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Marketing may be one of the last things on your to-do list, but you know how important it is to get your flight school’s name out there.

A marketing intern from a local college might be just what you need.

Dan Dyer, owner of San Carlos Flight Center at San Carlos Municipal Airport (SQL) in California, has hired marketing interns for the previous two summers. The interns take on a variety of tasks, ranging from social media to managing the flight school’s Groupon account.

“They get a chance to learn marketing from us,” said Dyer, who is a firm believer in the value of marketing and brand awareness. (See the full profile on San Carlos Flight Center, which was named 2013 Best Flight School in the Flight Training Excellence Awards, in the February 2014 Flight Training magazine.)

Even if you’re not coming at this from a marketing-savvy background, there are “bite-sized” tasks that marketing interns can handle easily, Dyer said. For example, “Young people are really good if you give them the assignment of overhauling or spiffing up your social media marketing—Twitter, Instagram, Facebook,” he said.

If you decide to take on an intern, you should plan to pay the student at least minimum wage, or else you’ll need to follow the Labor Department’s six strict criteria for unpaid labor, according to Jenn Boutwell, vice president of marketing and strategic alliances at Sage, writing about internships and small businesses for Forbes.

“Unpaid internships are a little bit dicey nowadays,” Dyer said. He pays interns, and says that while he can’t afford to employ them full time, both parties still benefit from the arrangement.

“For us, we really do try to make it be a summer seminar on how to do marketing,” Dyer said.

To ensure the internship is mutually beneficial, Boutwell recommends creating a well-rounded program before you contact the local college or university. Define goals and expectations and draw up a list of tasks that will ease your workload as well as give interns experience.

What should you look for in a marketing intern? Qualified candidates should be enrolled in an undergraduate business or marketing program. “They need some book knowledge,” Dyer said. “Marketing is vague and amorphous, but it starts somewhere. They need to have an introductory marketing course so they have a context to put it in.”

Should they have a passion for aviation, as well? That would be ideal—but you might still be able to work with a student who doesn’t. As Dyer said, “There’s enough energy and love of flying in [San Carlos Flight Center] that they can bring their special skill and we can add the passion.”

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.

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