A Destiny Fulfilled Through Destination Cleveland
Written by Tyisha Blade
A closer look at interning with Destination Cleveland and the efforts of the Convention and Visitors Bureau
During the 2019 summer semester, I embarked on a journey that strengthened my aspirations as writer and personified personal growth as I ventured out into Cleveland with multiple opportunities offered through Destination Cleveland. As the organizations Public Relations/Communications intern I gained valuable perspective that not only equipped me with the tools of confidence in the foundation of my career, but also the wisdom to continue as a more versatile writer. I also gained a trusted support system with and unforgettable acquaintances from several employees at the organization. This internship has been both memorable and inspirational.
Destination Cleveland, located at the corner of E. 4th and Euclid, is the Convention and Visitors Bureau also known as the Destination Marketing and Management Organization for Cuyahoga County. Under direction of President and CEO, David Gilbert, Destination Cleveland is a private non-profit organization that focuses on promoting the city as a destination. Convention sales and services are a big aspect of the company that recruits and hosts large events, conferences and annual meetings for other organizations. Destination Cleveland also aims to enhance the visitor experience once they come to town. These focuses also include wayfinding and signage. Initiatives such as creating the Cleveland Script logo add to a shareable experience that reaches others to consider Cleveland as a place to visit.
During the three-month internship, I worked closely with Chief Marketing Officer, Colette Jones; Senior Director of PR/Communications, Emily Lauer; Communications Manager, Nick Urig; Communications Specialist, Kristen Jantanio; and Communications Coordinator, Stephanie Sheeley. Initially, I was uncertain how I could contribute to the team as a student majoring in journalism. Reporting directly to Urig, I quickly found out the valued connection between journalists and public relations professionals. Urig’s primary focus is sharing Cleveland stories with media and journalists outside of the region, which includes inviting them to town and showing off Cleveland as a destination for leisure and business travel.
Interning at the organization was a blast. It was both educational and enjoyable. I gained valuable insight from individuals outside of the PR/ Communications department such as Senior Manager of Content, Lexi Hotchkiss; Chief Strategy Officer, Hannah Belsito; Vice President of Customer Experience, Jennifer Valencic; Senior Human Resources Manager, Jennifer Difranco; Meetings Marketing Manager, Roxanne Grewel; and Senior Project Manager, Leola Daniels to name a few. Advice from First Impressions Ambassador, Maria Alers was always inspirational as we related on several different topics chatting our lunch breaks away. Senior Project Manager, Brittany Williams, was always great with checking on the interns ensuring that we were provided with what we needed to succeed. The teamwork at Destination Cleveland was phenomenal and I felt like more than just an intern, more like a valued member. The rich work culture created foundation for positive results and a welcoming work environment.
A personal favorite moment was an invitation to dinner from fellow Shaw High School alumna, Chardonnay Graham. Graham is a private contractor for Destination Cleveland and owner of Touch Cleveland LLC, a full-service marketing and public relations agency servicing small businesses, nonprofits and public figures that have focus on community, business and overall economic development. Graham and I dined during happy hour at Cleveland Chop outside on their aesthetic patio until the rain rushed us inside where we relocated to the bar. I enjoyed pleasantly-seasoned quesadillas and she, the fried calamari after drinks of Chardonnay and a Veranda cocktail. I would definitely return to Cleveland Chop very soon.
I explored different areas of Cleveland with a preference for Downtown and The Flats East Bank. With hang out spots such as Dante’s Inferno, Magaritaville, Mabel’s BBQ, Chocolate Bar, and Punch Bowl Social there’s no way anyone could come downtown without a list of things to do. At times, during my lunch break, I would walk the lively E. 4th St. or visit the amazing 5th St. Arcade. There were even times where I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with all the options!
I was also able to witness, firsthand, the unveiling of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Week events. Working side-by-side with the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission interns was an unforgettable experience -- seeing how the customer experience was of top priority with this and other events in Cleveland. Looking back on the event, it was a great time for Cleveland and its economy. After watching the parade of All-Star players stroll through Downtown Cleveland on Euclid Ave., I attended the Play Ball Park event hosted at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. Inside the center was all things baseball including baseball history, raffles, kid-friendly events, auctions, baseball gear and more. Other notable events to be hosted in Cleveland include The NFL Draft held in 2021; The NBA All-Star Game held Feb. 18, 2022; and the NCAA Women’s Final Four held April 5-7, 2024. Both Destination Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission do their due diligence when it comes to events and appreciation for locals and visitors.
Another memorable experience was my visit to Adcom, located on W. 6th St. The agency specializes in a number of areas including brand planning, audience planning, marketing technologies media planning and public relations. Being welcomed by Adcom Associate Account Manager, Maranda Bailo, I gained further education that incorporated writing and options at the agency for journalism professionals. I can’t forget that I was able to take professional headshots in their state-of-the-art studio.
As if this internship couldn’t be more great, I expressed my passion for writing and I was offered an opportunity to contribute articles to their website as a freelance writer. With my busy work and school schedule, how fitting. Not too long ago, I turned in my first writing assignment and I am excited for more writing opportunities. Unfortunately, a week before classes resumed, my apartment building caught fire. While everyone in the building escaped the fire, it was devastating. Everything was either torched or badly smoked damaged. Hearing of this, Destination Cleveland started a GoFundMe account to help with moving expenses and furniture. I couldn’t believe what was happening; I appreciate them so much for such a blessing. This is a phenomenal organization and I hope to continue working with them both personally and professionally. I encourage students to apply for this internship to grow and explore. Thanks Destination Cleveland!