My Summer Internship with Pocket Hercules
By Abigail Tetzlaff
Note: This summer, Abby Tetzlaff, a student at Augsburg University in Minneapolis interned for me at Pocket Hercules, where I serve as vice president of public relations and branded content. I invited Abby to share her experience with the readers of this blog. — Stephen Dupont
Sometimes we stumble into places or people that, by some stroke of luck, prove to offer the best of experiences. And that’s certainly true about my time at Pocket Hercules.
I’m a senior at Augsburg University, and I will graduate in Spring 2018 with a Bachelor’s in English Literature, Language, and Theory. I also study German Language and Sociology as minors.
I’m an aspiring professor of literature, and not on the typical communications or marketing track that would draw my attention to advertising and public relations agencies. However, I did want to try writing in a professional setting before jumping fully into academia.
I first heard about Pocket Hercules through an email from one of the career opportunities staff at Augsburg.
I was particularly interested in the writing described in the email; I had been itching to flex my copywriting and technical writing skills.
That same day, I connected with Stephen Dupont, the firm’s vice president of public relations and branded content, and sent him a resume and a request to set up an interview.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a contemporary ad agency.
I had watched “Mad Men,” though, so as I waited for the elevator at their First Avenue address (in downtown Minneapolis) before the meeting, I envisioned an office space teeming with suited businessmen, intense creative competition, and some chain smoking.
Instead, I found a collection of people who are not only very good at their jobs, but also people who care deeply about their jobs and each other.
In fact, the only clear similarity between my life this summer and “Mad Men” was the eclipse—the 1963 solar eclipse is commemorated in an early season.
My internship focused primarily on writing and editing articles for blogs at Yellow Jacket, Transport America, AirVūz and Viracon. I also composed a few news releases and worked on a Rapala billboard as peripheral projects.
Learning a New Style
During my three years in college, I’ve worked as a writer and editor for Augsburg’s student-run newspaper, The Echo. The newspaper helped me develop my journalistic writing style, which is deeply reliant on facts and a compelling angle.
Throughout the summer, I found myself using my reportorial skills to write articles and blog posts; however, a new challenge arose: writing a piece that not only focused on an interviewees’ personal story, or the benefits of a certain product, but to use the facts and the story to emphasize a brand’s impact on the lives of individuals who use said brand.
I saw this impact especially in the interviews and articles I wrote for Transport America, where I got to talk to truck drivers. I heard about each driver’s life, and how they were using their job as a way to fulfill a life dream, see more of the country, or simply support themselves and their families.
One story I particularly enjoyed working on for Transport America was about Craig Hunter, a truck driver and grandfather, who invited his grandson Jackson to tag along for a few weeks as Craig traversed the country in his truck. I heard from both Craig and Jackson how Transport America’s support allowed them to bond while they drove from one delivery to the next on the east coast. They got to speak about Jackson’s future, family history, and enjoyed listening to the Beatles together on long stretches of highway.
Craig and Jackson’s story was heartening and their positive experiences helped me craft an article that focused primarily on them, but also allowed me to show through their story how the Transport America brand encourages family relationships and driver happiness without really ever having to say the words “Transport America encourages family relationships and driver happiness.”
I guess what I really learned this summer was the art and style of subtlety, which is very different from reportorial style, where nothing is left implied.
Here are a few other things that I learned from my time at Pocket Hercules that I’d like to pass on to other interns in all fields.
Embrace new challenges; learn from your mistakes. I benefitted the most from tasks that I thought were out of my skill-set or comfort zone. I’m used to writing about books of the German or English variety, but this summer I wrote a one hundred question test for technicians about proper procedures when servicing air conditioning units. I wrote about how drone pilots can bring their drones on vacation without getting their equipment confiscated. I helped create and analyze brand perceptions for hunting and work boots. The writing took some adjustment and some research into these different niche areas, but I built my technical writing skills from my challenging assignments, and I know a lot more about industries I didn’t necessarily know about.
Use the skills you’ve developed from your schoolwork to get you started, and ask for help if you need it. Likely, your coworkers and supervisors are happy to help you out, and don’t expect you to be perfect on your first attempt.
Talk with your coworkers. Whether about work or their personal lives, it never hurts to network. They’re also great sources for career advice.
Build your professional, online presence. In the same vein as networking in person, using LinkedIn to present your qualifications can’t hurt you. Connect with your high school friends, college friends, coworkers, professors, bosses and others you know, and continue to build your network as you meet new people.
As part of my professional footprint, I also created and started writing for my own blog by Stephen’s recommendation. So far, there are only a few posts, but I’m hoping to use my domain as a place to share my writing.
Words of Thanks:
To Lisa, for making sure I settled in at Pocket Hercules in May, for spicy margaritas, and for being the first person I talked to when I needed help.
To Gen and Ryan, for talking about their careers and the paths that brought them to Pocket Hercules.
To Chue, for banding together as a fellow Packer fan in enemy territory, no matter the cost.
Of course, to Stephen. Thank you for being a great editor and mentor—my writing has certainly transformed under your guidance. Thank you for challenging me and encouraging me.
And to the rest of the Pocket Hercules team: thank you for your humor and undying hospitality. It was a pleasure working with you these last few months.
Abigail Tetzlaff attends Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minn. She has conducted her own digital humanities research as an undergraduate student. She can be reached at email@example.com or via her website: atetzlaff.com.