Leaving Land O’Lakes knowing so much more than butter

Communications Intern Emily Benda (center) represents the Cyclones with fellow Iowa State alumni, including Greenlee graduate Melanie Anderson (left), during the alma mater pride day at Land O'Lakes, Inc. 

By Emily Benda

Year in School: Senior

Major: Journalism and Mass Communication

Internship: Communications Intern, Land O’Lakes, Inc.

When I first saw the post online for the Land O’Lakes communications internship, my first thought was, ‘Oh, so marketing and communications for butter. I like food, I can do that.’ Little did I know that while Land O’Lakes does sell dairy products, that is only a small portion of this agriculture cooperative.

Since landing this internship in early November, I have learned a lot about the agriculture industry, the different businesses within Land O’Lakes and of course, working in communications. In fact, most of what I work on doesn’t involve butter at all! The subjects I touch can vary from sustainability, to government policy and even international communities.

My daily tasks include writing articles for our internal and external websites, researching reporters for potential press outreach and creating marketing materials for company events. I have also created videos and social media content for various channels. For someone with no background in farming or agriculture, it was nerve-racking at first to interview farmers or food scientists about their work and the topics can be tough to break down for an audience. However, with lots of research and help from my team, I’ve learned how to ask better questions and feel more comfortable in interviews. Researching reporters has been a fascinating insight into the public relations world and has taught me proactive strategies I hope to use later in my career.

My favorite project I’ve worked on during my summer internship was writing a media pitch to university communications professionals about the unique internship program Land O’Lakes provides to college sophomores, the Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders for Food Security. I loved showcasing my brilliant fellow interns and generating publicity about a program that not only includes Iowa State students but has potential to change the world. The interest and responses back from the universities was also an exciting end to a fun project.

While I have gained a lot of “hard” skills and technical knowledge about agriculture and corporate communications, I have also discovered other possible communications careers through conversations with people at Land O’Lakes. Everyone I have met has been welcoming and willing to chat with me about their career paths. It is through these conversations that I have felt at home at Land O’Lakes and gotten to know others outside my communications team. Company culture can make or break an internship (or job) experience, and I am grateful to have worked with kind and talented professionals this summer. I’m sure most of this is due to the large amount of Cyclone alumni at Land O’Lakes, including my boss!

My time at Land O’Lakes has been short – only 12 weeks. I cannot say I now know everything about agriculture or the company, but I have expanded my narrow view of cows on a farm and Land O’Lakes butter. Even better, I have refined my writing and design skills and gotten a sense of a welcoming company culture and how that can make a difference in daily work routine.

Vote for this entry in Round 2 of the 2017 Greenlee School Summer Intern Blogging Contest.

Voting begins at noon on Aug. 10 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 17. The winner will be announced Aug. 18 by noon.