Archive for PR

Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm’s Director of Audience Engagement, Sam Ford

5 Takeaways for Your Work as a Professional Communicator

After a summer working at my local high school—doing odd jobs to get the school premises ready for another academic year–and some “spot jobs” here and there working tobacco fields for my family, my first ongoing job was as a “carryout.”

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This is not the author–but we’re sure he was as happy while doing his job as a carryout boy.

Many reading this may be from towns where this particularly nicety no longer existed when they were growing up or else of the more modern era where such service has been done away with in favor of the “self service” world of pumping your own gas and checking yourself out in the retail line. If so, the “carryout boy” (and—yes—where I’m from, it was a heavily gendered designation; women who applied were sent straight to the cash register…Maybe they didn’t trust us boys with the till?) was the person who bagged groceries and then carted them out to the car for any and every patron who came through our store.

I had shopped most of my life at Houchens and the other local grocery stores. (My parents skipped around town, so as to cherry-pick from what each grocery store in town had to offer, in a pre Super-Walmart era where small towns actually had quite a few retail stores to choose from.) I spent Friday evenings camped out on the “front bench” at Houchens. My dad sometimes let me have a chocolate milk and a doughnut, if I’d earned it. And I spent my allowance on comic books and sat at the front and read my comic books while Dad talked to the locals. Sometimes, Dad left, and I ended up talking with one or another old man who might tell me how those comic books I was reading were written by the Devil himself, trying to corrupt my young mind.

Or people stopped by to ask me to recite all of the Presidents of the United States in order. I had learned how to read in part off a paper Houchens grocery bag that we had gotten, which listed all the presidents in order, along with their head shots. And my dad, preparing me for the world that is public relations, would promote my ability to recite those presidents to passersby. I sometimes wish he’d put out a hat…or, more apropos, that he had brought that Houchens grocery sack with the presidents’ faces on it for people to throw in donations after I’d ran through all those presidents and even listed Grover Cleveland twice, as the list required me to do.

I’d long been resolved that I wanted to be one of those carryout boys who brought those groceries to the car. Aside from a few dedicated “lifers” who worked the dayshift and the managers who oversaw the shop, Houchens almost exclusively employed high schoolers at night. It was a coveted position. People vied for those Houchens cashier and carryout positions. They often had a couple of the main basketball stars amidst their ranks, as well as a real cast of characters. Almost always, though, those carryouts were memorable “characters.” They were part of the lore.

And Houchens knew how to recruit for that position. They didn’t complain much that their parking lot was the hangout for local teenagers on Friday night in a town where there was little to do than drive back and forth across town…where the socializing from the Friday night football games typically spilled over to after game socializing, and drama, in front of Houchens. The carryouts and the cashiers would run out to join the social scene once their shift ended. And Houchens was always present at all the local sporting events—sponsoring teams, providing food, and whatever else could be done to root the local team on.

For months before I applied, I went in to let my intentions be known. I worked hard on my resume. I checked in often while on those Friday afternoon shopping excursions, to make sure they knew when I’d be available. And all the work paid off: I found myself part of the “Houchens team” and had a glorious time my junior and part of my senior year being amidst those “carryout” ranks.

Eventually, as my senior year of school heated up and I was in the midst of college prep and dating a girl seriously and everything else that came along, I ended that relationship with Houchens. But Houchens had no problem ending that relationship, either. In the time between, the Super Walmart had come to town, right across the road from the high school in what used to be a cow pasture. They were open 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week. They could undercut Houchens’ prices. And, soon, Houchens had started having fewer slots, and fewer shifts, available to us carryout boys.

Several months after I left Houchens, I made plans to get married—right at the end of my senior year of high school. I wanted some extra income, but Houchens didn’t have those spots to bring me back to. Instead, I applied at Walmart. Walmart didn’t bother with carrying people’s groceries to the car—after all, they were about Lower Prices. Always. So I was a “Cart Pusher.” (I wish I’d gotten business cards made up for that.) Our job training consisted of showing us what union representatives looked like and begging us to run straight for a manager if we ever saw one. The store was massive. Managers had been brought in from other Walmarts to help our little town know how to run an operation so impressive, or at least that was the attitude that seemed to prevail among some.

There were four managers overseeing the store at one time, and the “Cart Pusher” was the day laborer who had to answer to the will of any of those managers. Sometimes, all four of them gave me instructions at once—and there was no clear designation of which I was supposed to listen to.

