Christina Bott ’13, Fleishman-Hillard

I was filled with excitement as I walked up to the Fleishman-Hillard offices in Atlanta, Georgia, a small stepping-stone from my hometown, New York City. As one of the top public relations firms in the world, I knew that I absolutely could not miss out on an opportunity like this and so I found myself flying down south the night before the internship. As I walked the two blocks from my hotel to the office center, I was shocked by the eighty-four weather-a temperature this New Yorker hadn’t experienced since summer! I entered the building and was immediately redeemed with cold air-conditioning, “the mark of a true southern building” I was told by fellow intern Matthew Shackelford ’15. Matthew and I met almost simultaneously at the front desk where we greeted by a friendly secretary and then our host, McCall Butler.

McCall Butler ‘97, an alum of Princeton and later Dartmouth, was the perfect mentor for us. She connected with Matthew on her connection to Atlanta, where she was born and raised, and to me based on her experience working in New York City. We spent just over an hour talking with her about her background and then her work with her main client AT&T. McCall had a very interesting history, having started in government consulting right of college, and then working at America’s Promise, a non-profit in DC, before going to business school. She then attended The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth where she met her future professor, mentor and employer Paul Argenti. Argenti, an expert in corporate communications, has written many books about the field of communications, most notably Corporate Communication (fifth edition, Irwin/McGraw-Hill, 2009) and Digital Strategies for Corporate Communications (McGraw-Hill, 2009). McCall had a chance to work with Argenti and Fleishman President and Senior Partner  Peter Verrengia during her time at Dartmouth and then went on to work at Fleishman-Hillard. She has worked at Fleishman for seven and a half years, working for six years with AT&T. She currently holds the position of Senior Vice President and Partner and works with her team on mergers, quarterly earnings, the AT&T proxy statement, support for the annual meeting and the annual report.

McCall then explained to us how we were going to structure our day:

9-10:15 – Introdution with McCall
10:15-10:30 – Short coffee break
10:30-11:30 – Meeting with Michael Ares & Tammy Gonzalez
11:30-12 – Break and time to ask McCall more questions
12-1:30 – Conference Call with AT&T Team including Larry Solomon
1:30-2:30 – Lunch 2:30-3- Conference Call with Larry Solomon
3-3:30 – Meeting with Chad Corley
3:30-4 – Discussion with Chad Corley, Matthew Browher and Andrew Groom
4-5 – Conference Call with AT&T Team

In our first meeting, Senior Vice President Michael Ares explained his work with a global manufacturing company. He summarized his role in saying that he essentially helps “pull in the resources to get what they need.” Given that I have interest in international public relations, I found what he had to say about his clients’ global markets in Brazil, North American and Europe very interesting. Tammy Gonzalez worked mainly with a manufacturer of industrial cleaning products and told us about how she was drawn into the field of Investor Relations. She also gave us two articles, one published in USA Today about a global pharmaceutical company and another in the Wall Street Journal about the  new energy efforts by a governmental agency . She explained how PR companies often pitch the essential message of articles to newspapers in order to promote their clients. Matthew and I were surprised to learn how many newspapers get their stories in this way and thus how much public relations has an effect on world perceptions and the modern consumer.

The conference call with the AT&T team was a very informative phone call and Matthew and I were even able to participate in a very small way. Matthew and I were asked about what sorts of social media networks we use including Pinterest and Instagram and so we were able to see the importance of knowledge of popular culture and social media in the PR world.

For lunch, McCall took us out to a Mexican restaurant where I was able to have my first southern sweet tea-delicious! We talked more about AT&T and its message and McCall’s experience at Princeton. We learned that she is a very active alum and will be celebrating her 15th reunion this year. She told us about her experience as an art history major and also that she was president of her eating club, Cloister, which I am also a member of. It was very exciting to get to make a connection to McCall on a personal level and I loved my quesadilla. 

McCall’s next phone call was short and discussed much of what we had talked about before but in more detail. Next we met with Chad Corley. Chad gave us more of a sense of what Fleishman-Hillard does since McCall works more with AT&T. Chad explained about Fleishman’s practice groups and the details of his sector: the consumer group. His group mainly works on how to encourage consumers to use a certain product whether via social media or other means. He talked about his work in business-to business PR versus business-to-consumer PR as well. Then Matthew Browher and Andrew Groom entered the room and we discussed their role in Digital Media and more about how social media has affected PR. Besides getting to know McCall, this was probably my favorite part of the day as it gave a really comprehensive understanding of PR and how it has changed global markets.

