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To be honest, I had no idea what to expect coming into this summer at W2O Group. I started my internship approximately 36 hours after landing in America after a semester abroad. That day and a half had been a whirlwind as I ran through airports in Milan, Italy; Miami, FL; St. Louis, MO; and New York City, NY. I walked into the office that first Monday with a cup of coffee in one hand feeling anxious but excited for what would be an inevitably challenging summer. There were twelve interns in total coming from eight different schools. We all varied in discipline from media to analytics and everything in between. Throughout the summer we all got to know each other on a personal and professional level. We shared lunches, happy hours and some pretty intense ping pong matches. While most of us didn’t work on the same projects, we really became a sort of team. That being said, when it came to the summer intern project, it was every group for themselves as we chased those Visa gift cards and, of course, bragging rights.

My team was the first of two groups assigned to a pharma company. Each team of five was tasked with creating a social media campaign for the company’s new hair care brand; unlike the other two teams, our target audience was not specified. Our campaign, which we titled Regrow Your Flow, ultimately promised to expand the target market for the brand as well as increase consumer engagement across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Sound like a huge project? At first, we thought so too. Though our team had diverse capabilities (I worked on the earned media team, Julia specialize in copy, Victoria works in analytics, and Leah and Amanda hail from the account side), it was difficult, in the first weeks of the project, to figure out how to combine our experiences into a cohesive strategy. During our group meetings, I would rattle off terms that I have been studying for years like “PESO model” and “KOL” without thinking twice. It was hard to remember that not everyone was familiar with industry jargon like that. In turn, I spent countless mornings sitting in breakout rooms with Julia sipping my coffee and patiently waiting for my brain to turn on as she effortlessly came up with dozens of creative hashtag ideas that would begin to shape our campaign.

In the end, it was those diverse experiences that enabled our success. We figured out how to support one another, figured out how to leverage our different backgrounds, and created something really awesome. At least, we think it was awesome. We were aided by how well we worked together, always keeping things professional but still lighthearted and fun (we are interns, after all). My team members agree that we truly utilized every tool at our disposal; we communicated via GoToMeeting, email, HipChat, and phone calls, reached out to our supervisors and other W2O employees for guidance, and each brought our own unique expertise to the table when and wherever it was useful. Of course, we faced our fair share of challenges as well. Like other groups, our team members were spread across multiple W2O offices – and multiple time zones – making it difficult, at times, to coordinate meetings. In retrospect, we all agree that we should have allocated more time for creative brainstorming and big picture discussions and focused less on the logistical elements of the project. We were all proud of our campaign and I think we really demonstrated that in our presentation. Because we collaborated so much throughout the scope of the project, we were all basically experts on the product and our campaign by the time that we presented. This, coupled with the fact that Julia spent hours upon hours creating the visual masterpiece that was our deck, led the judges to call ours the most captivating presentation.

The other pharma group, also known as Reviver, was made up of John, Brittany, Kimmy, O’Brian and Andrew.  They wanted to position the hair care product as a lifestyle brand and connect empathetically with individuals, who were experiencing issues with their hair, through social media. After researching the brand and their current social strategy, they decided to create a campaign called Newave that focused on the product’s ability to help consumers start fresh with healthy and beautiful hair. They utilized platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and even incorporated of-the-moment features like Facebook Live. It was all about building confidence in their community. The biggest challenge that they faced in the beginning was learning how to flip the switch from interns at W2O to project leads within their mini agency. After spending large amounts of our week completing projects at the instruction of our supervisors, we would have to pivot when it came time for our group meetings because it was on us to figure out how we were going to shape an effective campaign. All four groups said that some ideas that were tossed around were great while others were quickly and unanimously dismissed. Working together in a group of equals like this means that you have to be willing to present a few not-so-good ideas if you want to find the really great ones. The team quickly learned not to take things personally.

Reviver really excelled at telling the story of the brand. When they were preparing for their presentation, they made sure to note that their audience hadn’t been in the brainstorming room with them for the past two months. For this reason, they were very meticulous in presenting their information, including pictures of the product in local drug stores. This added a really personal feel to their presentation and resulted in the most integrated campaign of the summer. They all feel like the skills they developed and honed by working on this project will help them in any future job they take and even during the rest of their academic careers.

The other two groups had an entirely different ask and an entirely different client to match. They were tasked with creating a cohesive brand voice for a large tech company and a personality that will appeal to Millennials. Secondly, they had to determine an effective way to carry that brand voice through a social media campaign that would increase awareness and profitability of the brand. The third group, Final Five, was made up of Sami, Leah, Garrett, Shelby and Brad. Like my group, they struggled at first to figure out their team dynamic. Initially, they approached the campaign with a divide-and-conquer strategy, relying on their individual strengths to push it along. They quickly realized that they were much more effective when they worked together as a cohesive unit.