At Houchens, I was heavily encouraged to engage with the people whose groceries I carried out—to have fun with my coworkers and to talk with the people who shopped at our store. At Walmart, I was given a cross look if I stopped to talk to someone. I was officially “written up” because I didn’t answer a call to go outside and bring carts in. I tried—and another employee tried as well—to explain that I didn’t answer the call over the PA to go outside to gather carts because I was already outside gathering carts. But the managers didn’t care.

To be fair, Walmart did give me a $1,000 scholarship for college, which I was grateful for…But they gave me a heavy dose of what it was like to work in a toxic work culture I abhorred to go along with it.

Houchens wasn’t just a retailer in town. It was a local institution. It was part of the community. It invested in the community, and the community invested in it. Its people loved working there (for the most part; I’m sure some disgruntled “bag boy” might provide a counter-narrative). People loved shopping there. And it was part of the local social life in a way that it embraced.

All that goodwill didn’t protect it from business realities. If another store came along open all hours of the day, and which could offer a far greater product range and far lower prices—Houchens couldn’t compete. And people’s love of Houchens wouldn’t necessarily stop them from crossing the road into that old cow pasture, fill up their carts with Walmart merchandise, and then go through the indignity of pushing that cart to their cars themselves.

But it did matter. The old men sitting at the front of Walmart didn’t laugh and joke about life. They told jokes about how long their wives spent at Walmart. (“I was in here one time, and a man and his son was sitting here. The boy was really cute and looked like he was in first grade. I asked the man, ‘What’s your son’s name?’ He said, ‘Ralph.’ I said, ‘Well, how old is Ralph?’ And he said, ‘Well, he was 3 when we came in.”) They complained about how much money Walmart brings in and ships right off to Bentonville, Arkansas, without much investment in the local community. And they have spent the last almost 15 years watching as many of the local hardware stores, grocery stores, and other staples of the old main street shuttered their doors, unable to compete with “We Sell for Less.” They’ve even seen the local newspapers take a real hit for awhile, when all the local businesses that ran advertisements that supported the local journalists closed their doors and Walmart didn’t need to advertise…because, after all, they’re Walmart.

I don’t know that people line up around the block to work for Walmart, or vie for a position. They sort of resign themselves into working for Walmart, if they’re not flipping burgers for a fast food chain. And now, as most of town has died out, what largely remain is that lit up campus in that old cow pasture, standing as a headstone for the town it had played its small part in sucking dry. And, nevertheless, people in Beaver Dam, Ky., can now get papayas and almond milk and all sorts of items only a Walmart could afford to ship in on those big trucks. And, while I don’t see the same “hangout culture” in Walmart’s parking lot, people are known to do their best to “co-opt” Walmarts aisles as a reinvented town square. If you go to Beaver Dam and someone’s not home and it’s not a church night, you just as well drive over to the Walmart and look around the aisles. You might find who you’re looking for.

But there’s no love or loyalty there. If anything, there’s a slight resentment as people push their carts down the aisle and say hi to one another. Walmart’s a necessary evil in their lives, not a community member.

And don’t feel like the community turned its back on Houchens, by the way. While they couldn’t compete across the road from Walmart, they still own a “Hometown IGA” in Ohio County, and a Sav-A-Lot discount grocery store, and a few different gas stations. Houchens actually had $3 billion in sales last fiscal year and is currently #154 among Forbes list of America’s Largest Private Companies. They are an employee-owned organization whose holdings range from a wide variety of grocery store, gas station, and convenience store brands to insurance companies, restaurants, transportation, construction, recycling, health clinics, healthcare services, financial planning, indoor tanning, and website/software. But when people around Kentucky talk about Houchens, they much more often do so with some admiration in their voice and a deep feeling of community investment.

Other than this old codger reliving some nostalgia here on PRiscope, what’s the “moral” of this story for those of you working in the public relations field? There are five main takeaways from this “comparison of corporate cultures” that I hope you take with you throughout your career—the companies you work for, the clients you work with, and the communities you seek to reach:

