Archive for October, 2009


Q&A Friday: Darryl Salerno

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Darryl Salerno is Peppercom’s business consultant, and runs Second Quadrant Solutions, a consultancy that helps professional service organizations improve their performance, profitability, productivity, effectiveness and overall long-term financial health.  If you’d like to meet him in person, he’ll be performing stand up at the New York Comedy Club tonight- $15 plus two drink minimum, and I promise it’s well worth it.

Q. What’s your favorite part of your job?
A. What I love most is when someone approaches me and tells me that something they learned from me has had a dramatic positive effect on their job or their life outside work.  It’s extremely gratifying to know that your counsel is being followed and is making a difference.

Q. What’s the most common complaint you hear from young PR pros?
A. Too much work.  Too many accounts.  Too many bosses.  Far too many e-mails.  Being expected to be on-call 24/7/52 and respond to everything immediately.

Q. And how do you respond to them?
A. I tell them they need to recognize that right now we are living in extraordinary times and that expectations are very high.  Long-term, these things need to be fixed and I tell them that they should not struggle in silence.  They must bring these issues forward to management at their agency in order for there to be a chance for them to be addressed when it’s possible.

Q. What advice do you have for those just starting out in PR?
A. You need to work very hard and diligently in this industry.  Strive for excellence in every thing you do so you can be seen as trustworthy.  However, you also need to create some boundaries in order to protect your work-life balance.  If left unchecked, this profession can demand your time around the clock.


Asking questions in interviews

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Guest Post by Laura Zanzal

As a former member of the intern committee at Peppercom, I’ve sat through countless interviews.   When it comes to hiring a candidate, for me personally, it doesn’t matter if you had one previous internship or five.  What matters to me instead is the questions that candidates ask during an interview.  Many times when interviewing, we start by asking if candidates have any questions before we share what the internship entails.  This gives the opportunity for the candidate to have control of the conversation.  In an ideal interview, I love when we’re able to tell the candidate everything about the internship and Peppercom through questions and answers, rather than us regurgitating the “schpeal”.

Now, I’m not referring to questions like “When’s the start date?” or “How much does it pay?”  Instead, I enjoy questions where I get to tell you a little bit more about myself, and hopefully turn the interview into a conversation.

Not sure what to ask?  Try these questions in your next interview:

·         How did you get your start in PR?
·         How long have you been at your company?
·         What’s your favorite part about your company/PR?
·         What’s a typical day like?
·         How does your company measure success?
·         How has your company fared over the past year?

By asking questions, the candidate has a better chance of showcasing his or her personality, allowing the interviewer to understand if the candidate is a good fit for the position.  So the next time you are in an interview and you are asked “Any questions?”, whatever you do, please don’t say, “No, I’m all set.”


A Job Seekers’ Advice

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Guest post by Kristin Davie

Kristin Davie is a recent graduate of Marist College (also my alma mater) and is currently on the job hunt.  She writes a blog about this very topic and here shares a bit of advice for her fellow entry-level PR job seekers.

As a recent college graduate, I count myself among what Peter Coy of BusinessWeek calls, “The Lost Generation.”  Less than half of young adults ages 16-24 are employed and securing that coveted entry-level position is increasingly hard to manage.  While others in my commencement cohort resort to online job boards and career fairs, I’ve referred back to the basic lessons I learned as a PR student and intern:

  • Be creative- Professors always challenged my class to create new projects and campaigns and the same is true in the boardroom (so I hear).  One day you’ll be a part of company brainstorm sessions.  In the meantime, job seekers should brainstorm new ways to differentiate themselves such as starting a blog or volunteering at an industry event.
  • Be concise- This is probably the first thing reviewed in most PR classes and the first thing expected of strong PR writers.  Luckily, there’s no better place to practice concise writing than on a resume or cover letter where superfluous language may potentially frustrate or aggravate employers (I bet THAT was annoying to read).  Need some help toning it down? Turn to the industry’s new favorite tool- Twitter- and learn to write in 140 characters or less.
  • Do your research- Whether for a college paper or client presentation, research is a fundamental part of PR.  As a job seeker, start by researching the company and its clients, awards and culture.  Homework and reading assignments don’t end at a degree.
  • Explore new avenues- Students are encouraged to pursue new ideas in the classroom and agencies are turning toward new methods of marketing clients.  Why not do the same in the job search?  Join a Ning network tailored toward the unemployed or reach out to alumni in your field.
  • Promote your brand- First as students and eventually as employees, candidates must also represent themselves as a personal brand during the job search.  Just as companies are turning toward social media to promote clients, so should job seekers.   Advertise assets and build a brand employers will find beneficial to the company.
  • Network- While it might be mentioned in the classroom, networking may be a lifelong skill better learned through experience- and PR professionals have a lot of it.  Unemployment serves as great practice (trust me).  Connect with old classmates and professors, engage in Twitter conversations with CEOs, and don’t brush off opportunity.

