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.