Today’s post is contributed by NYC intern Rachael Collins.

bio_ted-birkhahn_524x550_542_550_s_c1For our fourth installment of PeppTalks, Ted Birkhahn, Partner and President at Peppercomm, shared his views on work and life and shed light on the experiences which have made him who he is today. Ted, who is in charge of client services and managing agency operations, has a diverse background in political public relations, journalism and production.

RC: Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?
TB: I grew up in a mixture of New York and Connecticut and attended the University of Vermont.

RC: What was your first concert?
TB: I saw Air Supply at Radio City Music Hall when I was 10 years old. You probably haven’t heard of them but they are an 80’s rock n’ roll style band.

RC: What would your last meal on earth be?
TB: Steak tartare which is prepared tableside, with the freshest possible French bread and butter.
(For those of you who are unfamiliar with this Parisian dish, it is a meat dish made from finely chopped raw beef. It is often served with onions, capers and seasonings and often served with a raw egg yolk. It is said that the key to a successful steak tartare is fresh beef, freshly hand-chopped at the very last minute and mixed tableside).

RC: Which TV show is your guilty pleasure?
TB: Right now? Homeland, Billions and a family favorite is Modern Family. Also, Seinfeld.

RC: What is your favorite episode?
TB: The Marine Biologist episode has got to be my favorite.

RC: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
TB: I was a camp counselor. I learnt that I hated kids and spent all the money I earned on beer.

RC: What was your most memorable job?
TB: Working for the mayor of New York. It was both terrifying and stressful but it was an incredible learning experience.

RC: What drew you to Peppercomm?
TB: Honestly, I needed a career change from working for the Government. It was a great time to get into PR because of the economic climate and Peppercomm was offering something different with an entrepreneurial spirit and a clear positive work culture. I took the risk and it payed off.

RC: What’s an activity you do in your spare time?
TB: When I’m not playing parent taxi, Hockey, hockey and hockey. Whether it is being played, watched or attended, my family and I are crazy for it. It is something the whole family is keen on. Other than that, I enjoy fishing and have a huge interest in airplanes.

RC: What are your teams?
TB: The NY Rangers and University of Vermont.

RC: If you could do PR for any client, who would it be?
TB: I would love access to a presidential candidate or a sports team like the New York Rangers.

RC: Do you have a piece of advice you live by?
TB: I have two: Trust building with clients and in your job is crucial, and never stop building your network and learning. These two things go hand in hand. Oh and I am also a big believer in the theory behind karma.

RC: What is Your Definition of Success?
TB: To do a job where you feel like you’re making a difference and knowing that people value your work.

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Today’s post is contributed by NYC intern Katelyn Pecorelli.

Steve CodyFor this edition of Pepp Talks we sat down with the Co-Founder and CEO of Peppercomm, Steve Cody. At the age of 39 after leaving a global agency Steve found the time to co-create Peppercomm. Today, you will learn all about his life and what drove him to start this energy filled company.

KP: Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
SC: Right across the bridge, I grew up in Fort Lee, NJ. I went to a nearby public school, Ridgefield Park High School and then Northeastern University.

KP: What was your first concert?
SC: Oh I know what it was! I saw Billy Joel in 1972 at a place called Paul’s Mall and it was just before he released Piano Man. There were only about 50 or 60 people there and he was the second or third person on the bill-it was way before he made it big.

KP: Which TV show is your guilty pleasure?
SC: Right now it is Vinyl, on Showtime. I also watch Billions on HBO. To be honest, the presidential debates, as far as guilty pleasures go, are better than the first year of the Jersey Shore.

KP: What’s an activity you like to do in your spare time? Besides mountain climbing and stand-up comedy and how do you find time for them?
SC: I read, all nonfiction. I am not a fiction person at all. I am always reading. I am able to mountain climb, schedule personal training sessions and perform stand-up comedy because of Dandy. She makes sure I set aside time to pursue my passions. As far as reading, the only upside of commuting on NJ transit is that I have an hour plus to pour into whatever book or podcast I choose.