As an aspiring PR professional, I’ve found that no other asset in my job search arsenal is as valuable as my major.  Why? Well, the rudimentary functions of public relations serve as great job search skills. Better yet?  If used correctly, they cement candidates’ understanding of the industry and show potential employers that the wheels aren’t that rusty- and that Mom and Dad didn’t take out a second mortgage on the house in vain.


Guest post by Brooke Winebrenner

As a current grunt work guru of Peppercom, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to comment on last week’s RepMan post from Steve Cody and expand on the grunt work mentioned, from an intern perspective. I began interning at Peppercom over a month ago, and I have had the opportunity to work on an array of client projects, that from day one have presented various challenges and obstacles.

I have seen my fair share of grunt work, but at the same time I have put into perspective that all of my co-workers and supervisors have walked in my footsteps. For this, they have an understanding and are appreciative of the time and work that an intern puts in. My daily tasks vary from day to day, but some of the work you may classify as grunt work include:

• Completing media coverage reports
• Pulling editorial calendars
• Developing media lists
• Social media and news monitoring
• Meeting note taking
• Distributing media mailers

This list is by no means the entire list of my responsibilities or all of the work I have completed, but this may give you an idea of the tasks I have mastered. As Steve mentions, some may complain of the “misery” they have been subjected to as they slaved over their current or previous internship tasks, but I would like to tell those people that they should appreciate the assignments they are given. I am sure they could be put out of their misery and there would be more than enough people willing to take their spot.

I know I am very grateful for all of the work I can get my hands on (whether it’s grunt work or not) and would like for my superiors to feel comfortable enough to consider me that go-to-person. I want to be the best possible grunt, as Steve mentions. Whether my task is big or small, I know that everything I give really does matter and that it contributes to the team’s end result and success.

After speaking with Peppercom’s managing director and co-founder, Ed Moed, this only reassured my latter comment. He mentioned to a group of very attentive interns, that the work we are completing now is providing us with a foundation that every successful public relations professional needs to have an understanding of. The internship offers insight into the faceted skills we must be equipped with to produce and implement strategy and tactics for clients in the future. Ed’s interpretation of an intern was very inspiring and important advice that I will always keep in mind as I continue to work daily.

What is some of the grunt work you have completed and how did this task help you to grow?


Q&A Friday: Steve Cody

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Steve Cody is co-founder and managing partner of Peppercom Strategic Communications.  You can find him here, here and here.  And sometimes here.

Q. How did you know that PR was right for you?
A. I didn’t. My undergraduate degree was in journalism. My goal was to be the next Woodward or Bernstein. My Northeastern University co-op jobs taught me that, while I loved the news, I did not like news people. So, I went to my advisor who suggested public relations. I sent out hundreds of cover letters and resumes and was fortunate to land at Hill & Knowlton.

Q. What’s the biggest mistake you made in your young career?
A. One big mistake I made early on was not realizing that, in responding to a reporter’s questions, I could be quoted as a client spokesperson. Not realizing that the typing I was hearing in the background of a call with an AP reporter was, in fact, my words being taken down, came as a huge surprise the next day. Happily, the client was pleased. My boss, however, read me the riot act. I’ve never made that mistake again.

Q. Other than starting Peppercom, what has been your greatest professional accomplishment?
A. I was just named one of Northeastern University’s 100 most successful alumni (it was done in recognition of their 100th anniversary).

Q. What one piece of advice do you have for those just starting their careers in PR?
A. Read voraciously about as many things as possible. You’re only as smart as what you know, so make it your business to know as much as possible about as many things as possible.



Intern Video

To find out more about life as a Peppercom intern, check out this YouTube video produced by former Peppercomm interns who share their experiences. Click Here