6060 FFA Drive. An address I had studied for countless hours as a Greenhand member of my high school’s FFA chapter; I never imagined I would have the opportunity to work in the National FFA Center and have a significant experience.
When the American Agricultural Editors’ Association posting about its two summer internship positions came through the ACJ Listserv, I eagerly completed my application as soon as I saw the marketing communications intern would be placed with the National FFA Organization. The application included listing classes taken, essays with a 75-word or fewer limit, a letter of recommendation and submitting work samples. I received a congratulatory email in late February 2014
From June to mid-August 2014, I interned with the marketing, communications, branding and sales management division of national FFA as a marketing communication intern in Indianapolis. My supervisors included Julie Woodard, communications manager; Kristy Meyer, communications/media manager; Katy Mumaw, senior content writer; and Geoffrey Miller, digital media specialist.
In my role, I was in charge of writing stories to be used in new stories, press releases, social media and the organization’s blog. The publications and correspondence I worked with included FFA.org, FFA Pulse, FFA New Horizons, New Visions and Blue Jackets. Bright Futures! My other responsibilities included editing content. Other projects included developing content for the National FFA Convention & Expo and editing content for the future FFA.org site.
During my tenure in Indiana, I was able to develop a better concept of the organization, the National FFA Foundation and National FFA Alumni Association. I also learned more about myself and my skill set. I enjoy development and copy editing, and I was able to use my knowledge for a majority of my internship. Many staff members from other divisions would send me documents to edit because of the reputation I had created with members of my division. Additionally, I was able to branch out and work on a project with search engine optimization for the Shop FFA website.
My favorite project during the summer was writing an article for FFA New Horizons. Being a former FFA member that eagerly awaited each issue, I was thrilled to have the chance to contribute to the magazine. I ventured to Nashville, Tennessee with division staff to tour Journal Communications, Inc., the publisher that develops the magazine, and meet with their staff. I never imagined I would ever be in the magazine, let alone be a writer. Plus, the editor of the magazine usually critiques all articles during her round of edits. She didn’t have any edits for my article, and she said she really liked it. That made me feel pretty great about myself and my writing.
Being from a small Kansas town, it was difficult for me to adjust to city life. The traffic in Indianapolis and the commute to work were my least favorite things. On average, it would take me about 25 minutes to get to work and 45 minutes to get back. To avoid the traffic, I would go to work around 8:30 a.m. and leave 5:30 p.m. As for the internship, being in charge of my schedule was a challenge for me. I was able to work at my own pace, but I would get assignments done promptly and run out of projects for the week. To combat this, I would ask other staff members in the division if they needed assistance on projects.
Along those lines, being creative in my writing has been a struggle for me. Most of the writing I have experience in is informative and deliberative, such as press releases. My biggest area of growth was finding my creative side. Through projects such as the stories for New Visions, FFA New Horizons and the National FFA Organization blog, I felt more comfortable leaving my habit of the inverted pyramid.
From this experience, I definitely want to incorporate communications in my future roles. I really liked developing stories and writing for New Visions and FFA New Horizons. I also enjoyed writing stories for FFA Pulse and selected photos for the landing pages in the e-newsletter. Even as I pursue advanced degrees in agricultural economics and work toward academia, my hope is to use my knowledge of marketing communications in my teaching, freelance projects or any jobs I have in between now and being a professor. Also, I know that I am a people person. I want to work in an environment where I can collaborate and form relationships with others.
For any student interesting in writing and content development, I would suggest looking for the opportunities with FFA during convention as well as the internships sponsored through AAEA. These experiences will put your skills to the test with real-world situations, strengthen your writing, and create strong portfolio items. Due to funding, the marketing, communications, branding and sales management division does not host an internship every year; however, several internship positions are available during the week of national FFA convention including news room, social media and video internships. The AAEA internship positions are announced usually in December or January. Applications are due mid-February and can be found on AAEA’s website, http://www.ageditors.com.