By Ian Consoli
Over the past two summers, we have extended the opportunity for one individual to participate in a marketing internship at Tablas Creek. We contacted local universities, and posted on LinkedIn, Paso Wine Careers, and other job listing sites. The response to the listings was immediate and enthusiastic, as individuals looking to make their start in wine marketing found the post and applied. This September, our second marketing internship concluded, and for the second internship in a row, the accomplishments we made during the three months created a lasting impact on our marketing program. Two internships may be a small sample size, but it is enough for me to realize we are on to something.
One of the purposes of this blog is to share success stories, whether in sustainability, farming, recipes, wine marketing, or an array of other categories. With a general feeling of success, I thought we would share how and why we developed an internship program, its structure, and its results. My hope is for other wineries to feel inspired by our results and create a wine marketing internship program of their own.
Marketers ponder. (In fact, that pondering time is crucial for marketers to develop innovative ways to help brands develop, but that’s a piece for another time). In one of those ponderings, I thought back to my marketing internship in college and the value it brought me with the suffix, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could offer that opportunity to someone?” The answer was that we absolutely could. In fact, we might be one of the better-positioned wineries to offer one. We are large enough to employ a full-time marketing person (me) yet small enough that one marketing person is responsible for every aspect of the department. The idea made sense, but we needed to ensure the benefits outweighed the cost of bringing someone on board. We developed a program with three potential beneficiaries in mind:
Benefits to the candidate. The candidate would study and observe all parts of marketing throughout our organization. We employ one of the most intensive social media programs in the wine industry, with daily postings on three major platforms and weekly contributions on four more. What an opportunity for someone to learn every aspect of a professional marketer!
Benefits to the company. That intensive social media program requires many ideas and a lot of time. Social media is always changing, and the next generation fuels much of that change. We felt a current student or recent graduate would give us a Gen Z perspective, refresh our social media, and help us better understand social media’s current climate. If we repeat the program every summer, we will continue to refresh that understanding. After a month of shadowing, the candidate should be comfortable enough to contribute to our social media, email campaigns, website, public relations materials, and more. That alleviation of the marketer’s workload means more time for those pondering sessions.
Benefits to the industry. Summer internships are, by design, temporary positions. If we do not plan on employing the intern after three months of work, then what’s the point? Well, that temporary position could translate into a permanent position at another winery in the region. My personal philosophy is that the wine industry, at least locally, has a long way to go when it comes to understanding and respecting the value of employing a full-time marketer. I also believe that as more dedicated marketing professionals emerge, the better our marketing as a region will become. By power-training an enthusiastic candidate, we may help that candidate emerge as one of the top wine marketers and make significant contributions to the wine industry.
For this internship to be well-rounded, we needed to look at every aspect of a marketing director’s duties, strip them down to their basic intent, and format a learning program that gets to the fundamentals of those duties. This practice is, within itself, a benefit to the marketing team and the company. Here’s a shortened description of the responsibilities we came up with:
- Social Media: Assist and implement daily social media posting and focus on developing a video strategy.
- Content Creation: Develop photography, videography, and copywriting skills (complete one piece for the Tablas Creek blog).
- Print Media: Assist with inserts for our wine club shipment and participate in printer negotiations.
- Public Relations: Write one press release and present it to local news outlets.
- Email: Observe, collaborate on, and take the lead on monthly email campaigns.
- Hospitality: Spend one day a week in the tasting room to connect front-of-house and back-of-house mentality.
- Events: Participate in one on-site and one off-site event.
- Major Project: Pick one significant project to complete over the course of the three-month internship.
We feel these responsibilities give our interns a taste of most of the daily tasks of a wine marketer while allowing them to focus on their primary skillset.
We hired two interns with entirely different skill sets. The first, Nadia Nouri, specialized in social media. She joined the team in the summer of 2022 when short-form videos started to gain recognition in the wine industry. That medium was a second language for her, one she spoke fluently. We developed multiple series and videos during her internship.
The understanding we developed inspired me to speak on short-form video at the DTC Wine Symposium in 2023. Our following grew by over 2,000 people, engagement was up, reach was up, and, more importantly, our content had a burst of life. That’s something a new perspective always brings. Here are a couple of my favorite posts from that time.
Shelby Burns was our most recent intern, and is a graphic design and communications specialist finishing her last quarter at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I can navigate the Adobe suite of design tools, but working side-by-side with a collegiately trained graphic designer helped simplify processes and improve our print media. Her big project was developing a single booklet combining three handouts into one. The booklet she created will minimize our printing, saving resources and money in the long run. My favorite piece from her project was a consumer-facing vineyard map that will help guests enter our vineyard in a fun and educational way. I mean, check it out!
Not all interns are the same, and thank goodness they aren’t! Lean into the talent of your interns. In going from a social media specialist to a graphic designer, we realized both interns would benefit more if we focused on developing their specific skill sets while giving them a taste of all other aspects of the position.
Evaluating your processes is always a good thing. Nothing drives your expertise home like teaching. Developing this internship program forced us to take a good look into what we were doing, and helped us tighten up our marketing efforts. Also, sharing what you have learned always feels good.
You can always use a fresh perspective. It is rewarding when one of your key motivators becomes a key takeaway. We felt that adding a fresh perspective to our content room (my name for the marketing office) would help us grow, and we were right. More perspectives bring more understanding. We can’t wait for next summer’s marketing intern to add to what we’re doing at Tablas Creek.