3 marketing lessons an intern taught his new agency before starting

A video the impromptu applicant sent via Twitter was bold, funny and charming. It pressed all the right buttons and made an amazing first impression.


It all started with a tweet.

Then another tweet, and then a video, and the next thing you know, we’ve got ourselves an intern named John Donahue who’s first-day arrival is met with anticipation usually reserved for royal babies, new episodes of “Homeland,” and (for most of our office anyway) Phish concerts.

Let’s go back a few weeks.

We had taken to our Twitter handle to alert anyone who cared (and plenty who didn’t) that after a season of soul-crushing losses, we had pulled off a softball victory. Shortly afterwards, we got the following response.

This got our attention. But was John Donahue a one-tweet wonder? There was only one way to find out.

He responded to the challenge. And then some.

I mean, what do you say about a guy who openly invites comparisons to Ryan Gosling, claims to roll with Brad Pitt, and saves damsels in distress, all in a minute and a half?

In our case, we said, “When can you start?” And it reminded us of the following three immutable laws of marketing:

Bold is beautiful.

In baseball, the saying is “if you’re going to get beat, get beat with your best pitch.” This applies to marketing as well. You need to have a degree of fearlessness within all disciplines, whether you’re presenting a campaign idea, a tagline, or you’re pitching a reporter—you need to believe in your idea if someone else is going to.

John not only put himself out there, but did so in a bold, ostentatious fashion that could only generate admiration or ridicule. Because let’s face it, if this concept had been done poorly, it would have been a “Gigli”-level bomb. Fortunately, he nailed it, and we here at CP loved it. More than anything, we loved the fact that there was no sense of “let’s play it safe” in John Donohue.

Find where your audience is, and engage them there. Then keep engaging them.

We like to tweet. We engage with people who tweet at us. We have a sense of humor that can alternately manifest itself in cartoonish braggadocio or over-the-top self-deprecation.

John recognized all of this, and met us where we live and spoke to us in our language. That’s about as basic a tenet of marketing as there is. But it doesn’t make it any less impressive when it’s rendered artfully.

First impressions aren’t everything. But they’re meaningful.

John might be a train wreck. Or he could wind up owning the joint. We have no idea if he’s going to pan out, because as much as you scout someone, you never know how they’re going to play until they’re wearing your uniform.

But damned if John doesn’t have us excited about hiring him, and we hope that he (and we) can build on that. It’s on us to get the most out of our interns and give them an environment to learn and thrive in (we have more than a few employees who started as rock-star interns). It’s on John to make sure he brings the same passion and energy to work that he brought to his application. The same of course holds true in all walks of marketing—be strong out of the gate, but if you don’t build off your early bursts of creativity and passion, your ideas—and clients—are destined for ephemerality.

So, that’s the story of John Donahue, first-day intern at Connelly Partners. He’s already inspired a blog entry. And he’s got all eyes on him, more so than most interns. How will it turn out? Only time will tell, but we’re optimistic.

Because Brad Pitt wouldn’t lie to us, would he?

Christian Megliola is the director of public relations and social strategy at Boston-based ad agency Connelly Partners. A version of this story originally appeared on the company’s blog.

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