Together, they developed a campaign called #Limitless that emphasized the limitless opportunities for innovation and creativity that the company’s wide variety of products allow for. To showcase this, they created a challenge that encouraged people to share content featuring themselves or their friends using brand’s products in innovative ways. This content was then featured in a 24-hour Snapchat story. The campaign was developed around the fact that Millennial audiences are less receptive to advertisements that feel fake and forced. By utilizing consumer generated content and connecting with Millennials through the channels that they already know and love, the brand interaction would feel like more of a natural conversation. The judges really appreciated all of the insight they pulled from analytics about how Millennials respond on different social channels and how they want to be addressed. They had the best display of social and digital thought leadership.

The other tech group goes by the name of Any One. They also will reply to “Winners” although we didn’t let them gloat too much. This team, made up of Brett, Nicole, Paul, Nikki and Gray created a great campaign that really deserved to win the challenge. Their struggles in the beginning came from the fact that they lacked a creative expert on their team the same way that other teams lacked people in certain fields. This caused them to dedicate more time to brainstorming sessions coaxing out each other’s creative sides. It also encouraged them to reach out to people in different departments of the office. Some of their most productive and beneficial meetings were with other members of the company.

The result of these efforts was a social media campaign entitled #YouDoYou. This campaign appealed to Millennials by truly inspiring them to be themselves and to use the company’s products in whatever way best fit their needs. They spent a lot of time preparing for the presentation aspect of the campaign. (It showed.) They delivered a very integrated explanation for how and why their campaign would work and even created a video to help the room better understand the feel that they hoped #YouDoYou would evoke in their target audience. They had the most creative and innovative campaign presentation and ultimately won the whole competition.

The intern project ended up being a really valuable use of our time here this summer. At the end of our internship, we are all able to walk away with a tangible example of some of the things we’ve learned at this agency. Learning seems to be a cornerstone of W2O. It was clear from the beginning that I wouldn’t be spending my internship helping my supervisor with mundane tasks. This summer was a chance to work on meaningful projects that had a direct and positive impact on our clients. Our managers and the people that we worked with here really took an interest in teaching us about important skills to have in this industry. We were also constantly encouraged to self-educate and seek out new information that would put us ahead of the game. I decided to take this internship because I wanted to leave Missouri for a taste of New York City life and because I knew that working on healthcare clients would be a sure challenge that would make me a better strategic thinker and communicator. As I prepare to leave W2O tomorrow, I am absolutely more intelligent, talented and capable than I was when I got here. I can also hold a semi-educated conversation on PDUFAs (but please don’t ask me to without giving me time to prepare). So, as cheesy as it is to say, while Any One was the rightful winner of the intern project challenge, I feel like we are all winners. I got to spend the summer working with some of the kindest and most talented individuals on the Earned Media Team and throughout the agency. I also became great friends with the other interns. Each and every one of them is exceedingly qualified in the field of strategic communication and I’m better for having known them.

Ask any millennial if they’re sick of writing cover letters and you’ll be met with a resounding YES.

My YES would be particularly loud. While in the market for a Summer 2016 internship, I drafted upwards of 50 unique cover letters. The process, tedious and tiresome, stole nearly a week of my spring semester altogether. As I rearranged my skills and reworded my background into charming, industry-appropriate epithets, I found myself wondering how and why my potential value could be condensed into three paragraphs in a PDF. And I’m a writer. Imagine how an intern applying for a graphic design position might feel.

Particularly in the age of social media and technology, there has to be a better way to recruit and evaluate potential interns than asking them to draft and submit a cover letter. We threw out the typewriter when the computer came along; why not replace the outdated and impersonal cover letter with one of the diverse multimedia platforms available today? Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets are already intrinsic to my generation’s daily experiences. It’s only logical that we begin to utilize them for professional purposes

Many companies are doing just that. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and even Snapchat have become powerful tools for internship research, recruitment, and even candidate evaluation. LookSharp, an internship and entry-level job database dedicated to connecting students with employment opportunities, found that 68% of college students used social media to find an internship in 2015. Their report also indicated that 49.5% of students used social media to research potential internships, while 46.2% used it to network with company employees in advance of applying.

