Archive for March, 2011

According to his Tweets, this guy's been to Ellis Island, Magolia Bakery and is Googling directions to Sesame Street. Such a busy few days.

According to his Tweets, this guy's been to Ellis Island, Magolia Bakery and is Googling directions to Sesame Street. Such a busy few days.

I can’t deny that as a New Yorker, the first two things I thought of when hearing about the Egyptian Cobra escaping from the Bronx Zoo was 1) AHH! What if it gets in the same subway car as me; and 2) WHO left the door to a deadly snake’s cage open?

But on March 29th I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the cobra isn’t exactly just slithering through the five boroughs, he is tech savvy and Tweets about his whereabouts.

It’s amazing to think that the Bronx Zoo’s elusive cobra is almost as viral as “the #winning wizard I refuse to name.” With a Twitter profile started only on March 28th and to date only 49 Tweets, @BronxZoosCobra has gained more than 127,520 followers and has been listed nearly 1,100 times—and yes, I am one of those followers.

The slimey wonder has received @replies from the likes of Ellen Degeneres, Mike Bloomberg, and NBC’s Peter Alexander.

My favorite Tweets to the deadly snake so far are:

@ TheEllenShow “Hey @BronxZoosCobra you should check out the Guggenheim Museum. They have a great Kandinsky exhibit. They also don’t have any stairs.”

@SesameStreet “The @bronxzooscobra is visiting places around New York City. Can anyone tell it how to get to Sesame Street?”

@Bergdorfs @dkny “@BronxZoosCobra it’s a good time to visit you know. Our resident mongoose is on holiday”

The identity of the person behind @BronxZoosCobra is still unknown, but whoever the person is, I’m sure the Bronx Zoo is happy. The profile only follows one Twitter account—the Bronx Zoo. It would be interesting to see how many followers the Bronx Zoo gains until this reptile catastrophe is resolved and people are still actively entertained by the account.

If and when the person decides to come forward, his or her clever and witty Tweets are getting even high profile Twitter users engaged—which is the dream of any PR specialist Tweeting on behalf of a client.

With the success of this particular profile and a great voice for Twitter, if this person isn’t already in the PR biz, any social media team would be lucky to grab him or her.

Any thoughts on the next moves for this person? What would be the best way to capitalize on the success of this account?

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Q&A Friday: Doug Feingold

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In probably our most overdue post, we asked Peppercom’s Intern Coordinator a few questions about interviews, ideal candidates, and internship deal-breakers.

Q. What can an intern candidate do to really stand out- either in a resume or in the interview?

A. While we might look at a resume for 1-2 minutes to get an idea of experience, the interview is where someone is really going to stand out and show he or she belongs. The most important thing I look for is enthusiasm, both about Peppercom and the industry in general. We try to give our interns an experience that mirrors that of an entry level employee, so we want people who are going to be excited to work here and to learn as much as they can. Candidates can express that in a number of ways. One way is simply doing background research on Peppercom and being able to discuss our particular clients or practice areas which might be of interest. We also like candidates who do more than simply talk about the tasks he or she did in a previous internship, instead focusing on what one learned or accomplished while working on a project, and the personal satisfaction that came with it. Most importantly, candidates can be honest and express their own limitations. When interviewing interns, we know not everybody has learned everything there is to learn. We like candidates who can admit this and discuss what he or she still needs to discover, in turn getting excited about learning more at Peppercom. I want to hire someone I know will be enthusiastic on day one, and not simply look at this as having to come to work.

Q. What are your biggest pet peeves when you interview a candidate or review an application? Any deal-breakers?

A. My biggest is pet peeve is when I ask candidates during an interview if they have any questions for me, and they ask for background on Peppercom or the internship – information that is readily available on our website. My favorite candidates ask thought provoking questions about the public relations industry, Peppercom’s approach to PR or recent headlines. Twice I have been stumped by a candidate question on an interview, and I remember both vividly. One person asked an interesting question about consulting clients against “green washing”, while another asked about integrating creative services to current PR campaigns. Candidates who ask questions beyond “my favorite thing about Peppercom” or how I spend my day are going to always stick out.