McCall’s last phone call included more work with AT&T and by that point, Matthew and I felt very involved in the process. Afterwards we took some pictures at the office and wrapped up with McCall. It was all in all, a really awarding experience and a fantastic trip. Matthew and I were really able to see how different sectors of public relations work and what techniques each group uses. We could not have asked for a better host in McCall and she gave me a deeper appreciation of what it means to be a tiger. Not only do I hope to be in this field one day, but I also aspire to be just as involved as a Princeton alum as she is.

Matthew Shackelford ’15, Fleishman-Hillard

For my Princeternship with Fleishman-Hillard in Atlanta, Georgia, I had the privilege of shadowing Ms. McCall Butler ‘97 a Senior Vice President and Partner at Fleishman-Hillard who leads financial communications for the firm’s AT&T Inc. account. She began my action-packed day by explaining how she came to work at Fleishman-Hillard through her early consulting work at PricewaterhouseCoopers, her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and finally, her landing at Fleishman-Hillard as a part of the Communications Consulting Worldwide division, a vocational route that she herself described as “slightly circuitous.” Then, she talked about her work with AT&T, specifically the company’s financial communications, and how, while the advent of the digital marketing age and social media had altered the mediums through which companies communicate, the basic principles of any public relations and/or brand management remain the same: honesty and conciseness. Though the tone of digital communications was slightly more conversational, people always valued clarity and integrity in public relations above all else.

Next, Mr. Aeres and Ms. Gonzalez talked about their work with companies, such as two commercial materials producers based in Atlanta. They discussed the wide variety of work that Fleishman-Hillard does for its clients, including the restructuring of internal communications, analysis of business proposals, and investor relations. Moreover, they discussed the strengths that Fleishman-Hillard has in its vast network of offices all over the world that specialize in the various types of work that the firm does for its clients. One of the many keys to Fleishman-Hillard’s success in the public relations industry is the cooperation that occurs within the firm to give the client the best possible product and experience.

Afterwards, Ms. Butler had a conference call with Mr. Solomon, Senior Vice President — Corporate Communications for AT&T, and his leadership team. During this call, the group discussed the company’s focus on the customer experience. Among other things, recognition for AT&T’s commitment to deliver a superior customer experience is one task that Ms. Butler and her team pursue each and every day.

Ms. McCall Butler, Matt, and fellow Princetern Christina

We also met with Mr. Corley, a team member in Fleishman-Hillard Atlanta’s Consumer Group, and Mr. Browher and Mr. Groom, who lead digital communications initiatives for the Fleishman-Hillard Atlanta office. The group discussed the need for credibility when it comes to promoting a business and the importance of designing communications to a company’s target audience and ultimate communications goal.

According to Mr. Corley, public relations are much more convincing and efficient if the information and argument for a particular company or product comes from a third-party source rather than an advertisement. Thus, Fleishman-Hillard works to promote its clients to, for instance, technology blog writers or newspaper journalists by giving these third parties opportunities to experience clients’ product or services. As a result, Fleishman-Hillard can deliver more meaningful and credible coverage for its clients and their products. Mr. Browher discussed the need to determine the target audience and use that information to create a more effective public relations campaign for that target audience. This allows clients to efficiently market to their consumers, even if they are on a tight budget.

This Princeternship was an amazing experience for all that it taught me about the world of marketing and public, financial, and investor relations and for all of the brilliant and motivated individuals that I had the honor of meeting during my experience. Everyone was extremely welcoming and gracious to me, and I was very pleased at the fact that they all were willing to spend their time to educate me. I would like to thank Mr. Aeres, Ms. Gonzalez, Mr. Solomon, Mr. Corley, Mr. Browher, and Mr. Groom for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with me. Most importantly, I would like to thank Ms. McCall Butler for offering to host this amazing Princeternship and being such a wonderful mentor during this wonderful opportunity. This Princeternship was truly one-of-a-kind.

Jane Pritchard ’15, BlissPR

My Princeternship experience with Bliss PR was certainly a memorable one. Not only did I learn a considerable amount about the PR industry, but I also gained important insight regarding my own academic path.