KP: Which living person do you most admire?
SC: I have always thought Winston Churchill was the most amazing figure in history. Living…that is tough. My dad, Pop pop, because he raised three of us, put three of us through college and at 90 plus he is still feistier than ever. I take him out every Sunday for dinner.

KP: What would be your last meal on Earth?
SC: Last meal on Earth would be crabmeat cocktail and Dover sole with some nice Sancerre, which is French Savignon Blanc.

KP: If you could do PR for one celebrity/ client who would it be?
SC: Harvard Business School, I have worked with some great business schools but I would love to have a crack at a number one or number two.

KP: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
SC: Dairy Queen, making ice cream cones and banana splits and I learned a very valuable lesson; I never wanted a job that had anything to do with dealing with the public. It was 3 months in hell, but it taught me a great lesson.

KP: What was your most memorable job?
SC: One of my first co-op jobs with Northeastern, where I worked for a radio station in Greenwich, CT. Two weeks into the job and this murder case was front and center–Martha Moxley and Ethel Skakel-Kennedy’s nephew was the prime suspect. So the first two weeks of my job, I would walk down to the police station and meet the police chief, Chief Barron, and he would tell me the crimes that had happened. Then the Martha Moxley murder happened and she was 16 and was savagely killed, so it became National news due to the Kennedy connection. One of the coolest moments was the morning after. Everyone was there for the press conference and Chief Barron opened the floor for questions. He said he wanted to start with Steve Cody at WGCH radio, which was unbelievable. I was dumbfounded and asked a generic question. The case is still unsolved.

KP: Do you have a piece of advice you live by?
SC: Try to help others. Any age, anyone, just help others in any way. I mentor a lot of students and the most rewarding part is working with them and staying in touch to see where they end up.

KP: What is your definition of success?
SC: Success is doing something that you enjoy every single day that challenges you, that stretches you, that makes you feel like you are in some way, shape or form giving back. That is success. Nothing to do with money, prestige or power, it just turns you on to doing whatever that is. That is professional success. Personal success is being at peace with yourself and having a good group of people that you care about and who care about you.

KP: How did you and Ed meet?
SC: I was at an agency and I got a call from a head hunter who thought Ed would be a good account supervisor. He felt we would click. Ed came in for the interview and I liked him. The company then won a big client, so I made the call and we hired Ed. Ed resigned from where he was, then the client that just hired us, fired us. So, I had to plead with my CEO to still hire him.

KP: What made you create Peppercomm?
SC: Two things; up until then I had just been working with big agencies and with big agencies the more you move up the less contact you have with the client. So, your job becomes administrative and operations–all the stuff I hate. The other thing was, I was at the perfect age. I was 39 and I said it was now or never, I don’t want to be 65 one day and say what if I tried. Those two things, in combination were why I started Peppercomm.

KP: How do you two work so well together for Peppercomm?
SC: We don’t! Only joking, after two and a half years of working together, we knew a lot about each other and who would be able to handle what parts of the company. It is still that way to this day, we are polar opposites in every way. He is the Hillary to my Trump.

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Today’s post is contributed by NYC intern Brooke Ferreri

Ed MoedFor today’s edition of PeppTalks we are introducing you to one of Peppercomm’s fearless leaders, Ed Moed, our Co-Founder and CEO. Ed has become a PR powerhouse having spent the last 20 years in the industry. Read on to discover some fun facts about Ed as well as some of his life advice.

BF: Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
EM: I grew up in West Hartford, CT and went to Conard High School. I then went on to attend Drew University in New Jersey.

BF: What was your first concert?
EM: My first concert was ACDC in 8th grade at the Hartford Civic Center (now XL Center).

