By Winston Heckt, senior, Augsburg University
This fall (Sept. – Dec. 2018), I hired two seniors from Augsburg University, located near downtown Minneapolis where I work, to serve as communications/branded content interns for our firm, Pocket Hercules. As is my tradition for all my interns, for their final assignment, I asked them both to write what they learned during their internship. Here are observations by Winston Heckt, who will graduate in May 2019 with degrees in communications and film/video direction and production.
For most of my time at Augsburg University I focused on my film degree, working on a combination of independent projects, freelance videos, and undergraduate research. Some of my projects made it into local film festivals and I presented my research findings at a national conference. All in all, I felt good about my film credentials post-graduation.
My communication portfolio was another matter entirely. I’m a staff writer for Augsburg’s student newspaper, The ECHO, so I’m no stranger to writing, but with all the time I spent pursuing film I had only dipped my toes into the waters of communication-related work. That is until my academic advisor told me about Pocket Hercules and encouraged me to apply for a fall internship with the firm.
Not knowing much about advertising beyond what I learned from watching Mad Men, the TV program about the New York advertising world back in the 1960s, I decided to give it a shot. One interview and a sample press release later, I was an intern for Stephen Dupont, Pocket Hercules’ vice president of public relations.
During my time as an intern I mostly wrote public relations and ad copy, such as feature articles, social media posts, profiles about construction workers, and catalog copy.
I learned a whole lot from writing for a range of clients, from the different types of writing formats, and from having Stephen as an editor and mentor. Here are the lessons that stuck with me the most.
Changing the Narrative
A lot of my writing was about the success stories of people who had been helped by the Construction Careers Foundation and Transport America, and through this writing I gained a deeper insight into the hard working individuals in America’s construction and truck driving industries.
When I was in high school I was told the narrative that construction and truck driving are for people who can’t make it in college, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. One of the first people I interviewed was Amanda Gardas, a pipefitter and a military veteran who does complex math off the top of her head while working in an environment where one mistake could have potentially deadly consequences.
It became clear to me that working in these industries requires just as much intelligence, hard work and dedication as it does to get a college degree, and it was fulfilling to know that the work I was doing was focused on changing the false narrative I was given in high school.
Finding the Humanity in Every Story
Not only was I helping change the narrative about these industries, I also got a master class in crafting people’s’ experiences into a compelling narrative. Stephen often told me the key to good writing was to take in all the facts and boil them down into the fundamental elements of the narrative, like cooking stew.
Often the employee profiles written for one of Pocket Hercules’ clients boiled down to identifying how the client (trucking company, construction company) enables their employees to follow their passions and provide for their families through meaningful work. Even when writing copy for a print ad or a catalogue, the narrative always came back to how these products and services positively impact the human beings they’re geared toward.
Stephen taught me that everything comes back to showing care and compassion for the human beings behind the copy.
Building Professional Connections
Prior to my time with Pocket Hercules I was staunchly anti-Linkedin. I thought it was just an older, business-focused Facebook that I didn’t need because I could make connects with my existing social media. Thankfully, Stephen forced me to make a profile and I quickly saw the light. Simply having a Linkedin upped my professional game, and by putting links to my resume, website, and samples of my video and writing work, I realized I could save a lot of time by having all of my credentials in a readily available central location.
But Stephen didn’t stop at getting me on Linkedin, he also helped me set up informational interviews with local media producers working in the Twin Cities. We spoke at length about the opportunities for videographers here in the cities, I toured the facilities at Twin Cities Public Television, and I made meaningful connections with highly skilled folks doing the work I aspire toward.
Before this internship, the professional world was largely a mystery to me. It was something I knew I had to break into but I was unsure how to go about doing so. Now I have a professional presence online, my writing skills have improved significantly, and I finally have real world experience in the communication field.
Thanks to Stephen Dupont for pushing me to develop my skills and for giving me the confidence to engage with the professional world. The lessons I learned will stick with me no matter where I end up.
Thanks to the rest of the Pocket Hercules crew who were always friendly and encouraging.
And a final thanks to Kristian Evans, my fellow intern. Having you around to bounce bad golf and construction puns off of made my writing significantly better in the long run. I’m very glad you and I interned at Pocket Hercules together.
Winston Heckt is a senior studying communications and film production at Augsburg University, located near downtown Minneapolis. He will graduate in May 2019 and plans to pursue a career in film and video direction and production. To learn more about Winston, visit his LinkedIn page or check out his website, www.winstonhecktvideography.com.
Stephen Dupont, APR, is vice president of public relations and branded content at the Minneapolis creative and branding firm Pocket Hercules. Dupont blogs about creativity, curiosity, marketing, careers and strategic foresight (futurist mindset) at stephendupont.co. To reach him, email firstname.lastname@example.org visit www.pockethercules.com.