I started my day at 9 am at Bliss.  I was given a quick tour of the office where I became acquainted with the various employees.  Everybody was immediately welcoming and friendly.  My first activity was meeting with my internship coordinator, Glori Perez.  She started out by describing her function at the PR firm, which pertains specifically to the financial services arm of the company.  PR turned out to be very different than what I thought it was.  Although they are very similar industries, I definitely had my lines blurred between marketing, advertising, and public relations.  PR as it related to financial services companies like one of Glori’s biggest clients, a large life insurance company, was something I entirely misunderstood before she helped clear up my confusion.  PR is not just about constantly making the company look good and releasing positive statements about their work.   I gathered that it was more about making your company look like it is an expert in its field.  Glori took me through the different steps necessary for the research she does for her clients.  Bliss employees are constantly reading any bit of news they can find that pertains to their clients. 

Once I had a better hold on the type of work they do at Bliss, I met with employees from every division of the company: Financial services, health care, social media, professional services, and their journalist consultant, Toddi Gutner.  Each representative from his or her respective department was enthusiastic and informative.  They filled me in on their day-to-day schedules as well as their personal career choices that led them to working in the PR industry.  The range and diversity of college majors and previous employers was extremely impressive.  Before this experience, I had the notion that college majors lead people on tracks and limit the type of work that they can do.  The employees at Bliss proved to me that I should major in whatever I find most interesting, because I will likely end up doing something that deviates from the plan.

I went in to this program thinking that in order to be in business or law (two of my possible career paths)  I would need a degree related to finance, economics, politics, or something that would give me experience directly related to these fields.  Now, I think I am going to pursue creative writing, because it’s something I have always wanted to do.  I don’t know what sort of career I will end up having, but I only have four years in college, so I think I will spend them studying what makes me the happiest.

As John Bliss told me, the most important skill you need for any job coming out of college is knowing how to write.  He seemed to believe that after this skill, anything is within reach.  I will forever be grateful for his kindness and generosity towards myself for letting me come in to Bliss PR for a day.  I certainly learned a great deal about PR and formed some new opinions about my own future career and how I will get there.  Overall, I had a wonderful experience and I recommend it to everyone.

Felicia Ng ’15, Wunderman

My Princeternship was a one-day experience during Intercession with Mr. Tom Magnus ‘77 at Wunderman, the world’s largest global marketing services network, in New York City. Having no background experience with ad agency functions at all; I walked into the building at 8:45 am as a clueless, excited little kid entering a big new world.  The moment that I stepped off the elevator, Mr. Magnus was there to greet me with a huge smile and a warm welcome.  He showed me his office and gave me a quick tour of Wunderman, which spans over about 5 floors, while introducing me to a number of his colleagues on the way.

At 9 am, Mr. Magnus had a short meeting, which he allowed me to sit in on, and from this, I got a strong sense of the communication and coordination that is vital between marketing professionals.  Afterwards, at 10 am, Mr. Magnus gave Rachel (my fellow Princetern) and me an assignment to complete while he was away at a meeting with a client. He gave us a list of the names, titles, and floor locations of several of his colleagues in various departments at Wunderman and encouraged us to speak with them to learn about the different functions at an ad agency. This was the most exciting and educational part of the day for me.  We were basically given complete freedom to explore any part of Wunderman, and I poked my head into almost every person’s office or cubicle.  At first I felt a bit shy and intrusive, but I quickly learned that the people at Wunderman are very friendly and willing to share their experiences or offer advice.  I spoke with account managers, strategic planners, project managers, creative admins, art directors, flash animators, and even a director at the Madison Group Graphics Center, which is essentially Wunderman’s studio or production hub.  Each person gave a different perspective on their role within the ad agency and how their various career paths led them to where they are now, but overall, I got the feeling that work at an ad agency is very fast-paced and demanding.  Many of the workers that I talked to expressed that what excites them the most about their job is the fact that no day is the same for them – there is always something new, and clients are constantly coming to them with new projects or problems to be solved, so it never gets boring.

Besides understanding the actual work at an ad agency, as a visual artist, I was also especially interested in getting a feel for how a creative environment is fostered within a professional setting.  I was very excited to observe that almost every wall and corner around the Wunderman office was a testament to the creative energies of the people who work there.  The products they designed are displayed on every floor, vibrantly-colored walls greet you at every turn, giant chalkboards and markerboards literally present a blank slate for the generation of new ideas, cubicles are fully adorned with bright images and other inspirational works of art, and there are even bean bag chairs and a ping-pong table.  Being able to explore Wunderman in person gave me a sense of what a creative office environment is like – it’s a great balance between formal and fun.

