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June 13, 2011

Interns: On Your Mark, Get Set …

by brainoids

Want to attract the attention of the best summer interns?   Target your communications campaign to be ready on the first of the year.   It shouldn’t be a surprise that interest in internships follows an annual cycle with a peak in the late winter and spring … but what it is surprising is how sharply peaked this interest is.

Two separate threads led me to the results below: (1) Experimenting with Google’s new experimental GoogleCorrelate tool, and (2) helping Marshall Space Flight Center‘s Summer and Minority Internship Programs improve their external communications.  GoogleCorrelate adds a new twist to the analytics mining provided by Google Insights; it allows “reverse engineering” to find which search terms most closely match pre-defined geographic patterns (e.g, state-by-state demographics), or pre-defined temporal patterns (e.g., an annual yearly cycle).

The time search, driven by a simple annual sine wave in Google’s Winter Wave example, identifies which terms are most likely to be searched with a pronounced annual peak.   By adding an offset value, the peak can be shifted in time.   Playing around with the tool, I was surprised to find how strongly summer internships, summer programs, etc, dominated the searches for all peaks centered in the January-to-March time frame:

Switching over to GoogleInsights allowed plotting and extraction of the actual annual data in CSV format (the first step in generating a composite).   To increase the data content, I extracted both “summer internship” and “summer internships” (plural):

After a little bit of smoothing, we get the average annual cycle of summer internship searching:

This is probably nothing that education specialists don’t already know, but may not known by our supporting communications staff.   The message I take away is clear: kids (or parents) start searching during and immediately after Christmas break, with peak interest the first two weeks in January.

From a communications perspective, any data which point to a more-than-doubling of target audience interest over a narrow window are of great interest.   The associated promotional campaign recommendations would include making sure updated supporting content or collateral is firmly in place before the holidays.   January would then  make an excellent month to reinforce interest and enthusiasm by highlighting the internship program in executive speeches, mobilization of intern program alumni or targeted college almuni already in the employee ranks, etc.  Even small slips in the communications campaign schedule could lead to significant gaps in reaching the “first wave” of internship seekers, who may also be the most motivated.

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