Working with Digital Marketing Interns: Grow Yourself and Your Business
When this director of content marketing worked with a digital marketing intern, he didn't expect that it would change the way he managed people and work. In this guest post, he reflects on his takeaways from the experience.
Working with digital marketing interns or apprentices can change the way you manage people, manage work, and all-round improve the way you approach your day-to-day life.
That’s what I learned after six months of working with a marketing intern. The experience opened my eyes to several things including:
- There is a huge amount of talent to tap into at the university level.
- There is no reason why you should pay interns less than full-time employees unless they’re apprentices.
- To get the most out of your intern, you have to both train and trust.
In this post, you’ll discover why these three observations changed the way I approach working with anyone.
Rather than referring to our digital marketing intern as “our marketing intern,” let’s call her Lydia.
When researching the types of questions people ask about working with interns, it became clear there was no set process, and everything was rather up in the air.
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How can a digital marketing intern contribute to a company?
While it’s easy to assume you can get your intern to do things you dislike, is that the best way they could be contributing to your company?
When Lydia started, the plan was set for menial tasks that didn’t need much thought or much supervision.
Not so much.
What happens when those tasks that take you two minutes also take your intern two minutes to complete?
You must find them something else to do. Which takes up as much time as you doing the work yourself.
It quickly became clear that Lydia was competent in a wide range of knowledge worker skills as well as hungry to learn more about her specialism and our company’s niche.
Lydia, and any digital marketing intern going through a university course, should be trusted to conduct independent or collaborative work that adds real value to your company.
Sure, it’s important to discover your intern’s work ethic and if they have a desire to do their job well. But, get to this point quickly.
Once you arrive here, assign a project for which they are responsible.
This is a leap of faith on your part. But, much like remote working for the first time, delaying this process won’t help you in the slightest.
Assigning projects that Lydia has to research, collaborate, and report back on displayed she would fast become an asset to the team.
Here’s an example of a project that Lydia reported back on.
This is an analysis using back-end systems to drive more traffic to our website.
Using multiple systems and having to get familiar with the content itself, this would usually be work conducted by a content marketing manager with years of experience.
What do companies want from interns?
If you think back to any stereotypical film about interns, companies want interns to do the tasks they find boring and meaningless.
You’ve seen the film, The Intern, right?
Companies want interns to work for free.
They want them to check off an item on their checklist for looking like a great company.
Why would you not want an intern to add value from day one?
Instead of lining up countless trivial tasks to keep them out of sight and out of mind, companies should want their interns to take an interest in their business, develop new skills, and use their existing skills to provide a fresh perspective on your processes.
Next time you think about hiring an intern, write a list including:
- The skills your intern will bring that nobody else has
- The skills you wish your intern to learn while working with your company
- A project they will have total responsibility for
If you can’t do this, then you don’t need an intern.
Best Practices for Managing a Digital Marketing Intern
Managing an intern is tricky business if you apply traditional intern management mentalities.
- Micromanaging to make sure every T gets crossed and every I gets dotted
- Keeping them so busy with dull tasks that you don’t have to talk to them (and they hate their job)
Instead, change your mindset from managing an intern to mentoring an intern.
How to Mentor a Digital Marketing Intern
As I was researching some questions to answer for this post, I found “How to keep an intern busy” as one of the most frequently asked questions on Google.
It’s your job as a manager and mentor to make sure your intern isn’t idle.
Yes, your intern should be busy. But not busy for the sake of it. They should be busy developing new skills and working on projects that benefit you as a manager, mentor, and business.
Under your guidance, your intern should enjoy their time at your company and look to you for help, approval, and best practices for your line of business.
Failure to do so represents a shortcoming on your part—not your intern’s.
While they may be responsible for a project or task you set, you are responsible for their success.
Of course, there will be exceptions. A bad egg may fall your way or your intern may not show interest in your business whatsoever.
How to Manage a Digital Marketing Intern Remotely
Upon starting working with Lydia, it just so happened that the coronavirus pandemic hit.
While remote working was already going to be a factor due to geography, Lydia no longer had the support of the rest of the local team around her.
You should approach managing an intern remotely the same as you would another employee.
The label “intern” is not a replacement for the term “colleague” so you should treat them as equals.
When managing remote interns, continue using technology like video conferencing and messaging tools.
If this is your intern’s first work experience using tools like Zoom or Slack, respect that and spend some time upfront helping them get to know the tools that you will become reliant on.
But, again, like the rest of your team, don’t slip into scheduling calls for the sake of having a call.
This leads to Zoom fatigue, and your intern will become sick of your face!
To wrap up, remember that working with an intern should benefit all parties. But, as the senior player in this partnership, the responsibility is all yours.
Dominic Kent is the director of content marketing at Mio and a freelance content marketer for B2B SaaS brands.
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