Golin CEO Fred Cook Talks ‘Unternships,’ Creative Recruitment

The author/agency leader discusses his latest project.

Today in Creative Self-Promotion news, last Fall Golin launched a program called “The Unternship” which promised to take an unusual approach to the talent search by offering applicants “Professional Experience Anywhere but in the Office” — or a three-month paid internship doing whatever their hearts desire.

From the release:

“Imagine a post-grad internship that goes beyond the office cubicle and provides unforgettable experiences the way you want to do it.”

This week, Golin announced the winner of the competition; we spoke to CEO Fred Cook to learn more.

First, here’s the video announcement:

What did Golin want to accomplish with the “Unternship Project?”

It’s an idea that our Dallas office came up with based on a book [Improvise: Unconventional Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO] that I published last year…a little idea that turned into something powerful.

The goal was to seek out one individual who we thought could bring new thinking and fresh perspective to our agency…to find brave, creative people.

We recently talked to Edelman’s first diversity manager about hiring from outside the PR industry. Was Golin on the same wavelength here?

Yes, we wanted to reach out to people who might not be aware of us or be interested in working in PR to ‘fish with a bigger net.’ We announced it at a PRSA conference and got hundreds of applicants.

Many young people have loans, pressure from parents, etc…and have no opportunity to go out and experience the world the way I did when I was their age. So we wanted to actually pay one individual to go out and get that life experience.

How did the review proceed?

We narrowed it down to 30, six, and then three finalists, brought them to Chicago a few weeks ago, interviewed all of them, then gave them a surprise challenge…

We gave each candidate $40 and said ‘have an unorthodox experience in Chicago.’ We also sent a video crew.

Then they came back and presented their experiences and told us what they learned from them.

What led you to choose Akinbola Richardson? (See a reel of his film work above.)

All three were incredibly creative and submitted brilliant videos.

On the day of the adventure, it was five degrees in Chicago and Akinbola decided to help a 32-year-old homeless man raise money. He then went back to the shelter where the man lived under the freeway on a plastic tarp, went inside and learned all about the story of this man’s life and drug addiction.

After that, Akinbola still had his $40 — so he use it to convince a taxi driver to allow him to drive his car up and down Michigan Avenue and record it.

Watching someone try these things and make them possible blew us away.

What will he do over the next three months, exactly?

He has already arranged to live with an Amish family, he wants to wrestle an alligator…there will be a series of things. He will be making a video record which we will share on our social media accounts.

When he’s finished, he will go to work in our Dallas office as a full-time creative doing video production for our clients.

Do you plan to expand on the program moving forward?

For legal reasons, we were only allowed to have this adventure within the continental United States. But we want to launch it in India and Asia, and we hope to have more than one “Untern” in the future.