Hello! My name is Bridget, and I’m a junior Theatre Major minoring in Environmental Policy and Culture – a classic combination, I know. I’m originally from Portland, OR, and consequentially am not a huge fan of any Chicago weather extremes. I’ll happily buy into the Chicago deep dish pizza tradition, though, because pounds of cheese in any form is something I wholly support.
Although I was at first unsure as to what “Entertainment and Leisure” pertains to, I now understand that it means CF&A represents everything from shows in Chicago (Blue Man Group) to venues that host any number of events (Auditorium Theater) to dance companies (Alvin Ailey). One of the best parts of this internship is the way the office is situated in an open space, because I have the chance to hear the associates all around me talking to a huge variety of clients, and I learn a lot in the process.There is, in fact, a Giordano’s just a short few blocks from my internship this quarter, which is at an Entertainment and Leisure PR and Marketing firm off of the Belmont stop called Carol Fox & Associates. (Man, I’m pleased that I was able to use pizza as my segway into talking about the real point of this post. I’m also eating pizza as I write this. I feel we know each other well already.)
I entered this internship with definite grey areas of knowledge – what is the difference between PR and Marketing? How do they both work? What will I be doing? – and I already feel those questions are being answered daily in different and exciting ways. I’ve been entrusted with a wide range of projects, and it’s fun to leave after a day of work and have tangible products that I’ve created and skills I’ve gained. Projects I do include: placing event listings for any clients or events, writing press releases, conducting interviews and writing feature articles, helping to design the website pages for a client’s new website, and compiling press kits.
Every single day there has been a surprise, or a new challenge, but from the beginning I’ve been supported and encouraged to ask questions and it has all felt exciting and fun. I feel very lucky – and not just because of CF&A’s close proximity of a lot of delicious restaurants – because I have been given the chance to work in an environment that bolsters my own creativity, self-confidence, and skills in an area that greatly interests me. I also get to do some pretty fun things – tomorrow I’m going to an event we’re hosting for the Chicago Opera Theater, which promises to be significantly more ritzy than an evening of homework. On Friday, I get to explore the archives of various Chicago libraries in search of photos for a client, which I can’t wait to do.
I was apprehensive about the idea of an internship at first. I’m still taking a full load of classes and commuting to work three days a week, along with all of the other commitments I’ve made to things on campus, and to my theatre board. Since starting, though, I have felt so validated and pleased by my choice to have this internship. Being downtown three days a week – besides forcing me to learn a lot more about Chicago – is invigorating, and the amount I have learned just in the first month has made it more than worth my time. If you’re thinking about an internship, I encourage it highly.
Until next time! Enjoy the (slowly. Slowly) coming spring.
Bridget McNamara is a Junior Theatre major interning with Carol Fox & Associates this quarter.
I knew I wanted to play professional soccer since I was about 12 when I saw my first live match—F.C. Barcelona vs. Manchester United. At the time, I did not realize the magnitude of the teams. I only knew the goalkeeper, Tim Howard, was one of the best American’s to ever play the position, and that is what I wanted to play. Fast forward nine years, I am in my junior year at Northwestern University as the starting goalkeeper eager to make the jump from the college level to the professional level. Coincidentally, one of the up and coming American goalkeepers, Sean Johnson, plays for the Chicago Fire, and provided me the perfect opportunity to learn from him and the organization.
When I arrived at Toyota Park, home of the Chicago Fire, I was unsure of what my experience would be like. I only knew I had to find a way to watch practice if I could. As I made my way to my desk, meeting several important people along the way, I wondered whether we would be able to make it to training today. Then Eunice Kim, a communications specialist and my supervisor, approached me and said, “It’s a nice day. Let’s go watch training.” I was excited of course, but I wondered why exactly we were going to watch them. I assumed I would just sit at my cubicle and read articles about the Fire other communications specialists created. She went on to explain that “media outlets will often show up at practice to interview players and coaches, and we get many of our stories from trainings, such as line-ups, injuries, and current forms of players.”
After the training, we headed back up to the office to take care of some paperwork, and I thought my day was done. However, Eunice came to my desk, and asked if I would like to interview Frank Yallop, the head coach, for the Tottenham Hotspurs media about their match this summer. I was handed a list of questions that needed to be answer, and was taken down into Yallop’s office. I was quite nervous at first unsure of how he would respond to these questions, especially since I did not write them. However, once we got past the first question I relaxed, and we had a very comforting conversation. It was my first time talking to the head coach, and I wanted to make a good impression because there is a chance he could be my boss in the future, if I play for the Chicago Fire.
Tyler Miller is a Communication Studies major, interning with the Chicago Fire this quarter.
Even with two Stanley Cups in four seasons, the people behind the scenes in the United Center working for the Chicago Blackhawks find themselves fighting an uphill battle. ESPN reports that hockey is the sixth most popular sport in America – behind NASCAR and the NBA. Hockey also has a major income gap – The Atlantic reports that hockey fans are by far the most wealthy fans of any major sport, no doubt reflecting how expensive it is to practice and play hockey at an amateur level. That means, of course, that there isn’t a huge youth culture around hockey like there is around baseball, basketball, and football. Fewer people are exposed to the sport. Many don’t understand the rules.
So, it’s no exaggeration to say that the marketing and PR teams at the Blackhawks have to sell hockey itself in addition to their own brand. And, I think they’re pretty excited about that. On March 6th, through the EPICS Leadership Journey to the Chicago Blackhawks, 12 other students and I got the chance to tour the office and hear from professionals in the marketing, PR, and creative services departments.
