position and have not regretted it since. I do not regret my decision because it was something new; something completely different than anything I had ever learned. I never thought I was good at numbers, evaluating data or thinking strategically about media placement, but this was all new and that intrigued me.

So here is my point. Expose yourself to as many new experiences as you can. Do something that makes you uncomfortable, something that you have never done before. Because when you learn how to do something that you have never done before, that only increases your confidence and your value to future employers and to yourself.

Just because you think you might not like something, or be good at something, taking that leap will set you far above your peers.

This concept really epitomizes what PRSSA is all about. While you may be focusing primarily on public relations right now, just keep in mind that it is important to always step out of your comfort zone and try something new. That will be PRSSA’s main focus this year. We want to expose our members to as much of the communications industry as possible before they graduate, making them a valuable asset to any future employer.

This Summer, I #Healthcared

By Hannah Bailey

*Stream of consciousness the night before I started my internship*

“So, if I leave at 8:06 a.m. I can catch the 8:18 a.m. train, and that leaves time to get coffee before I go in, unless there’s a train delay, then I won’t get coffee.”

“They told me to sign in at the desk and wait for them in the lobby, so don’t try to walk right into the office and make a fool of yourself by assuming you have more authority than you actually do.”

“I hope they don’t ask me questions I don’t know the answer to, but I really hope I learn things because otherwise I’m going to graduate in a year and know nothing.”

“What if my boss turns out to be really mean or doesn’t like me…but she seemed really nice in the interview so I’m sure it will be okay.”

“Alright, settle down, if you don’t stop now you’ll have bags under your eyes tomorrow and everyone will know you as the zombie intern for the rest of the summer.”

“Stop. Stop thinking. It’s time for sleep now. Just count sheep or something. 1 sheep, 2 sheep, 3 sheep….”

I had already had three internships before I began my role as marketing intern at Patient Innovation Center, a healthcare startup in the West Loop, this summer. I had been in PRSSA since I was a freshman and interning since I was a sophomore, so I understood the expectations of this kind of work. And most importantly, I knew the first day drill; what to say, who to ask and what to have prepared. However, that didn’t stop my head from spinning in circles the night before I started with the million worries we always have before beginning a new job. Because new will always be scary, and the field of public relations and communications is so vast, every experience you have within it is sure to come with a whole new set of challenges to overcome and skills to learn.

A few of these said challenges and skills include:

  • #1: How to get millennials to care about healthcare
    • Solution: Use Pokémon Go and social media to remind millennials that healthcare is important
  • #2: How to run an organization’s social media
    • Solution: Use a target-directed tone, incorporate a ton of graphics, schedule all your posts through Hootsuite, and try your best to not use puns (even though it’s really hard and you just have to sometimes)
  • #3: How to find the bathroom
    • Solution: Just ask. However, when in doubt, it’s probably down the hall and to the left
  • #4: How to make sure you are learning as much as you can
    • Solution: Always ask if there is more you can do and always do more than you are asked. Your boss will notice, and that is what turns a good intern into a memorable intern

Throughout college, some people will tell you to look for the best and shiniest internship–the one you have your last semester or two at the biggest agency in town. But my communication professors, as well as PRSSA, taught me early that’s just not the case. It’s about learning as much as you can in as many different ways as possible before you graduate. And that means interning at a publicity office for a movie marketing agency, on a communications team for business networking firm, assisting in PR for a mental illness awareness nonprofit and creating marketing material for a small healthcare startup. Seeking variety in your work is what helps you become truly prepared for your next opportunity.

So, the morning of my first day at Patient Innovation Center, when I left my apartment at 8:06 a.m. and caught the 8:18 a.m. train, when the train sat at the Fullerton stop for 10 minutes and I had to skip my coffee run, when I signed in and patiently waited in the lobby for my boss, when they taught me what the acronyms they were saying meant and how to boost Facebook posts, and when my boss kindly answered every question I had, I exited the building at the end of the day not even thinking about the bags under my eyes. I was too busy thinking, “I can’t wait to do this again tomorrow.”


#PRSASCC Information Overload

By Rachel Colonna

The time on my phone switched from 6:59 a.m. to 7 a.m. right as the elevator doors opened to the 16th floor of Lewis Towers. A sweet woman by the name of Judy Voss, the event’s coordinator and PRSA Director of Professional Development, assigned me to check in registrants. For the next two hours, I found myself greeting professionals somehow linked to the PR world, all ready for the Strategic Collaboration Conference. I had no idea about the wealth of knowledge and experience I was about to tap into.

At 1:40 p.m., The founder and CEO of Wax Marketing, Bonnie Harris, declared into the microphone, “Demographics don’t work anymore.” Demographics don’t work? What was she talking about? How else were we supposed to determine target audiences? She further explained that people are able to curate how they receive information. Therefore, people within the same demographics get their information in different ways, making a specific demographic very difficult to reach. Her genius alternative was to focus on consumer behavior.

The second speaker that struck me was Lee Odden, TopRank Marketing CEO. He spoke on content co-creation, which he perfectly illustrated by saying, “If you want to be in the media, become the media.” An example of content co-creation would be to reach out to a food blogger to promote a food brand. Everything he said made absolute sense. Partnering with another person creates authenticity, improves quality of content if an expert is used and increases the consumer interactions with the content.

By the conclusion of this two-day conference, I walked away with excitement. Such excitement bubbled from opposing ideas to similar concepts. Ideas taught in my college classrooms, ideas that much of the PR world followed as guidelines to the industry, were challenged. That variability proved this world is open to adapt toward efficiency. It is not a world stuck in routine outlines but a world constantly trying to break the boundaries and do something great that has never been done before.