In addition to coffee, interns also make future hires

Hello, hello. I’ve been on vacation and incapable of thinking about much more than sun, sand and my next meal, but now I’m back to reality and ultimately, this blog.

I was cruising Twitter today when this blog post caught my eye- Interns Make Coffee Not Social Media Strategy.

Cue to sigh. Where to begin?

Let me start by saying that I understand where the author is going. I understand what the chapter in this book that the post is referencing is saying.

But what a way to say it.

In the spirit of full disclosure, let me say that I have not read this book, which means I haven’t read this chapter. My response is based on what is presented in this blog post. Which, in all honesty, may not even be enough to even HAVE a response to. I get it- you can call me out on that and I acknowledge it completely.

But I still thoughts on this one.

Allow me to quote (aka copy and paste) Richard Meyer paraphrasing Liana Evan’s chapter:

In the chapter on “Interns make coffee not social media strategy” Ms. Evans says:

* Interns don’t really know your brand
* Interns don’t know your ethics of brand philosophies
* The have no real vested interest in your brand
* They might know Facebook but do they really understand and know marketing?
* Can they relate to your target market?

Sigh. Ok, let’s dissect.

“Interns don’t really know your brand/Interns don’t know your ethics of brand philosophies”

What? Yes, I recognize that interns come in all shapes and sizes and with various mental capacities, but your intern is probably educated. Your intern is probably even a marketing/advertising/PR major. If your intern- or anyone writing for your brand- doesn’t know your brand, it’s your fault.

Provide a proper education. Did you give them a brand breakdown of any kind (perhaps my personal favorite, the brand doughnut)? Did you give them a style guide? Did you select interns who displayed knowledge of your brand’s core values?

I was a copywriter intern for an ad agency. Did it take a few tries to get the right tone for the different brands I worked for? Yes. Did I eventually get there? Yes.

“They have no real vested interest in your brand”

Another headshake-inducing statement. I believe interns do have a vested interest in your brand, just as much as the other employees. Why? Because they have the most to gain. They probably want to get hired by you. They probably want to use this work in their portfolios. They probably want to actually learn.

Salaried employees care about a brand because it will help their career progression. Why do you think people intern? Same reason.

I like this one- “They know Facebook but do they know marketing?”

Who’s to say your seasoned account manager really knows marketing? Not to mention someone with more experience might not understand the vernacular of Facebook enough to get the brand’s message out there appropriately. You need someone who understands both the strategy and the medium. Who’s to say a bright up-and-coming intern couldn’t see the thought process behind the message?

Also, schools are teaching new media now. Not only could your intern know Facebook, they could know some of the psychological pulls behind social media that are responsible for people’s usage of these sites in the first place. So not only could they know Facebook, but they could have studied it to an extent unparalleled by your more senior employees.

“Can they relate to your target market?”

This is particularly rich since this could go for anyone, regardless of age and experience level. How well can a 35 year-old man write for a denture cream user? How well can an atheist pen copy for a Bible manufacturer? There are a thousand different combinations of mismatched experience types with brands- a good writer makes it work.

Also, an intern can research a brand just as easily as anyone else can. Maybe better- they’re probably a digital native.

This all being said, I side with these authors at the core of what is being said- don’t give your social media strategy to someone who doesn’t fully get social media. Fair enough. I know brands will sometimes seemingly pawn off social media on an intern. My point is that it’s not necessarily the handing the job to an intern that’s distressing. It’s the idea that the brand is pawning off social media, and so, not recognizing its importance. That’s where someone wiser can intervene, hand them a copy of Liana Evan’s new book, and educate them on why they should care about it more.

It may seem strange that my response to this post is an impassioned defense of the abilities of interns. It’s partially because I’ve been an intern, and not too long ago. It’s also partially because I’ve had interns, and to say they’re incapable of wrapping their minds around social media strategy is a disservice to them. And finally, it’s because I have really smart friends who, because of the economy, are still stuck in internship situations even though they are capable of doing more.

After all, aren’t interns just potential future employees? Their early involvement in social media could be profitable to the company that eventually hires them.

Related Article:
Forbes: From Intern to Employee

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One Comment on “In addition to coffee, interns also make future hires”

  1. HI Kelly –

    Thanks for taking time to comment on the tweets going around, and thanks for that insightful commentary.

    I wanted to take the time to explain that if you do read the chapter you’ll understand what you are pointing to are the very things that I say in the chapter make interns a VERY good addition to your team. Just not to have them plan your whole social media marketing strategy.

    I was once an intern in fact I was an intern several times, so I didn’t write the chapter without that personal experience. I carried many coffee pots in and out of brainstorming sessions and I learned a lot. My bosses learned from me as well, but in no way could I have ever planned a global strategy for them all on my own.

    Your points are all very valid ones. It’s just that the seasoned marketing team should be making the final strategy in social media (with input from interns if they have them) and implementing a team that includes interns and other staff members.

    Thanks again for the feedback! 🙂

    Best,
    ~Li Evans
    Author, Social Media Marketing: Engaging Strategies for Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media (http://www.smmarketingbook.com)


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