Archive for January, 2013

Today’s post is by fellow Peppercomm Intern Committee member, Jason Green.

If you operate under the assumption that no one strives to be thought of as boring, it is hard to figure out how we end up sifting through so many indistinguishable cover letters and resumes during hiring season. The content contained in each cover letter and resume is not always uninteresting, but I am talking about how it is presented.

We differentiate for a living – when positioning our clients and when it comes to our personal brands. So it is no surprise that we are looking for someone that can demonstrate the ability to differentiate themselves from the e-mail above and below them in the intern jobs inbox.

A few words of caution, there is good differentiation (let’s flag this e-mail and make sure to call them) and bad differentiation (forward this cover letter and resume to the agency e-mail distribution because it is wildly inappropriate). The faux Amazon site job application that garnered serious buzz on the web this week is a prime example of the type of thinking that we look for at Peppercomm for interns and full-time positions.

This application says a few things to me and my colleagues on the intern committee. This applicant is:

  1. Very creative
  2. Willing to take risks
  3. Tech-savvy (design and development)
  4. Likely to have a solid sense of humor
  5. Hardworking (he took the time to transform his resume into something awesome)

When we get the standard “to whom it may concern” e-mail it is equally telling. This candidate has likely not thoroughly browsed our website (we name the intern coordinator), probably does not understand the Peppercomm culture and might not have the ability to work in the integrated environment that Peppercomm transformed into.

There is a plethora of resources on our new website that would lead a truly interested candidate to send us an eye-brow raising application – our acquisition of creative services firm H20 (this isn’t traditional PR anymore, folks), our use of comedy training throughout the agency and with clients, the Audience Experience service offering that we recently launched, etc.

It could be a witty subject line, it could be a link to a blog that you maintain or a website / app you helped code, it could be a video submission, comment on our Facebook page, comment on one of our Instagrams, or go back to the future and send us something that is hand-written. I won’t give up too many ideas here, but you get the point.

Show us your skills and make it interesting and I can guarantee you will be hearing from us. Our industry has evolved and the way you apply for jobs changed right along with it. We look forward to hearing from you. The Amazon guy has reportedly received over 100 job offers…


They called me ‘The Kid’

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Today’s post is by Peppercomm’s co-founder, Steve Cody, and originally ran on  RepMan.

The kiddd A just released Accountemps survey of 420 workers showed that nearly one-third said the greatest challenge when starting a new job was getting to know a new boss, co-workers and fitting into the culture. Learning new processes and procedures was also a big obstacle.

Even at my advanced age, I can relate to the abject fear of starting a new job and wondering how my boss and peers would take to me (and vice versa).

But, I was different from my peers. I was already a battle-tested veteran thanks to the tremendous competitive advantage my Northeastern University Co-Op experiences had provided. By the time I graduated, I’d not only worked in the newsrooms of The New York Times, WGCH Radio in Greenwich and CBS Newsradio in Boston, I’d also rubbed elbows with of some of journalism’s best and brightest (and meanest and nastiest).

So, when I interviewed at Hill & Knowlton as a newly-minted college grad, my real-world experience ran rings around my competitors from Yale, Harvard and Princeton (FYI, the H&K of those days was as white-shoed as a firm could possibly be. Biff’s and Buffy’s were absolutely everywhere).

And, trust me, I needed every bit of the N.U. Co-Op experience I’d absorbed up until then. Because, at the time I was hired (note: William Howard Taft had just been elected president), I was 12 years younger than the other account executives in my group! So, I not only had to score placements for such clients as Uniroyal and The American Trucking Association, I had to deal with very intense, frat house/Mad Men-type hazing from my older cohorts.

The men AND women teased me mercilessly. The men called me Gerber. The female executives called me The Kid. But, while others may have wilted under the pressure of what would undoubtedly qualify as a hostile workplace today, I thrived. Why? Because I’d already been yelled at, patronized and ignored by world weary, deadline-driven journalists.

And, that’s the point of today’s blog. Most of the interns we hire (and those that I see at other organizations) tend to run in packs. They I.M. one another all day long, chill together after work and share dating and helicopter parent stories throughout the day. What they do very, very little of, however, is networking with, and building bonds, with their workplace elders.

Which is why so many young people fear the prospects of fitting into a new workplace when they finally enter the real job market. Sure, they can rock social media. Sure, they know all about the hottest YouTube video. But, when it comes to dealing with older, more experienced workers on a peer-to-peer level, I’d say most are completely lost at sea.

And, that’s why colleges and universities (as well as we employers) need to better prepare students for the cultural/workplace dynamics they’ll be encountering. Most interns are hired, assigned accounts and then left to fend for themselves. They learn the ropes in media relations, press release writing and pleasing the client. But, what employer takes the time to explain internal politicking, reporting parameters, professional conduct, personal brand building and networking? Precious few.

The kid (that’s me) was ready for the slings and arrows of yesteryear’s workplace. But, Northeastern students aside, I’ve seen precious few Millennials who possess the natural skills necessary to leverage their youthful enthusiasm, overcome their fear of the workplace and use both as an advantage to foster strong relationships with their busy, distracted elders during an oh-so-brief, 90-day internship.

I invite my Millennial readers to weigh in, but doubt many will. I’ve found that most are either afraid to interact with ‘someone of my stature’ or simply unsure what is, and isn’t, appropriate to post on a business blog. Give them an iPhone and a BFF to text, though, and stand back.

We clearly need to build a better bridge between those two worlds.


Q&A Friday: Brian Blank

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In today’s post, we asked Brian Blank, Account Supervisor of Peppercomm and PepperDigital, how technology and social media trends are shaping the way we communicate as PR professionals.   

