Are marketers doing right by their summer interns?

It’s summer time — which also means that it’s internship season.

With National Intern Day set for July 28, MM+M spoke with medical marketing agency leaders to get their take on this summer’s intern classes and the best ways to develop young talent. Worth noting: Each of the executives said that their summer 2022 internship programs have been on a hybrid model and that their interns were all paid.

IPG Health Lisa DuJat said that internships have become increasingly competitive, reporting that the agency received more than 6,000 applications for 100 slots in its Bold Beginnings program.

Part of the vetting process for applicants is understanding how they developed an interest in healthcare marketing, she added, acknowledging medical communications is not a particularly well-known field. At the same time, DuJat said IPG Health has been mindful in its recruiting efforts to reach out to talent beyond its usual geographic boundaries and in from different schools and programs than in years past.

The experience of interning at IPG, which involves hands-on work and a presentation to company executives, has led to a promising conversion rate. Dujat reported that of the company’s 69 interns in 2021, 34 were hired as full-time employees.

“The students are so much savvier about the companies they’re coming to internally with than when I started in the business,” she said. “They want to know that these are companies that they can believe in.”

Klick SVP and global head of talent attraction Deanna Pathak said the company takes its time introducing interns to the business, exposing them to various aspects of its operations — web development, creative analytics and more — over the course of 16 weeks. Only then are they assigned to client work.

She added that one of the most important aspects of the program is the work interns do on a project with a nonprofit organization. The initiative, provided pro bono by Klick, lets interns pursue different creative ideas on behalf of a cause and learn to present to clients.

Pathak said she is always eyeing Klick’s interns for long-term potential, even if they don’t have a background in healthcare or marketing. But while the industry may be bracing for a recession, she stressed that agencies should continue to prioritize the development of young talent.

“As we’re starting to see the economy change, I’m seeing the cutting of programs around junior talent,” Pathak noted. “I would emphasize how important junior talent is – obviously not just to Klick, but to our whole industry. This investment should always be a priority, because a constant flow of talent allows us to grow in size, creativity and diversity. That’s good for everyone.”

It’s possible, of course, that interns might choose to join a different company after soaking up all their internships have to offer. Nancy Sladicka, president of US operations at Nucleus Holdings, believes that companies should nevertheless view any/all additions of young talent to the business as a good thing.

“It’s a success story if an intern has a good experience and decides that they want a career in medical communications,” she said. “It’s not all self-serving. I see it as a win even if they just come away and say, ‘Wow, this is a cool career and something I’d like to do long-term.’”

Nucleus debuted its internship program in 2019 and Sladicka said the agency hopes to bring on more interns in the future (it currently hosts up to eight per summer). It might also expand the program into a year-round initiative.

In addition to its internship program, the agency also runs Nucleus Academy, an eight-week training program for incoming full-time employees that consists of classes, workshops and career training. Sladicka said there may be an opportunity to pair Academy graduates with interns down the line.

FCB Health Network, now part of IPG Health, similarly offers a job training program alongside its internship offering. The program, Write it Forward, provides opportunities for entry-level copywriters focused on science.

According to EVP, executive creative director Salvatore Diana, Write It Forward operates more like a preceptorship than a traditional internship. Preceptorships are common across healthcare, he noted, and include individuals from various backgrounds and experiences, not just college students.

“Often an internship functions as a bridge from academic life to professional career,” he explained. “However, because this program is designed for all walks of life, it could well be a recent college grad or someone who’s looking to dive into a second or third career.”

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