Four Lessons Learned from an Account Management Internship

This past summer, I was extremely fortunate to have had the amazing opportunity of completing an Account Management Internship at LoyaltyOne’s in-house advertising agency, Squareknot. In my role as an Account Coordinator, I was responsible for managing and executing digital (email) and direct mail CRM campaigns – my responsibilities ranged from attending client briefings, creative brief writing, campaign deployment, and general project management of different departments at the agency (e.g. creative, digital, production).

During my four months, I was immersed in an unbelievably fast-paced environment where I was always on the move and there was always a project to move forward. And quite frankly, not only did I enjoy this “go-go-go” speed of an agency, but the experience also allowed me to learn a lot in a short period of time.

Here are four key survival tips lessons that I learned which I wanted to share:

1. Keep Your Brief Brief

brief-underwearSuperior written communication skills are a must. Part of my role as an Account Coordinator was to understand a client’s campaign objectives and then translate that ask to the creative department via a creative brief. In that creative brief, I needed to talk about the brand, the target, the insight, the communication objective, the competition, mandatories, project description, legal requirements, versions, etc. etc. With all that information in one document, I could see why a busy art director or copywriter reading this brief would want everything to be as clear, specific, and concise as possible.

Even going beyond creative brief writing (which btw was pretty awesome), written skills apply to every piece of communication I sent out in the office. My busy colleagues and execs already have overflowing inboxes and don’t have the time to sift through a four-paragraph email just to find out at the bottom that they were only CC’d as an FYI. In this internship, I really learned the importance of being able communicate succinctly in a legible and easy-to-read manner, while ensuring that those on the receiving end understand who the message is for and thoroughly comprehend what the message is asking of them. In other words, being a good communicator meant being able to get to the point quickly and effectively.

2. Be a Chameleon

chameleon

Oral communication skills are even more important. In almost every job application, we usually take for granted one of the most common requirements which is “excellent communication skills”. Seems pretty basic, at first, but boy, in four months, I was so wrong to underestimate this. In an office environment, being able to confidently and effectively communicate orally across a wide range of audiences is paramount (although this might not always apply, especially to roles outside of marketing): whether you’re briefing a creative team, pitching your team’s idea to the client, or providing feedback to an art director.

One of my managers told me a really interesting advice to succeed in account management: “Be a chameleon”. The way she explained it was that, as an account person, our job is to act as the liaison between the client (e.g. AIR MILES) and the rest of the agency (e.g. creative, studio, translation). She told me that, as the liaison, you have to be able to put on different “hats” and be able to speak eloquently and authentically enough to each department that you come off sincere, without sounding condescending or just being a “yes” man to the client.  You need to be able to relate and understand the needs of each person you are speaking with.

For example, let’s say the client says, “We don’t like the header in red, change it”. Do I relay that feedback word-for-word like that to my creative team (who may have spent hours on that piece)? Or is there a better way of wording it? As a creative team, which feedback would sound better to you:

  1. “We don’t like it in red, change it”
  2. “The client was wondering if there was any way we could try a version of the header in red – do you think we could look into that? Perhaps a blue? What do you think?”

Again, this lesson may not apply everywhere, but I found it extremely useful – particularly roles that involve communicating with different parties on a daily basis. You have to communicate like a chameleon.

3. Your Notebook is Your Third Hand

notebook-2

Your notebook is your life. Interning in account management (or even marketing, in general), I was always working under a deadline and information was flying everywhere. At any given moment in the day, I was managing multiple projects and had a lot to remember. And at any point, I could bump into my manager in the hallway who might give me a new assignment or some new detail that I could possibly forget by the time I got back to my desk. As such, carrying a notebook with me everywhere ensured that I was documenting everything: from meeting minutes, to my daily to-do list, to deadlines, to docket numbers, to a random idea for a pitch.

I learned that bringing my notebook everywhere helped me stay extremely organized throughout the day – it kept me calm when there were fires to put out, it kept me on track if I was leading a briefing, and it basically kept me on the ball throughout the day.

4. Be ‘Intern’-ested

intern

Show that you’re interested in the work. As an intern, I find us to be in quite an advantageous position. In most organizations, we’re never really expected to be much off the bat, so it’s actually easy to stand out and exceed expectations, especially if you demonstrate that you’re passionate and willing to learn. As such, I realized that to make the most out of my internship, I should take every opportunity to learn and go beyond my daily responsibilities. I made time to grab coffee with my managers or even our president because I was genuinely interested in the agency and the industry. I constantly asked questions about people’s roles, processes, what they like about the agency life, what they don’t like, etc. and took notes in my handy-dandy notebook.

From an account management perspective, I made it my duty to take an interest in each of our clients’ business. This meant conducting research on their company, looking into where they operate, who their target audience is for the campaign, and getting an overall familiarity with their objectives. This allowed me to share informed ideas during our meetings. Asking questions was also a plus. For example, during a client briefing, our client started off right away by getting very specific with their ideas for how the creative should look. But I thought it would be appropriate to ask, “But given that your audience aren’t necessarily active AIR MILES Collectors, could you tell us a little bit more about what exactly is in it for them? As in, why should they listen to the message?” Scary at first, isn’t it? Although it takes some guts at times, it definitely doesn’t hurt to ask questions, especially since as an intern it can really let you shine and show that you are vested in the work.

Above all, making an effort to learn more unlocked opportunities for me to go beyond my responsibilities. For example, it allowed me to work closely with our Group Account Director in developing various creative pitches, which involved conducting research, synthesizing, and actually building the deck that will be presented to potential clients; duties which would have never included in the intern job posting.


Overall, my four months spent at Squareknot were some of the most rewarding months in my four years in university: I learned so much and I could not have asked for a better experience spending it at Squareknot Agency.

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