Q.  Tell us a little bit about your role at Peppercomm.

A.  My role is unique in the way that it straddles both the digital side of the agency along with the communication side of what agency. I primarily work as a consultant with our clients on a variety of areas and ways they can leverage digital media in a strategic way to carry their messages to a variety of audiences. This runs the gamut too – from developing and maintaining social media thought leadership programs to developing strategies for specific platforms. I also help out my accounts with strategic communication work, from writing PR plans and press releases to pitching news.

Q.  What drew you to digital and social media?

A.  I went to college here in the Silicon Valley and cut my PR teeth in the startup world. I was lucky enough to be on the “front lines” of emerging tech over the years and just loved to find out more about the tools and gadgets coming on the market each day. The digital world is all around us whether or not we choose to participate in social media and provides incredible opportunities for brand to reach new and existing audiences in a variety of ways.

For me, I found the tools fascinating as social media accelerated the feedback loop and changed the way companies interacted with customers. Technology allowed communication to evolve in ways we didn’t even imagine 10-15 years ago. I have always had a fascination for technology and gadgets and I believe this was one of the reasons why I was drawn to the digital and social realm.

How have recent developments and trends in digital and social media changed the PR landscape?

A.  For better or worse, it has changed things dramatically, but PR and communications has been evolving for the last 30 years. The advent of the fax machine and email revolutionized the industry just as much as Twitter or Facebook does today. Although with social media we’ve become more open in many ways and sometimes share way too much information. But at the end of the day, we’re talking about tools here and Facebook is a tool, not a strategy. You still need solid counsel and support that matches your business objectives to be successful. The tools will continue to change, so look at the big picture and think critically and creatively.

Q.  What skills should today’s PR students be sure to master if they are interested in a career in digital?

A.  You have to be comfortable with the technology. As a society, it is becoming a part of our daily lives and you have to be able to know how to use it and be willing to get out of your comfort zone to try new things. Since technology continues to evolve, you have to be able to think about creative ways to solve problems. Think about what tools your client could use to reach their objectives.

Q.  What are some basic rules that PR professionals should keep in mind when using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook for work? 

A.  Separate your personal use from your professional use as much as possible, because a hilarious tweet you want to share with your friends late on a Friday night might not be so funny if you accidentally post on your client’s Twitter handle. Another thing is that it is OK to keep boundaries between your accounts. You don’t have to follow your boss on Facebook but it might make sense to do so on Twitter or LinkedIn. I use my Facebook page as my personal page for friends and family and really only add my coworkers if they become close friends. I open my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts for professional use and prefer it that way.

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

A.  Get started with internships early on and try a few. You might not love agency life but excel working at a non-profit. The experiences will help shape you professionally and will make you a more rounded candidate for your chosen career field. Learn to be a rock star researcher, because you will always be called upon to know a lot about a variety of topics and the quicker you can get up to speed, the more valuable you will be.

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Today’s post originally ran on Steve Cody’s RepMan.

Caveman-and-computer-520x345The new date is “hanging out,” according to a recent article in The New York Times on why courtship is dying (or is already dead, depending on who you talk to.) Being an unattached, millennial female living in New York City myself, Alex Williams’ “The End of Courtship” certainly struck a chord with me—though perhaps not the one intended.

Technology is named in this particular blame game for how the modern male is able to hide behind vague and non-committal electronic messages, rather than just by directly asking a girl out. The result, the article posits, is that traditional ideas on dating are being replaced by a much more casual hookup culture. In short, men of this generation have traded in the traditional dinner and a movie date with hanging out, text messages and social media correspondences.

The article points to three big items that I have trouble digesting:
1.    Young people now live in a culture where traditional dating has been largely replaced with casual and vague hook ups
2.    There is a serious lack of real communication and/or too much technology involved in communication of young people
3.    Young men are getting lazy with their date ideas

However, looking around at my fellow millenials, and men in particular, I find the article to be unfair. I know plenty of men who still take the traditional spin on dating. Sure, communication has become a bit more confusing with emails and texting, but I know of more men who still directly ask people out on dates than I do men who just subscribe to an all-hook-up-all-the-time mentality. My guess is that it’s the sheer number of ways we now have to connect cause confusion, but this doesn’t mean chivalry is dead. Chivalry just texts now, too.

And for the still fair amount of men who prefer the casual hookup – is this actually new? I know plenty of women who prefer that, too. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but if a woman prefers someone who will wine and dine her…can’t she just not engage with someone asking to do otherwise?

Case in point, the article quotes a woman who says she began a series of hookups with someone she liked. Was someone stopping her from just ending the relationship if she did not like what was happening? Instead, let’s call it like it is – both people choose to engage in the behavior. If you don’t like the behavior or the direction the relationship is taking, you can stop it and find someone more on your page. This is not new. These have been the rules of dating, well, for forever.

If courtship is ending, it is because we are all allowing it to do so. Not just men.  And not just women. If one doesn’t want to just hook up, don’t.

The one item I definitely agree with? “Dating culture has evolved to a cycle of text messages, each one requiring the code-breaking skills of a cold war spy to interpret.” Maybe Siri will be able to help with this sometime in the future? (For all you history nerds: Maybe she’ll crack the code faster than the Brits did with Enigma). So decode this for the tech savvy women, Siri: If you want to be courted, act like it.

Categories : New York City
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Laughing it up

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If you know anything about Peppercomm, you know we take our work very seriously, but ourselves? Not so much. We definitely know how to laugh at ourselves and our own industry.

In that style, we saw this clip from Comedy Central’s ‘Kroll Show’ and could not stop laughing. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Think of this as a “first day back after a long weekend” gift. Watch your gift here.

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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