Nearly everyone from the Blackhawks who talked to us mentioned “the dark ages.” That would be the 11 year period between 1997 and 2008 in which the Blackhawks made the playoffs once and lost – well, they lost a lot of games. Few of the employees we met with were part of the organization back then, as the Blackhawks went through a dramatic overhaul when current owner Rocky Wirtz took over the team.
A common theme among the employees responsible for maintaining and building the Blackhawks brand (said to be the fastest growing sports brand in the US) is that sports marketing is a fickle beast. Executive Vice President Jay Blunk said that “winning is the best form of sports marketing.” That means that, to an extent, their success is determined by factors outside of their own control. Jay emphasized how important it is in the sports business to have a plan for when your team stops winning. The approach the Blackhawks are taking, by and large, is to connect the fans with the players as much as possible.
We were ushered into a rather swanky conference room on the second floor of the United Center (which is shared by the Chicago Bulls and the Blackhawks – seriously, at one point there’s a lobby and the Bulls are through the left door and the Blackhawks are to the right). Representatives from many of the different departments within the Blackhawks organization, including Marketing, Sponsorships, Philanthropy, and New Media, met with us and discussed their day-to-day jobs, responsibilities, and challenges.
What exactly do these employees do? A lot. The Blackhawks do nearly all of their design and publishing in house, so a major project for the organization has been making championship books because the team just keeps winning Stanley Cups.
After the event, we were given free reign to wander around the United Center for about an hour until the game started. I’d never seen a hockey game in person, so it was a fascinating and entertaining experience.
A few major lessons learned through the Leadership Journey:
Many of the employees, especially those involved with media and public relations, had a strong journalism and communications background. Since working with local news outlets is one of the most important aspects of what the Blackhawks do, I believe that having some communication or journalism experience will really help any prospective employee.
Sports marketing and management is a totally different game from any other kind of marketing, including entertainment. A successful marketing campaign can still succeed if making people go see a bad movie, but few are going to pay to watch a bad team play.
The in-game experience is a carefully choreographed dance involving a huge deal of labor from many employees. You can see in the image above that there are many sponsorships prominently displayed throughout the arena, and that doesn’t even take into consideration the events that occur in between periods and the videos played on the jumbotron. Everything that you see, everything that goes on is the result of months and months of hard work.
The hours are – well, they’re long. Because most of the employees work during the game as well as during business hours, during the season, employees said that 60 to 70-hour weeks are a regular occurrence.
I’m grateful for the warm welcome we received from the Blackhawks, and I think that everyone involved learn a great deal about the behind-the-scenes of a major sports organization. And, of course, the Blackhawks won (by a lot).
Richie Hoffman is a Junior RTVF major who participated in the EPICS Leadership Journey to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Dean O’Keefe said it best when she described our closing dinner at the Groucho Club as the “perfect culmination” of not just our week at GMCS, but also the creative media economy as a whole.
After a week of lectures, company presentations, acclaimed shows and great food, I’m amazed at the incredible amount of generosity we’ve received. Professors from the London School of Economics prepared special presentations for us, synthesizing a lifetime’s amount of academic research into one hour while also catering to our particular interests. Leading companies in the digital, marketing, film and media spaces took hours out of their schedules to tell us about their careers so we can enter our own with a more informed and nuanced view of the media industry. Northwestern alumni selflessly gave their time and even opened their homes to us, proving the Wildcat network’s remarkable strength, even across national borders. Every person we met answered our questions with thoughtful detail and offered to talk with us further via email, at any time.
At the risk of sounding corny, I couldn’t feel more grateful for this week. I’m appreciative of the kindness we encountered, resources we’ve gained and connections we got to make. I am thankful for the new friendships, too — something I didn’t expect during my senior year. My roommate for the program and I didn’t know each other beforehand, but we became fast friends. (We actually discovered, when Amina found my number in her phone, that we had briefly met nearly four years ago during the craze of Wildcat Welcome.)
Our final evening summed up everything I’ve wanted out of the School of Communication: to find where academia and business collide in the world of communication and culture, having fun and making friends in the process. In addition to Heather Trulock, Dean Sally Ewing, Professor Dilip Gaonkar, Dean O’Keefe and all 20 GMCS student participants, we got to wine and dine with SoC alum Lou Stein, our dinner host and Groucho Club member, as well as professionals and academics from our chosen field (at my table were three undergraduates, two MSC students, Professor Gaonkar and Dr. Nick Anstead, one of our lecturers from earlier this week).
The Groucho Club was the ultimate setting for this. Unlike traditional English social organizations — stuffy, reserved for the upper class and “gentlemen” only — the Groucho emerged as a direct alternative to the norm, instead focusing on creators within publishing, entertainment, arts and media. As we entered, a group of stylishly dressed female members were gathered in the lobby, which is, I’d imagine, not an ordinary sight in a typical gentleman’s club! The walls of both the stairwell and our dining room housed an interesting and varied collection of contemporary art, which we later learned were the work of local artists that the club supports through exhibitions and private viewings. Our three-course meal was delicious. We were still raving about the beet salad and sticky toffee dessert on our walk back to the hotel later that night, and we’ll probably bring up our closing meal, along with all the other memories, again and again when we reminisce about GMCS months and years from now.