Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm interns Nick Gilyard and Taylor Hatch.
Tuesday night marked the third annual Intern Queen Party, hosted by the “Intern Queen” herself, Lauren Berger, a well-known career and internships expert. The event was both a celebration and a chance to network with a panel of top intern coordinators and executives from companies such as Mashable, Cosmopolitan, and US Weekly.
At least, that’s how the event was advertised.
We were very excited to be Peppercomm’s intern representatives at this much anticipated event. But, most unfortunately, it was a disappointing evening. The event was billed as a fun and exciting venue for interns to network and obtain career advice from professionals. But in reality it was a party to promote the Intern Queen’s personal brand..
The problems began in the line outside the Ann Taylor Flagship Store, where the Intern Queen Party was held. Since the first 100 guests inside were promised a gift bag, we arrived an hour before doors were scheduled to open and were surprised to see a line of 50 interns had already formed.
It seemed we were waiting to enter a club rather than an event with professionals. Many of our fellow interns—almost entirely female—were dressed in tight clothing with short skirts and sky-high heels. After about 45 minutes, a bouncer came through the line, rejecting numerous fake ID (yes, hopeful interns actually tried to use fake IDs at an event filled with potential employers) and handing out pink wristbands to all legal guests for the open bar.
We were greeted by music blaring from the DJ on the second floor, and Bartenders in tight, pink shirts that read, “Keep Calm and Intern On” handing out drink after drink to those swarming the bars. Of course, we have both attended professional events where drinks were served, but we had never seen this happen at an intern-centered event (perhaps because most potential employers and mentors prefer that interns not be buzzed when asking for advice). It reminded us of a college party, with people rushing to the bar for as many drinks as possible before it closed.
At Peppercomm, we see a lot of brands run into trouble when the service they think they are providing doesn’t at all match up to the experience the customer is having. This is why it’s so important to listen to your consumers and to experience your brand or service through their eyes. So here are some things that The Intern Queen brand might want to take into consideration:
• RSVP has a purpose. It is unacceptable to insist that attendees RSVP, print out tickets and wait in line for over an hour only to get inside and realize people who are clearly neither interns nor invited professionals are wandering in off the street. This makes the customer who took the time to preregister feel fooled and undervalued.
• First 100 should mean FIRST 100. Promising the first 100 people into the event a gift is a great way to ensure that people show up early. But having people show up early only to open a second line for what could only be perceived as VIPs minutes before the door opened is dishonest, which is never a good thing.
• Space matters. If the point of the event is to network and listen to a panel but there are entirely too many people to do either, you’ve failed your guests. We could not make it up to the third floor when it was time for the panel discussion due to the sheer number of people attempting to crowd the stairs. Even attendees who did manage to make it to the panel complained that they were so far away they could not even hear the experts’ advice.
• Be inclusive. If your invitation is open to everyone (males and females) but the event caters only to women (with teal, oversized totes as gift bags and professional makeup artists doing touchups for free) then you are being misleading and exclusionary, two words that can be extremely damaging to any brand.
The criticisms we’ve made thus far about The Intern Queen Party would be nothing but minor complaints or annoyances if it weren’t for the element that has plagued many a brand: deception. As interns we developed certain expectations after reading about Ms. Berger and the promotions for her event.
Perhaps our expectations were a bit naïve, but we expected an event for interns and hosted by such a well-respected career expert known as the “Intern Queen” to serve interns in a meaningful, career-minded way. Instead, we were handed copies of Ms. Berger’s book and offered the opportunity to pose with her in pictures, making us feel used rather than valued.
Based on our experiences and observations at Peppercomm, we even commented that the Intern Queen Party had all the elements for a great example of public relations. Obviously, it is both acceptable and smart to build word-of-mouth around your brand. Some strategies include generating an eye-catching line outside the door, offering giveaways of your product, and encouraging photo-ops.
However, when you succeed at generating attention for your brand while failing to provide value for your customers, that is nothing but bad PR. While we appreciated the opportunity to attend the Intern Queen Party, frankly, we left feeling more like jesters than royalty.