As far as deal-breakers, I think we just look for people who we gel with and would fit in well here. If we don’t walk away from an interview feeling like it was more of a conversation than an interview, then I don’t think we are going to think about hiring that person.

Q. What can an intern do to make the most out of the internship?

A. Always think about what else you can be doing. When in an intern role, the work can sometimes come in waves, so they’ll be points when an intern might not have a lot on his or her plate. How one spends this time is crucial – do you chat with friends and go on Facebook, or do you research the industries that your clients work in and attempt to find new reporters and interesting trends? Everyone in PR should be striving to read as much news as possible, but it’s not always easy with our workloads. Thus, when an intern sends an email to an account team saying how he or she found a relevant article on the industry that we should all read, and offers to pitch the reporter, it really sticks out to everyone that this person cares and is using his or her time wisely. That is also going to build trust with the team and show that an intern is ready for higher level responsibility.

Q. Do you have an interview horror story that you can share?

A. I can’t think of a particular nightmare story, but two particular horrors consistently make me cringe. First, when I ask candidates about a previous job on a resume, that person explains that it was mostly getting coffee. Candidates should be able to explain how any past role might translate into a PR internship, or it shouldn’t be on the resume. Second, when conducting a phone interview, candidates that sound startled when we call or act as though he or she just woke up. I can’t say it enough, we like candidates that are excited about the prospect of working with us.

Q. What one piece of advice do you have for those just starting their careers in PR?

A. When I first started, one smart person told me to always be proactive, and it was the best advice I received. Don’t sit around and wait to be told what to do, take initiative and do it yourself. It might be as simple as sending around meeting notes even if nobody asked you to, or explaining that you’ll pitch an editorial calendar opportunity rather than sending to the team as an FYI. Don’t overstep your bounds, but think about how you can make life easier for those above you and earn trust with your teammates.

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PRSSA Digital Career Fair

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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again–networking is AMAZING. It’s a great way to get to know people in the public relations industry and maybe even get your foot in the door with a tremendous company. PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) is an ideal group to help facilitate this. With more than 10,000 members nationwide all interested in PR/communications, you’re sure to get some great info on all industry-related matters.

They also know that attending career fairs and going to networking events isn’t necessarily the most comfortable thing to do. Luckily for anyone interested in PR or communications PRSSA is hosting its first ever Digital Career Fair via Twitter. There will be recruiters, HR reps and who knows, maybe someone from that agency you really want to work at.

Check it out tonight at 9 PM EST on Twitter during the monthly #PRSSA chat. And if you REALLY want your name to get out there, don’t forget to RSVP. Check out all of the details here.


Unless you live under a rock, it’s been hard to ignore the media blitz surrounding actor Charlie Sheen.  Always a playboy and party animal, Charlie’s antics took a serious turn over the last week, culminating in the dismissal from his television show.  Despite drawing a frenzy of attention, Charlie’s two young sons were taken away at the request of his ex-wife and his long-time publicist quit after a series of bizarre interviews.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve played into the Charlie Sheen spectacle and count myself among his 2 million Twitter followers. It seems every hour, there is something new to fodder over. Despite the Youtube parodies, #WINNING trending topics, and celebrity impersonations, the fact of the matter is that Charlie Sheen has become seriously unhinged to some degree.

But would anyone willingly consider joining the circus? 

That’s just what Charlie is proposing. He put out a tweet yesterday afternoon calling for “a #winning INTERN with #TigerBlood.” The good? Charlie is intending to pay his intern in return for monitoring his social media accounts and increasing his already record-setting number of Twitter followers. The bad? Crossing Charlie and potentially falling victim to his “fire-breathing fists.”

See, I played into it again.

We asked Steve Cody, Managing Partner & Co-Founder of Peppercom, and Sara Whitman, Senior Director, for their take on the internship and what this means for the lucky candidate:

Q. Do you feel applying for such a position would hurt or help a candidate in the future?

SW. It all depends on the career path the intern is looking for. Trying for a job in entertainment publicity? This is invaluable experience. Learning how to manage a celebrity through a crisis is critical for that type of career. It’s a very risky move, because I can’t imagine it turning out well, but if it does and that’s the career the intern is looking for, why not?