  1. Your job can be more than a job. Seek out workplace cultures where you can thrive and where you enjoy working. In every industry—in our industry—there are some behemoths who may always do well because of their size and the business practices that size allows them to engage in. Some of them may treat you well; I don’t know, and I don’t know that I ever will know. But, if you have options, don’t just work somewhere to earn a paycheck. Work somewhere that causes you to enjoy going to work and where you feel that your work is respected.
  2. Business is about More than Business. Business is about people. The companies we work for, or consult with, aren’t just there to sell stuff to people, or to spin a message. They are part of the communities—whether physical or otherwise—they seek to engage. It’s our job as communication professionals to push those companies to be true members of that community: to listen, to empathize, etc. We are there to make sure that not only their bottom lines do well but that their reputation does well, too.
  3. Have Fun. When I worked at Houchens, I looked forward to clocking in. I and fun with my co-workers. To this day, I still keep up with my old managers there. I thought seriously at one point about heading home from the East Coast, while I was still living there, to go back to Kentucky for a Houchens employee reunion. I tell stories about the time I spent there. I feel emotionally invested, even now as a “Houchens alum.” Seek out jobs like that. When you find one, get the most out of it. And, if life takes you elsewhere, don’t forget about the time you spent there.
  4. Our Clients Are “Selling” Experiences. For me, Houchens was an experience. It was woven into the fabric of our neighborhood, and it openly embraced that role, rather than indifferently allowing it. I desires that Houchens job as a teenager because I liked being there. My managers embraced my banter with old Remus Evans or my talking about the latest school gossip with Pixie Graham. And people looked forward to coming. In Houchens’ case, the experience wasn’t quite enough to compete with Walmart’s undercutting prices and greater product variety, but it was more than enough to maintain a variety of business holdings in the county, once the flagship grocery store closed. Generating that sort of loyalty, goodwill, and passion from audiences requires doing all we can to ensure a superior customer experience.
  5. Goodwill Matters. When a company is beloved, its customers will often jump to its defense. Economic necessity allowed Walmart to prevail against Houchens in the direct grocery war…but almost begrudgingly so. Many people who shop at Walmart would love nothing more than to see another company who respected the community more come along and offer a similar product range at competitive prices but which actually pays its employees well and engages more deeply with the community. When people give Walmart “down the road” back home, I don’t hear people jumping up to their defense. Instead, they talk with snark about the inevitable reality that they will end up pouring their money into the Walmart Corporation. Walmart has a retail foothold. But they don’t have a loyal customers and they remain open for potential disruption.

Sam Ford is Director of Audience Engagement with Peppercomm. In addition to his experience with Houchens and Walmart, he has honed his retail chops as a seasonal worker at Target, as a pizza delivery man at “Pizza Tonight,” and as a bank teller at Bank of America…and even degrading himself to working as a telemarketer for all of two or three days.

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Sep
12

Your First Placement

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YES — via #iworkinpr

 

How you feel about the first reporter that took a story you pitchedHow you feel about the first reporter that took a story you pitched

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imagesAre you still searching for an internship or job? There are plenty of sites that claim to be the definitive source for that quest, but are they all the best? We’ve compiled a list of go-to sites for you that we think will help:

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with 300 million members in more than 200 countries. You can connect with colleagues, network with potential employers, do research on the industries and companies you may want to approach—joining this site is a no-brainer. And with any interview, you know your potential employer would be searching for your online presence, so having a strong LinkedIn profile can only help with that first impression.

Indeed

Why bother with other job searching sites when Indeed.com exists? This website combs all job listings. Basically, if the job is posted online, Indeed will find it for you.

It’s easy to search, apply for jobs right through the platform and, if you’re looking to hire someone, you can easily list, too.

This site currently boasts 140 million unique visitors every month.

Glassdoor

This website is a great supplement to LinkedIn and Indeed. With Glassdoor—which is touted as the most “transparent career community”—you have access not only to job postings, but you can look at company reviews, salaries, etc. It’s a great resource for your research.

One word of caution, like with other review sites, keep in mind that some may post inaccurate content. If you’re a disgruntled employee, you can easily take to Glassdoor to post an anonymous review. On the flip side, perhaps some happy employees may post extremely positive reviews/experiences to combat other reviews. While these could be true, good thing to keep in mind and all the more important to go for informational interviews at any prospective company.

Twitter

It’s no secret that those of us at PRiscope love Twitter. We’re all pretty avid tweeters, but you’re probably wondering why we think this could be good for your career. Well, we’ll tell you:

1)      You can do great research on the companies and employers you’re targeting. The tone, news and basic content their sharing is a good indication of the company culture.

2)      This is a great way to network with different companies and professionals. You can interact with them by replying to tweets, taking part in Twitter chats, etc.

3)      You can search for jobs here, too. Use the hashtag #HAPPO (Help a PR Pro Out) as some listings are posted with this.