In addition to its increased relevance for internship research and networking, social media is also becoming a common platform on which companies evaluate potential candidates. One agency dumped resumes, cover letters, and even interviews in favor of a Snapchat contest this recruitment season, challenging potential interns to create a Snapchat story for one of the agency’s existing clients. The prize for creators of the best stories? Internship placements at one of the company’s four U.S. offices.

Space150 is not alone in their commitment to modernizing intern recruitment. L’Oréal, Fetch, and other companies have streamlined their social media experiences and released multimedia applications in recent recruitment seasons. These strategies, the brands report, have attracted previously hard-to-reach applicants and altogether sourced more qualified, interested, and digitally proficient candidates.

LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are mainstays of these modern strategies, though YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and even Tinder have supported intern recruitment on multiple occasions.

It’s safe to say that a recruitment shake-up is in the works, at least among companies with a digital presence. Agencies promising their clients an integrated, up-to-date media experience should do the same for their potential employees, as there’s something inherently logical about sourcing and evaluating candidates within the platforms with which they’d work in an eventual internship or job.

My fellow W2O interns are equally intrigued – and to some degree, relieved – by social media’s developing convergence with intern recruitment. They shared their comments, questions, and concerns with me through an anonymous survey, the results of which are summarized below.

Company social media accounts are key facets of the internship search.

Of the W2O interns who responded to my survey, 78% reported using social media for their internship search process. That group explained that they routinely use platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to look for internship opportunities, as well as to research specific companies. One intern indicated that Twitter and Instagram are the main mechanisms by which he evaluates a company’s culture and visualizes himself within it. Furthermore, 57% of interns surveyed counted a company’s LinkedIn presence as essential to their decision to apply. If a company did not have a strong, updated LinkedIn presence, they might not even submit an application. 21% said the same about Twitter and 14% indicated that their prospective employer must have a strong Instagram presence.

Social media recruitment strategies like Space150’s Snapchat contest are creative and well-suited to the millennial audience, but impose high barriers to entry for applicants.

85% of the survey’s response pool said they would participate in Space150’s innovative recruitment strategy. One intern called it a “pretty cool way to reach millennials,” another indicated that the mere existence of the contest would increase his interest in the company, and a third argued that the contest could easily demonstrate a candidate’s worth. A few interns shared reservations, pointing out that the highly specified evaluation would automatically prohibit applicants unfamiliar with Snapchat from applying and that prospective interns might not be comfortable applying so publically.

Though W2O interns are generally receptive to social media recruitment strategies, they are concurrently less than comfortable with prospective employers having access to their social media accounts – an inevitable byproduct of applying via a social platform.

Interns were evenly split on the issue of company access to their Facebook accounts. 50% answered yes, I’m comfortable with a prospective employer reviewing my Facebook profile and photos, but the same percentage of interns responded that they were not comfortable with that scenario. The story was a little different for Twitter, where 78% of interns indicated comfort with a prospective employer reviewing their Tweets. 57% were okay with an employer reviewing their Instagram, but only 21% were willing to share their Snapchat account in the professional sphere – an interesting outcome, considering their willingness to engage with Space150’s innovative application.

Social media is more important on the company side than on the applicant side. 

Multimedia recruitment strategies are interesting, W2O interns summarized, but presently a company’s social media presence is more relevant to the internship search than its ability to evaluate via social media. W2O interns are using social media, particularly LinkedIn, to look for internship openings, network, and research companies. One intern confirmed that social media was a “big part of why I liked W2O.” Their social media accounts, the intern continued, provided a glimpse into the company culture and relayed its strong community vibe – “which I think people really look for in a workplace.”

W2O’s Talent Acquisition Associate Taylar Haney, who oversees the company’s internship program and all related recruitment, also weighed in on the ways in which intern recruitment is evolving. She agreed that the industry is moving towards social media integration, but noted that many agencies have room to grow in terms of their appeal to millennial applicants. She cited career-specific company social media accounts as a primary area for improvement, a strategy employed to great success by L’Oréal but not emulated across the board. If interns are doing their research on social media, she said, companies should meet them halfway with updated career pages.

Taylar also spoke to the concern among W2O employees that social media evaluation strategies could leave their social presence vulnerable to review by potential employers. She underscored how important it is to keep one’s social media presence “clean” and professional, but also assured that she doesn’t always review an applicant’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social profiles before hiring them. “LinkedIn is a must,” she told me, “but I and the rest of the Human Resources department prefer not to look at other forms of social media. That doesn’t mean we won’t do it, but it’s not guaranteed that we will, either.”

