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5 in 5! with Erin Fleming, Director of Operations at MediaTracks Communications

July 9, 2013

Erin Fleming oversees daily operations, including program delivery and customer service for 750+ nationwide affiliates. She manages all social media, coordinates the Internship Program, and provides administrative support for affiliate relations, sales, editorial and productions.  Prior to working at MediaTracks, Erin was an award-winning theater artist/educator for twenty-five years. She enjoys acting & directing, cut-throat Scrabble and making big artistic messes of all kinds.

1. How did you get started in the industry? How can someone who is interested in your work get started?

I work in two industries: Broadcast Media and Public Relations.

Erin Fleming, Director of Operations at MediaTracks Communications

I didn’t have much specific training in either, but what I did have was a background in Arts Administration, Education and Theater, so I was able to market myself by calling on numerous skills that are common to all of those. When I relocated to the Chicago area, I answered a Craigslist ad for a part-time administrative assistant for a media production company, and 2.5 years later I became their full-time Director of Operations. Sure, some people had to get hurt in the process, but when you play the Game of PR, you win or die.

2. What’s the future of your industry or job?

The future of radio is strong, as is PR, but technology is modifying job descriptions in these industries weekly, as much or if not more so than the economy. One place you see that really clearly is in how universities are re-structuring their Media, Communications and Journalism departments. Smart grads entering the workforce now need to be able to wear several hats and to be savvy about new media as well as about time-honored, old-school PR practices. Also, they’ll want to wear sunscreen, because the polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate.

3. What do you look for when you hire an intern or entry-level candidate?

I was lucky enough to be part of the Actors Theater of Louisville Apprentice/Intern Company when I was fresh out of grad school, and one of the best things I learned from my boss there was this: hire people who are smarter than you. Our current crop of interns are practically bionic: they’re smarter, faster, and more powerful than any of us, and that’s how we like it.

Other than that, I personally feel that I can be of best use as a mentor to candidates who are either (1) very committed to specific career goals or (2) undecided about the future, but determined to use an internship to investigate the possibilities they’re considering. Many of the interns we choose come to us with lots of experience and skills, but a great attitude and work ethic will go a long way to make up for inexperience. After all, the whole idea is that they are here to learn something from us, so they don’t have to come to us fully cooked. They can be half-baked.

4. What is one thing an intern can do to make a favorable impression?

The old theater joke goes like this:

“The most important quality in an actor is sincerity; and if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

I would tweak that advice to interns to say be enthusiastically pro-active. This summer our interns will be able to add real world broadcast journalist, blog editor, newsletter editor, videographer and video editor credits to their resumes, all due to their enthusiasm. Follow through on what you’re assigned and make it clear that you’re up for more. Then, on those days where you’re not feeling it – fake it. That’s the true mark of a professional. That’s what we’re all doing. Coffee helps.

5. Can you share a positive intern story and an intern horror story? No names needed…

Positive story: We’ve hired summer interns on as part-timers twice in a row now, and I think it’s cool that my current assistant, who started as an intern, is now managing two of her own interns. We’re also excited when we call a big radio station in Los Angeles to pitch them on something and one of our former interns who works there patches our calls through to the decision-makers. We’re very proud of her, and the clear bias she shows toward us. We trained her well.

Horror story: This isn’t so much horrifying, as just funny, but I did have an intern candidate send me a bouquet of flowers along with his resume. I replied to him with my own pro/con assessment of attention-getting stunts, and asked him to consider whether or not he would have sent flowers to a male Director of Operations, and how something like that might be interpreted by another company without our sense of humor. To his credit, he recovered very nicely and managed to both apologize and unabashedly ask again for an interview. We had completed our interviews, but I respected his chutzpah.

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