4)      Your own following and the content you share may or may not be impressive to potential employers. Whether you have a slew of journalists following you or you’re great at sharing relevant content, this is a talent and will potentially be part of your job in the industry.

So, those are our top sites. Any that you think we’re missing?

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You’ve done it. You may have just graduated from college or perhaps finished a post-college internship, but either way, it’s your first entry-level job. There are so many factors to consider, many of which we cover in this blog, but wanted to share this great piece from US News & World Report on the 10 things you need to know when beginning that first job.

These are also great tips for those in an internship.

Any other tips you’d add?

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Aug
22

There, there, it’ll be okay

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It’s Friday and we saw this and thought it was hilarious. We love our interns and definitely work to mentor them, not do this (which we found on #iworkinpr):

Trying to comfort a stressed intern

Trying to comfort a stressed intern

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In today’s post, meet current Peppercomm NYC intern and future communications star, Marlee Murphy

 

1)     Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?

My name is Marlee Murphy and I am a week away from beginning my senior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill! I am double majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication, and Political Science. My specific track within the journalism school is Strategic Communications (a mix of advertising and public relations). During this past school year, I was a nanny for a few families, worked at QSR Magazine as an editorial intern and led Wyldlife—part of Young Life for those of you who are familiar with the organization.

Now that you’re filled in on my professional background, here are some fun facts about me! I am the oldest of four children, I think coffee’s the best thing since sliced bread, my face is in a Coca-Cola commercial and I adore the color blue. Good start?

I’m from a fairly small town in Rowan County, North Carolina named Salisbury. Ever heard of Cheerwine (the soft drink), Food Lion or F&M Bank? All of these originated in Salisbury. While growing up in small town USA could be boring at times (a “raging” Friday night is considered swinging by fast food restaurant Cook Out and possibly hitting up the local movie theater), I wouldn’t trade my experiences there for the world. I will confess Salisbury has certainly left its mark on my personality. For example, I love country music, hate techno-y dance clubs, love homemade tea and Bojangles’, hate Snapple and croissants, love being outdoors, hate huge crowds. Now I know what you’re thinking; how in the world did you end up at Peppercomm—aka the heart of New York City?

The story began with an email to Peppercomm in early January inquiring about the internship and company as a whole. I had noticed their name on a list of national top 25 public relations agencies and decided to do some further research. I took note of their awards for great company culture and work environment, and decided the internship was worth pursuing. Unlike many other New York firms, I felt Peppercomm aligned with my personal values and better suited me in terms of company culture and agency size. When I heard back from Peppercomm in March, I was elated! I skyped in for an interview and a few weeks later, I was offered the internship.

Fast forward to today, this has been the summer of a lifetime. Peppercomm exceeded my expectations and is truly a phenomenal place to work and learn. This summer I not only learned more about the industry and agency life, but by stepping outside of my comfort zone, I also learned a lot about myself and have become a more well-rounded individual. I will be forever grateful to Peppercomm for giving me this internship opportunity.

2)     What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?

As of now, I am not drawn to a specific sector within PR. While at Peppercomm, I’ve enjoyed working on an array of projects that incorporated a variety of industries. Due to a lighter load of account work, I was able to complete at least a dozen one-offs for an array of clients. All of the interns have appreciated the opportunity to explore the world of PR rather than being pigeonholed in one sector. I’ve also found that I enjoy the strategy and branding side of communications more so than media relations.

3)     Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?

Peppercomm’s office culture and inclusive environment surprised me. Every company claims to have great culture and a welcoming workforce; however, in Peppercomm’s case, the claim was 100 percent true. Peppercomm organizes workout events, hosts pub nights, encourages stand-up comedy, and recognizes birthdays and births. They include the interns in every facet of the company and are happy to help us understand new concepts even if it inconveniences them. They put intern row (our line of open cubicles) in the center of one of the floors. We sit right outside the executives’ office doors, which is an incredible opportunity. Not only do we work side-by-side with account teams, but we also are able to see what the day-to-day is like for communications and PR agency executives. On the first day, we (the six interns) hit the deck running, each on multiple client accounts. I jump from one client to another, creating media lists, drafting tweets, monitoring social media and press mentions, researching, writing blogs, editing, etc. The work never ends (which is a good thing in my opinion), and I’ve loved every minute of it.