But, if this person is looking to have a career in public relations as it is practiced in most other industries, this is not the kind of opportunity that will pique my interest as an employer. I wouldn’t take this candidate seriously.

SC. I don’t think applying for the position would hurt anyone’s future chances, but it might pigeonhole him/her in the entertainment PR space.

Q. Given Charlie’s recent downward spiral and media blitz, what lessons can job candidates learn about personal branding?

SW. If nothing else, the Sheen debacle goes to show how quickly negative publicity spreads. While the general public may still enjoy Sheen’s acting, he has alienated a large population of people. That has to hurt his ability to achieve career success. Just look at Mel Gibson, Lindsay Lohan, etc. Those people may still make a comeback, but it will be a long time coming.

SC. If you don’t want to see it, hear it or read it, don’t say it. Never, ever play out your personal issues in public. The CEO of Cohn & Wolfe recently made this same mistake when her firm was fired by Doubletree Hotels and she vented in the various PR trades.

Q. Overall, what do you make of the Charlie Sheen debacle? Does this add more fuel to the fire?

SW. It’s really sad. At first, the initial response is intrigue. It’s the train wreck you can’t help but watch. But, after seeing it repeatedly, you tune it out. I think we’re getting to that point now. Yes, this will get a lot of attention, but it will get less and less as time goes on.

SC. Sheen’s a very sick man. Sadly, his family hasn’t forced an intervention. Hiring an intern is a distraction at best to the greater train wreck that is Charlie Sheen.

What do you think of the internship position? Would you consider taking it? Why or why not?

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Guest post by Nicole Parker – a senior Public Relations student at Syracuse University and future PR pro

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a Public Relations HR roundtable organized by Syracuse University Professor, Philip Nardone. The roundtable hosted professionals from five different agencies around the country including Peppercom’s CFO, Debbie Salerno.  The hour long conference call supplied students with truthful advice on the big question every senior looking to attain a job in the PR industry is asking: Do I look for a job or an internship?

Going from Syracuse to NYC, it has become clear to me that I have an abundance of potential contacts to network with. I’m graduating with five internships under my belt and yet I still feel overwhelmed when I think about the future. Logging onto Mediabistro, sifting through binders in the career center or browsing through my top companies career portals, prior to the roundtable, I didn’t even know which position my experience was suitable for. Account Coordinator? Account Executive? Receptionist? The hierarchy isn’t exactly explained in the classroom.

The first thing the roundtable contributors cleared up was that we entry-level PR folks should most likely be looking to start as junior account coordinators or assistant account executives, but can expect to be promoted fairly quickly if we work really hard. The starting salary is often somewhere in the 30’s, leaving room for celebration when we get a raise. Nevertheless, you may already know that jobs in PR can often be few and far between and highly competitive, but don’t lose hope. According to Bridget Lichtinger, Assistant Director of the Tina Press and David Rubin Career Development Center at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, a post graduate internship at your dream agency could lead the way to landing a job. Getting your foot in the door and working hard can prove that you would make a great addition to the team.

These internships sometimes paid and referred to as graduate fellowships, are created by agencies to train talent for full-time employment at their organization. The roundtable presenters unanimously agreed that even if you have had multiple internship experiences and a great PR education, real job experience is what will help clients and potential employers to be confident in your work. At an agency internship you will most likely have the opportunity to work on an account or two and build skills that directly correlated to future tasks at their organization (so you should step up to the plate to prove your worth!)

If you prove worthy of being hired in one of these programs, you’ll know it. The agency might hire you at the end of the summer or even as soon as an applicable position opens up. In the long run, interning saves time not only for the employer– but for you as well! You’ll know the company culture, the work ethic your boss expects and how to finesse the unpredictable copy machine.  You’ll be an experienced asset, and oftentimes they will want to hire you before they retrain someone else. Based on the discussion at the roundtable, it seems consistent that various professionals agree on the employment opportunities post-graduate interning can bring to the table.



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