So what’s the takeaway, besides the fact that it’s time to get rid of cover letters wherever possible? I’d argue that the story is still developing, as many companies – including digital or social media-based agencies – are still employing traditional recruitment and evaluation methods to source interns. Furthermore, concerns about privacy and accessibility linger on the applicant side.

What’s clear, though, is that a company’s social media presence is more crucial than ever, as interns are certainly looking to research and network with potential employers on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and even other, less conventional platforms.

Me, I’m looking forward to the day when my three PDF paragraphs can be condensed into 140 characters, 6 seconds, or an unspecified time frame on a still-to-be-developed social media platform. But for now, I’ll make do with cover letters – just know that I’m using Facebook and Twitter to research them.

This year, we traveled across the country looking for top talent to join W2O Group’s Summer Internship Program. We visited many campuses, including UC Berkeley, Northwestern, University of Texas, Columbia, and Syracuse, among a few others. Now, as those same campuses sit abandoned and textbooks are collecting dust, our summer interns are settling into their new cities and taking the real world by storm!

nyc interns

This year, we have 23 Summer Interns spread across our offices in New York, Austin, Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and London! Throughout the summer, they’ll be exposed to many different tasks and learning opportunities, including client projects with their teams, attending client and industry events, and a group intern project. We also have an exciting lineup for our “Intern Speaker Series”, where the interns will learn valuable workplace skills from internal leaders across the company.

austin interns

It’s only been a few weeks, but we decided to pick their brains to find out how their internships are going so far. Turns out, they’re already busy creating lifetime memories and making significant impacts on their teams.

Meet our 2016 Summer Interns!

We can’t wait to see what the summer holds and looking forward to contributing to the interns’ personal and professional growth, throughout the summer and beyond!

To find out more about our Summer Internship Program, follow @W2OGroupCareers on Twitter and the CommonSense Blog, where interns will continue to share their summer experience. Interested in applying for a future program? Check out sentw2ogroup.wpengine.com/careers for more info.  

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alyssa
Alyssa is a junior at Dartmouth College majoring in Sociology

“Do you play Frisbee?”

Among the many things I did not expect when I started my internship at BrewLife, this question was the one that threw me most, particularly when the young woman who asked appeared quite disappointed that I did not in fact play Frisbee. After that brief and unexpected interaction, I had a chance to properly meet Ellis, who over the next 10 weeks would become both a mentor and a friend.

My first week at BrewLife was full of onboarding sessions where I was taught how to do the various tasks necessary for my job, such as media research, account management basics, and media monitoring. Additionally, a girl fairly close to my age, Felice, was assigned to be my buddy for the duration of my internship. From her seat at her desk right next to mine, she was always willing and able to answer questions (How do I schedule a meeting on Outlook? Why can’t my computer print?) and share advice. I was pleasantly surprised and relieved that I had so many resources to help me get started in this unfamiliar territory.

The coolest thing about being an intern at BrewLife was that despite the fact that I arrived fairly inexperienced, I had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects with people from all over BrewLife and WCG. I was able to experience how we assist clients in crafting communications objectives pre-and-post the launch of their brand. I learned how to draft press releases and teasers for clients as well as weekly social media content. I experienced the strengths of integrated IR/PR companies through working on investor-related projects. I was lucky to be a part of the on-site team at the 2016 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference and was able to observe how the agency supports our clients at these important events. Despite the many unexpected difficulties (cough broken elevators), we were able to #MakeItHappen. Lastly, I gained insight into how BrewLife does its own marketing by preparing resource documents to aid in the launch of the agency’s content strategy.

Overall, I’d say that everything I learned here connects to three central themes:

  1. It’s all about the clients
  2. Communicate frequently and ask lots of questions
  3. Everyone is part of the team and every project we do helps achieve larger goals

I have so many valuable takeaways from my internship here, but my favorite experience has been experiencing the company’s open and warm culture. People from all of the other BrewLife offices communicate daily and are so close with people from the San Francisco office. Ellis helped Caitlyn put a bike together in the hallway and we subsequently watched her ride it back and forth. On Valentine’s Day, the culture club threw a party for everyone in W2O’s San Francisco office complete with food, drinks, and animal themed Valentine’s Day cards. Everyone shared their Valentine’s Day plans and had a grand old time. Even on a daily basis, people are constantly reaching out to one another to share stories, motivate one another, make weekend plans, or offer delicious food.

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While I am excited to study abroad and hone my Japanese during my upcoming junior spring term at Dartmouth, part of me wishes I could stay at BrewLife and continue working and learning from everyone here. A huge thank you to everyone who made this experience so great!

Want to make me eternally jealous? Check out open positions and get to know the Brew crew firsthand.