4)     Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

Post-graduation, I see myself working for a public relations agency. Interning with Peppercomm this summer demonstrated how important it is to have agency experience when launching a communications career. In most agency settings, you are able to work with a variety of clients with an assortment of unique needs. While working for an agency, you are able to dabble in event planning, branding, strategy, media relations, social media and more. No work day is the same at an agency. In addition to acquiring new skills on a daily basis, you’re constantly learning more about how to better communicate and work as a team. After working at an agency for a while, I would like to open my own small marketing firm or event-planning boutique.

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In today’s post, meet current Peppercomm NYC licensing intern and future industry star, Jaclyn Roberts.

 

1) Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?

I graduated this past May from NYU with a double major in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. I grew up just outside of Phoenix, Arizona, in a town called Paradise Valley. I love Arizona and it was a wonderful place to grow up, but I fell in love with New York while at NYU and decided that I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I am starting graduate school at Columbia University at the end of August.

While I really enjoyed both of my majors, I decided not to pursue my original plan of working in television news. I realized that that the aspects of these majors that I really loved—writing, storytelling, critical thinking, etc. were all at the core of the communications and public relations fields. Therefore, I decided that I wanted to have an internship in this industry to make sure that it was what I wanted to do. I saw a listing for an internship with Brand² Squared Licensing on NYU’s job listing website. The position sounded interesting because it involved several aspects of the PR. I researched Peppercomm and was extremely impressed by what I read, and then immediately applied to the internship.

 

2) What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?

I have really enjoyed working with the licensing division and learning about that aspect of the industry. It’s so exciting to see all the directions a company can go in by collaborating with different companies and creating new products. One of my favorite parts about interning in licensing is that I have been exposed to several different areas of the industry such as business development, market research, brand management, and the creative side.

 

3) Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?

After interning at Peppercomm, I have realized how much I want to pursue a career in the industry. My internship at Peppercomm has been a wonderful experience.  Not only is everyone who works here knowledgeable about the industry and good at what they do, they have also been extremely welcoming and willing to help me learn and get the most out of my internship.

 

4) Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

 I’m very interested in corporate communications and brand management. I am pursuing my master’s degree in Communications Practice with a concentration in Corporate Communications. My dream is to one day be a marketing or corporate communications executive at a financial company or another large corporation.

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In today’s post, meet current Peppercomm NYC intern and future communications star, Samantha Rushovich.  

 

1) Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?

I am a rising senior at Boston University studying public relations at the College of Communications. I’m also minoring in Film & Television and have a concentration in Anthropology . . . so I’m very busy!

I’m originally from Stamford, CT just 45 minutes outside the city. I have lived in the same house my whole life and I love it. I have had dogs since I was about three years old. I am practically dying at school without my pups, but I try to see them when I can. Occasionally my parents will be nice enough to drop off my dog in Boston to stay with me for a weekend before I meet them in Maine (we have a vacation house there). So, yes, I have sleepovers with my dog J.

When beginning my search for summer internships I decided I was going to be ambitious and only apply to the top firms. I knew I wanted to spend the summer in NYC, since it’s closer to home than Boston and I was ready for a new city for a bit. I looked up the top 50 PR firms in NYC and then looked through all their websites to see which ones had internship programs. Peppercomm specifically caught my eye because of the emphasis on comedy and work culture. I was learning through my internship in London at the time, that work environment has a huge impact on how enjoyable a job can be. It gave me that extra push to put just a little more effort into my Peppercomm application.

Oh, and Peppercomm is named after a dog, so I can’t lie, that definitely impacted my decision to work here.

 

2) What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?

It’s hard to say which area of PR I like the most. I’ve had experience in-house and I have now interned at a couple of agencies and one nonprofit, so my experience has been pretty broad. I definitely see myself going into nonprofit at some point, but I haven’t yet decided if I would want to be in-house at a major nonprofit, like the ASPCA, or if I would want to handle nonprofit accounts at a firm. I love the agency life!

I’ve always been pretty involved in charity and volunteer work. It’s mainly my love for animals that has driven me to be as active as I have been in the past. It’s one of my strongest passions, so it would be great to combine that with my love for PR.

 

3) Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?

I never expected to have as much autonomy as I do here at Peppercomm. I’m encouraged to throw ideas out there and to follow them through if my teams agree on it. I never imagined my client teams would value my opinions as much as they do. That experience alone has made this internship one of a kind.

I’ve also finally seen firsthand how CRAZY life as a PR professional is. My to-do lists are more than a page long before I have even had my coffee. I have had busy internships in the past, but I usually had a supervisor who told me what my priorities should be. However, at Peppercomm I’m on accounts and don’t have someone managing my projects for me. It’s all on me and I love the busy-ness of it all. I never thought I would feel so ready to enter the workforce, but now I’m eager to graduate and get going with my career!

