The Engine Powering the Chicago Auto Show's Social Media Reach? Bradley Student Interns

When the Chicago Auto Show convenes in February, the marketing and communications strategy isn’t solely limited to the 300,000-plus people who attend the annual event.

The era of social media transformed the audience far beyond the exhibit hall walls of the McCormick Place Convention Center. The term used by the Auto Show team, “digital lift,” refers to the additional reach achieved when social media posts from the event sprawl out to the many followers of those in attendance.

“What our attendees are pushing out reaches the whole globe,” said Hayley Feichter ’16, communications and marketing director for the Chicago Auto Show. “We’re talking in the hundreds of millions in reach on social media.”

And every year a collection of Bradley communication majors plays a role in crafting that digital lift to the global masses as Auto Show interns.

With only nine full-time employees on the Auto Show staff, the event relies upon the student interns to pump out content and be the boots on the ground and the eyes and ears on the floor over the course of the show’s 10-day run, Feichter said.

Typically, the Bradley interns arrive in two five-day waves, brimming with opportunities for hands-on experience. The first wave assists with the media preview week in the lead-up to the show’s official public debut. Tasks for the interns include writing press releases, hosting two full days of press conferences featuring the automakers, capturing content for social media, and then tracking the reach and engagement of the Auto Show hashtag. 

The second wave focuses on promoting the show once it’s open to the public. Known as the “social squad,” these student interns propel the social media efforts and excitement for the week. They promote giveaways, preview the day’s events with social media live videos in the morning and coax attendees into taking photos with cutout Instagram frames. 

Students are encouraged to get creative with their strategies and have fun, since their productivity in those five days will carry the show’s social media content for an entire year.

“We only have 10 days a year where we get to capture all of our content for the other 355 days,” Feichter said. “It’s really a sprint to the end to try to capture content and push it out to magnify our reach.”

Perhaps no one can articulate the benefits of the Auto Show internship better than Feichter, who worked two Auto Shows as a Bradley undergraduate. The industry experience  captivated her.

She parlayed that internship into a seasonal communications role for a year after graduation. Several years later, when the director of communications position opened up, Feichter’s supervisor during her internship and temp years offered her the job.

“I talked about my time at the Auto Show in every job interview I had,” Feichter said. “It’s one thing to do coursework and college projects, but it’s another thing when you’re on-site and working hand in hand with the largest TV and radio broadcast stations in Chicago.”

— Thomas Bruch



Students standing under large hanging globe