BF: What is your favorite TV show?
EM: My favorite shows of all time are M*A*S*H and Cheers, the classics.
BF: What’s an activity you do in your spare time?
EM: I love spending time with my family. I coach my kid’s baseball teams and spend a lot of time driving them around to different activities. I also enjoy playing tennis, eating good food and drinking good wine.

BF: Who do you most admire?
EM: I would have to say the person I admire the most would be my Great Uncle Jack, the patriarch of our family. He was very smart, he went to law school and became an incredible lawyer and business man. In WWII he went over as a historian to visit and see the Nazi War Camps, he ended up writing a story about it.

BF: What would your last meal on Earth be?
EM: For my last meal on Earth I would have to have a great bottle of wine, specifically a Harlan Estate and the best cooked Beef Wellington. To top off the meal I would want gelato from Italy.

BF: If you could perform PR for one celebrity/client who would it be?
EM: Larry David, I would have a lot of fun with that.

BF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
EM: I worked at RC Auletta and Company in a junior PR position. I spent three years there and took away 10 years of experience. That job taught me how to be a communications pro and how to counsel clients in crises.

BF: What would your most memorable job be?
EM: My most memorable job, was not my best, I worked a lot of jobs through college. I spent one summer tarring I-95 between Connecticut and Rhode Island, it was miserable and made me realize why I was going to college.
BF: That will keep you motivated.
EM: It sure did.

BF: Do you have a piece of advice you live by?
EM: Everybody has a right to be happy and if someone is not harming you, let them live their life and be happy. People should be able to do whatever they want, as long as they are not harming others while they are doing it.

BF: What is your definition of success?
EM: I define success as when you are ultimately fulfilled with what you have done and what you are doing. Wealth and what level you get to don’t matter if you are not fulfilled with your work.

BF: Where did you and Steve (Cody) meet?
EM: Steve was the General Manager at EPB (Earle Palmer Brown) and I actually went in for an interview with him. It was 45 minutes of laughing and being entertained, we just instantly got along. He ended up hiring me.

BF: What inspired you guys to start Peppercomm?
EM: We had worked our way up to the pinnacle of agencies and we were so miserable there that there was no other alternative. It was time for us to become entrepreneurs and start our own company.

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Unless you live under a rock, chances are your everyday activities will involve some level of networking. Networking is critical. It provides the knowledge, resources, and support system that can sustain one’s personal development. Everyone does it, even unconsciously.

From what I’ve observed, however, most people have a flawed and negative perception of networking. They think the act of sharing information is unidirectional and often don’t know who they should network with. During events, they tend to target either prominent attendees or panelists, as if they are the only people who can help them achieve their goals. I’ve had many elevator chats with people who went home with their stack of business cards almost untouched because they didn’t get to speak with the people they wanted. The truth is, effective networking runs on a give-and-take basis. No one knows so much as to not need more knowledge and information. Anyone can offer valuable insight and the biggest network that we too often don’t take advantage of is the one that is the most accessible to us: our peers.

Who are they? At a networking event, they are the people who, like you, are either looking to make a connection, find a mentor or learn about a particular topic. Our peers include classmates, friends, colleagues etc. We tend to underestimate them because they are generally at the same stage in life and have similar goals so we assume they can’t help us in any significant way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our peers have knowledge, experience and talents that can benefit us. For example, an old classmate could be the one who refers you to their manager for potential hiring. It’s easier to maintain relationships with this group because they are people we already know. Here are some ways in which you can successfully network with your peers:

  1. Show Interest

The best way to find out how you can help someone (or vice-versa) is by asking questions. Ask about their background, their current jobs, their career aspirations, short or long-terms goals – anything to keep the conversation going. You can send monthly check-in emails to a group of old connections or send out invitations to coffee or lunch dates. People love talking about themselves so be there to listen. Showing a little interest in someone else’s life, is often greatly appreciated. You can learn a lot from that. At the same time, be sure to participate in the conversation as well.