Tom Magnus and Felicia

At noon, Rachel and I reconvened with Mr. Magnus in his office, and he generously bought lunch for all of us. As we ate, we listened in on a conference call, and afterwards, we shared with him our morning findings.  He also explained to us in more detail how the technological advances in the digital age are changing the ways in which marketing researchers and strategists are targeting their audiences today as well as how Wunderman works with its clients, particularly one of their oldest and largest ones – Citi.  We had the opportunity to ask him any questions that we had about the network or the advertising field in general, and he allowed us to take a look at several publications on Wunderman’s global marketing strategies as well as tips on how to land an advertising job.

At 3 pm, Mr. Magnus set up a meeting for us with Toni Iacono, a Director in the Human Resources Department, who spoke to us about summer internship opportunities that Wunderman offers to college students.  She answered any questions we had and even gave us copies of textbooks that are part of the internship curriculum.  The rest of the day consisted of more internal meetings with Mr. Magnus, from which I consistently observed the importance of communication and cooperation in the profession – between individuals within the same department, between different departments at Wunderman, between Wunderman and its clients.  Everyone articulated their ideas and opinions very clearly, and it was obvious that they worked on every project as a team.

His responsibilities and meetings were many, but throughout the entire day, Mr. Magnus was very keen on allowing Rachel and I to gain as comprehensive of an understanding as possible of a day in the life of an ad agency worker and made sure that we got everything that we wanted to learn out of the experience.  Thanks to him and all of his incredibly open and friendly colleagues in every department, I walked out of Wunderman at 5 pm with a much better understanding of how an ad agency works, what it feels like to work in one, and even some new insight into marketing strategies.  If anyone is interested in learning more about a career in the marketing/advertising field, I highly recommend this Princeternship.

Joseph Laseter ’15, Digitas Health

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The cries of my host’s two-year-old son for more breakfast served as my alarm clock for Day 1 of my Princeternship. Priscilla Lo Atkins ’97, Vice President/Director of Media at Digitas Health, and her husband Joshua Atkins ‘96, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, were kind enough to let me stay over at their house during my Princeternship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As Mrs. Lo Atkins drove her son to daycare I spent the time getting dressed and preparing for the day’s exciting events at Digitas Health. Digitas Health works with the worlds leading pharmaceutical, bioscience, and medical device companies to help their brands develop meaningful and valuable connections with healthcare consumers and professionals alike. I was personally curious to see how these seemingly very different fields, advertising and medicine, combined to produce something meaningful and something that we can’t live without.

When Mrs. Lo Atkins came back from dropping off her son, she handed me a couple of tokens for bus fare and we were off to work. We crossed the historical cobblestone streets and waited about a minute until the bus arrived. On our way to work my host pointed out the historical buildings around her neighborhood, Society Hill. A little closer to the office building, she pointed out Independence Hall, where the constitution was signed, and of course the Liberty Bell! After grabbing some quick breakfast at a local eatery Mrs. Lo Atkins showed me City Hall, one of oldest municipal buildings still in operation. Afterwards, we entered the Wanamaker Building, which is now home to Macy’s, and traveled to the floor that houses Digitas Health. Right away I was shocked by how open the space was, how friendly everyone was, and how overdressed I was. Noticing my shock, Mrs. Lo Atkins explained her dismay when she went to interview with a successful investment banking company at the end of her senior year. Their offices were just too strict and homogeneous, she explained that this was one of reasons she fell in love with advertising; it was just so open and welcoming.

After finishing breakfast in the Café area, Mrs. Lo Atkins’s coworker, Jeanette, offered to give me a tour of the Digitas Health offices in its entirety while my host completed a client call. Jeanette made a point to show me the beautiful conference rooms, each named after parks in Philadelphia, the relaxing atmosphere, and her favorite parts of the office. Afterwards she took me to her desk and went through a presentation she prepared for me explaining a little bit more about what Digitas Health did and why she loved working here. Jeanette explained that her current job is to work with a new diabetes II drug. Her job in media is to work with her client to buy space on the internet to better advertise medications and work with the other departments at Digitas like Marketing and Creativity to ensure that consumers and physicians better connect with their client’s drug. I was floored. I had absolutely no idea that this process I see everyday on the internet/television involved so much. I loved how meticulous and dynamic this industry I knew little about yesterday really was.

