4 lessons to learn from HBO Max’s #DearIntern campaign.

July 9, 2021

On June 17th, 2021 HBO Max’s 44 million subscribers received an accidental test email; and yes, it was the intern’s doing. With a big company like HBO Max, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility to assume serious consequences were put in place for this intern. But, you know what they say about assuming. HBO Max delivered a heartwarming tweet regarding the situation, stating:

As a result, thousands of Twitter users banded together with #DearIntern, assuring them that it does get better, offering helpful advice, and even sharing some of their personal embarrassing intern stories along the way. 

But what kind of marketer would I be if I didn’t look for the lessons one could learn from such a prominent campaign? Here are four key takeaways from HBO Max’s #DearIntern.

your statement is critical.

They say there are three steps to any successful brand statement: acknowledge what happened, apologize for what happened, and determine what will happen moving forward, and that’s precisely what HBO Max did. It’s always important to listen to your audience and respond accordingly, especially when they turn to Twitter looking for answers. A good statement lets your audience know that you are actively doing just that; the more transparent, the better. 

learn to laugh with your audience.

I’m sure HBO Max’s marketing and PR teams were worried once confused subscribers turned to Twitter to voice their concerns and make jokes and memes at the company’s expense. Their response could’ve been anything: profusely apologizing, firing the intern, the list goes on and on. Instead, they acknowledged that jokes were made and even played off this joke a bit. After all, the situation was not a very severe one, and their audience was eventually laughing with them, not at them.

always put your employees first.

Again, HBO Max could’ve lashed out at their intern and fired them on the spot. Instead, they assured their audience that they intended to help the intern through a very public and, most likely, a very embarrassing mishap. It’s important to acknowledge that our employees are merely human, and mistakes are bound to happen along the way. Treating these mishaps with kindness not only results in positive views on behalf of your employees but also your audience, who values kindness in the brands they support.

sometimes, the simplest campaigns are the most effective.

Although unplanned, many are classifying #DearIntern as a brilliant marketing campaign. After all, it sparked a conversation about the brand on behalf of millions of Twitter users–and it’s still gaining traction. Countless articles were written about the campaign, and the hashtag was even trending on Twitter. Not a bad deal for HBO Max. A campaign execution does not always have to be the most elaborate plan; sometimes, all it takes is one Tweet to light the fire.

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