  1. Organize Mastermind Groups

When you’re lucky to meet a group of like-minded people, it’s worth exploring that connection. Start a meetup group and get together frequently to openly talk about your goals, the obstacles that you encounter and your progress. Being part of support groups can only move you forward. It’s a great way to stay motivated and not fall behind as you hold each other accountable.

  1. Share Your Experience

I recently connected with someone after sharing my experience interning at Hearst Magazines. She was offered a position there and wanted to have a better understanding of the company’s culture in order to make a decision. She was wise to ask someone who had been in that position before.

When you share your experience, you open yourself to constructive feedback as people could point out mistakes that you wouldn’t have otherwise realized you’d made.. So always be open to listening to people and sharing your story.

  1. Exchange Knowledge and Information

When you make it a habit to listen to people and voice your goals, you position yourself to be a contributor and to also stay on top of industry news and important events. My friends and I consistently email each other useful articles, links to job postings or important events happening because we know each other’s interests. Having this kind of support is very enriching and it helps us stay focused.

  1. Peer-to-Peer Coaching

I heard this term for the first time at Eventsy’s Women’s Empowerment Summit. If your peers have particular skills, use them to your advantage. If an old classmate knows how to design business cards, ask for their services before hiring a professional. The same way, if you’re good at cover letter writing for example, help your peers proofread their job applications. Harnessing your network’s abilities will cost less and be more beneficial to all of you.

  1. Attend Networking Events Together

Attending networking events with your peers has its perks. It makes it easier to spark a conversation with someone. You can also spread out and speak to as many people as possible and then share the things you’ve learned.

We are constantly surrounded by our peers and it’s a network that we interact with daily. Learning how to optimize it is a worthy investment.

By Shelcy Joseph

About the Author

Shelcy Joseph is a freelance writer and career blogger living in New York City. She frequently contributes to several publications such as Classy Career Girl, That Working Girl, FindSpark, LinkedIn Pulse, Eventsy etc. Connect with her via Twitter, Gmail or LinkedIn.

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Today’s post is contributed by former NYC intern Shalaka Vinod

Armel headshotFor our third installment of PeppTalks, we discussed all things work and life with Armel Leslie, Senior Director here at Peppercomm. Armel is a crucial member of the Peppercomm team and brings 15 plus years of experience in financial and corporate PR to the team. Armel feels like part of the family to us interns, as his office is in such close proximity to ‘intern row’, daily debates and discussions are the norm.

SV: Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?
AL: I grew up and went to school in South Africa. I came to the U.S. in 1994 and a year later went to Baruch College right here in Gramercy Park.

SV: What was your first concert?
AL: Wow that was a long time ago. The first concert that meant anything was David Bowie in 1990. Since then he has been my favorite musician. I recently attended his tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. A great way to honor such a talent.

SV: Which TV show is your guilty pleasure?
AL: Guilty pleasure?? Hmm… I’m a big fan of House of Cards. It’s a great show.

SV: What would your last meal on Earth be?
AL: Israeli food- Pita, hummus and eggplant.

SV: What’s an activity you’ve taken up recently?
AL: I’ve actually recently taken up kayaking. I hope to go on my first adventure with my kayak, Mellow Yellow (pictured below), over Memorial Day weekend.

Mellow Yellow

SV: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
AL: My first job… was coaching tennis. I learned how to be patient when dealing with people, mainly kids.

SV: What drew you to Peppercomm?
AL: The firm I was at before, Walek & Associates, was actually acquired by Peppercomm in 2013. So I joined with the Walek team, but was immediately impressed by how smart and talented people were.

SV: If you could perform PR for one client/celeb, who would it be?
AL: I’m a big football fan so I would have to say Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s my favorite player.

SV: Do you have a piece of advice you live by?
AL: Yes, I would say, don’t sweat the small stuff.
SV: That’s great advice, short and sweet.

SV: What would you say is your definition of success?
AL: To be recognized as a good team player that leads by example.

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