Joseph and Mr. and Mrs. Atkins

After Jeanette’s tour she took me to a meeting space and let me sit in on a meeting with her coworker Patti, who was busy debriefing her team on the year-end report that they were to present that afternoon.They gave me a copy of the presentation and year-end figures, broke down everything to me, and actually wanted me to ask questions and comment on the tentative plans. After the meeting I headed back to Mrs. Lo Atkins’s office, where she was busy answering emails and reading pharmaceutical articles to make sure she stayed abreast of the times. She answered all of my questions and let me know that we would be going out with a partner of theirs to discuss the unveiling of a new mobile application that would greatly benefit one of their client’s. We ate lunch at a Sushi Bar named Raw with the hilarious Drew, the representative for their partner. He actually seemed interested in the workers in the Media department, which shocked me, it wasn’t just about business. This culture is definitely very positive,. Later, we met with a potential partner where they discussed a potential new platform that could increase the presence of their client’s drug. Afterwards, I met with Dr. Wayne, Vice President and Director of Science & Medicine. We talked for almost 2 hours! He was so awesome. He let me in on some secrets to make the most out of my time at Princeton and stressed the importance of doing things not because they make money, but because I like them. Next, I met with Brendan Gallagher, SVP Emerging Technology & Channels, and I was interested in his career path from actor to advertising executive. It goes to show you that you never now what you’ll end up doing in life…but whatever it is you have to make sure you love it.

After a taxicab ride home we waited for Mr. Atkins and their friends to arrive for a dinner party. While I was playing “Thomas the Train” with their young son, Mr. Atkins and their guests and Princeton alumni arrived. They all introduced themselves; there were surgeons, there was a lawyer, a few residents, and a particularly hilarious political campaigner. Over dinner they discussed their different career paths, shared inspiring anecdotes, and relayed poignant advice. Mr. Atkins’s dinner in my honor was amazing, after Day One I was already sure that I had made the right decision in choosing to go on this particular Princeternship. I can’t wait until tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

This time my alarm clock was the family’s two cats that crept into my room during an obvious attempt to retake their guest room. This cuteness proved an omen that this day was bound to be amazing. This time we took a cab to the offices in order to make an early meeting I had with Matt McNally, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Media Officer. Mr. McNally gave some insight as to how Digitas Health was founded because he was one of the few people around when Media Broadcasting Company merged with Digitas to create Digitas Health. One very potent tidbit that I picked up from our talk was about the importance of strong workplace relationships. “I would rather work with great people making little money, than with less fun people making a lot of money.” Afterwards, I met with a few people who also offered great advice and helped expand on what they did at Digitas Health.

After what seemed like a sales pitch to the company from a potential partner in Mrs. Lo Atkins’s office, I embarked on arguably the most fascinating part of myPrinceternship- lunch with Mr. Penn himself- Dr. John DeMaio, Senior Vice President of Business Strategy who is one of few people who was there since Digitas Health’s beginning. We traveled a few blocks down and ate at a quaint little American classics restaurant.This 2-hour lunch was amazing. Dr. DeMaio explained how he completed nearly all of his studying at the University of Pennsylvania (Psychology, M.D., MBA, and etc.).  He stressed  the importance of working hard and he resonated with a favorite quote of mine by Malcolm Gladwell- “Hard Work is a Prison Sentence if it does Not Have Meaning”.

After a wonderful lunch…my Princeternship was coming to a close. Mrs. Lo Atkins left me with some last minute tips as she helped me prepare to hail a taxicab and take an Amtrak Train back to Princeton. In retrospect, I am extremely glad that I had this opportunity. I want to thank Mrs. Priscilla Lo Atkins, Dr. Joshua Atkins, and everyone that had a part in making this such a spectacular Princeternship. I recommend Princeternships because they can expose students to fields that they are seldom exposed to and honestly…what else are you doing during breaks? This is a great chance to actually benefit and develop your future. I now know that I definitely want to pursue a medical degree and one-day fuse my love for business and advertising. 5 stars out of 5!