Summer Internship: The Evil Genius Group
Nate Hershkowitz speaks enthusiastically as he describes his typical day at The Evil Genius Group, a marketing company for small businesses and high-profile individuals in New York. “It’s always flying here,” he says. “Everyone has so much to do. But at the same time, it’s really chilled.” He gestures around the office, a WeWork space housed in the Upper East Side: In the “living room area,” as he describes it, one employee sits comfortably on a yellow couch, his laptop on his knees, while another sits on one of the barstools in the “kitchen.” The interior décor is modern chic: a collage of cool, colorful furniture, geometric wallpaper, and contrasting, bright textures. One room’s walls are covered entirely in whiteboards. Another hallway is covered in pastel-colored drawings and motivational quotes.
“As you can see, the atmosphere is really relaxed,” says Nate. “We’re very into channeling our creative energy—marketing is all about that.”
From the fifty clients the marketing company represents, Nate was assigned a large urban clothing company, a restaurant, and a politician. As these clients’ personal representative, Nate’s responsibilities include developing original marketing ideas for his clients, brainstorming creative publicity strategies, and planning promotional events.
“But it’s not just that,” he adds. “Marketing, communications, PR—these don’t have clear-cut roles; they’re very fluid. In a nutshell: We represent a company, and somehow we have to get this company out there, and make the public love them.” And, he adds, make them look good.
“One of the other interns here is representing a celebrity who, unfortunately, doesn’t say the smartest things on social media,” Nate describes. “So my colleague keeps instructing her, “Please, don’t talk. Just don’t say anything! We’ll talk for you. So Evil Genius tweets for the celebrity, replies to fan letters for her, and even composes—and responds to—her personal emails.”
Nate is also maintaining his clients’ social media pages. “Last week, my supervisor asked me to think of a cool Fourth of July post for the restaurant’s Instagram page. He said, ‘conceptualize the post, relay it to the graphic designer, and he’ll bring it to life.’ After my boss approves it, it’ll go through all the social media channels.”
His idea is to post a picture of the restaurant’s famous lava cake with sparklers on top and the caption ‘This is how we do fireworks.’ Sick, right?” he laughs. “I came up with that on the spot. My boss looked at me, incredulous, and said, “We won’t need it for another two weeks, so …take your time!”
For another task, Nate’s assignment was to invite Mayor Bill de Blasio to a promotional event. “We’re trying to get a photo of him wearing one of our client’s hats. That would be sick publicity for us, a picture of him with their logo. If I can make that happen,” he lowers his voice, “we win, big time. But I’m still thinking of how to go about it.”
Yesterday, he called around thirty hospitals to see if one was interested in co-sponsoring the aforementioned promotional event. “Seems easy to get ahold of at least one hospital that’s interested, right?” he asks. “Wrong. So many administrators aren’t at their desk, are “unavailable,” unreachable …See those phone booths there?” he points to the left of the hall, to a lineup of five yellow booths with cushions and sliding doors. One employee is in there, talking earnestly and gesturing dramatically. “Those are the areas we go into when we need to talk on the phone for a while. They’re soundproof,” he explains.
For another task, he had to figure out how to get custom-made napkins for his restaurant client. “It’s harder than it sounds,” he says. “Our client is very specific.”
He’s learned a lot on the job—mostly about smart communication. “You need top communication skills in marketing. It’s interesting,” he continues. “I was so surprised at the willingness of the media to accept our clients’ stories and pitches. Originally, I was so nervous to talk to journalists and bloggers because I thought they wouldn’t be interested in what we had to say. But every outlet needs good stories. So I guess my epiphany came when I realized that I shouldn’t be scared about contacting anyone.”
“Honestly, I still can’t believe I’m in charge of contacting Bill de Blasio!”
Nate learns at LCM’s Camp Zev program every day until 1 pm and works at Evil Genius two days a week. Although he was originally concerned with the environment of the internship—a very secular, media-focused one—he asked his LCM rebbeim how best to navigate potentially complex situations that, at times, arose in the workforce. “I’m grateful to Rabbi Sacks for answering all my intricate halachic questions and to all my rebbeim for being there every step of the way,” he says.
And although this type of environment probably isn’t where Nate sees himself working in the future, this internship, he says, is giving him “real” marketing skills—that he’ll be able to implement in his own business or startup in the future. “I’m here to learn how to do marketing for my own business,” he explains.
So, how’d he get the internship? “The real answer? siyata dishmaya. I got really lucky.”