 

4) Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

 In the short term, I definitely see myself ending up at a mid-size, full-service agency. After graduation that would be ideal! I also could see myself joining one of the major global PR firms at some point.

WAY down the road I hope to open my own agency that specializes in nonprofits. I would like to cater to them based on their budgets and find ways to provide low cost services that are still highly effective. I have a lot to learn before I can start planning that though.

Working for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) would also be a dream come true. I’ve admired quite a few of their campaigns over the years and am a huge supporter of their cause.

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Today’s guest post is from Meredith Briggs, future PR/communications star and current Peppercomm intern.

 

4For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a French and American Studies double major at Trinity College, a small liberal arts school in Hartford, CT. The French major is pretty self-explanatory, but American Studies occasionally throws people off. Most people just assume it’s synonymous with American history, but it’s much more than that. This major looks at all different aspects of American culture and lifestyle. For example, why we do certain things and what influences us.  I have taken classes ranging from “American Technology,” to “Female Bodies in 19th Century America,” to, my personal favorite, “American Food and Culture.” I chose to be an American Studies major because each semester I was drawn to the classes–there is such a wide range of classes to take. But while I do love my majors, for the past couple of years I have been drawn to the fast-paced PR/communications world. So, here I am today, a PR/communications intern who has never taken a class even remotely close to PR, advertising, marketing or journalism.

When I applied for my first PR internship last summer, the only knowledge I really had about the industry was from watching Kim Cattrall’s portrayal of Samantha Jones on Sex and the City. I’ve come to learn is not the most accurate portrayal of the industry, but hey, what else did I have to go on?  As soon as I heard that I had landed an interview with a PR firm I had applied to, I immediately called my dad. Of course he was excited and proud and wanted to do whatever he could to help me prepare and succeed. After we hung up my dad emailed me a document full of practice questions and told me to start practicing.

I sat at the desk in my dorm room and opened the document. The first question he listed was bolded with a red asterisk next to it saying “This will, without a doubt, be the first question they ask you.” Overwhelmed by the thought that I was too simple and had nothing to offer, I called my dad again. “Already?” he said. I started to hysterically explain to him that I would have nothing to talk about in my interview. My dad then asked, “Well, tell me a little about yourself.” I started to give the most basic answers: name, where I was from, school, and majors. Before I could even continue he interrupted me and asked me to explain my majors. After I answered, he asked me to explain why I picked each major. Lastly, he asked me how it applied to the PR world. If he had asked me this right after I had “told him a little about myself,” I would have said it doesn’t at all. But after having asked me the other two questions, I knew there was connection. After taking a few moments to think, I began rattling off different ways in which my majors actually helped me.

While I may not speak French in the office, having spoken French since 1st grade has provided me with many opportunities that allowed me to expand how I saw and thought of the world. I went to an immersion elementary school where all of my classes were taught in French. In 5th grade I participated in a “Back to Back” program, where at the age of 10 I traveled to Brittany, France, and lived alone with a family for a month and a half. The fall semester of my junior year of college I was again given the opportunity to study abroad in Paris. For four months I studied alongside French students, and explored France, along with other parts of Europe, which allowed me to change how I saw the world. Going to a very small high school, and a fairly small college, I was fairly closed minded to any world outside of what I knew. But exploring different cultures allowed me to not only learn about but actually experience different cultures and understand how and why they do certain things.

As for my American Studies major, it first and foremost gave me a chance to practice writing, which is, as you all know, very important in PR. In the PR industry you have to write a certain way for different people, just as you have to with different professors and different topics. Even at Peppercomm I write pitches one way for a financial services client, and another way for a consumer client, because the people I’m hoping to attract are two very different types of people. My American Studies major has also taught me to think about how to approach a situation or topic from all different aspects. My sophomore year I had to write a seven page paper analyzing a medical advertisement from the 19th century. While at first the task seemed impossible, as the ad was relatively small, I ended up writing more than the seven pages. I analyzed how the characters in the ad were portrayed, from their poses to their clothes, how that reflected the time period, the written text, and who the intended audience was, to name a few. These are all critical thinking skills that the industry uses daily, and I was able to learn them even without the traditional PR major.

When I went in for the interview I was nervous, of course, but had a new confidence I was lacking before.  While on paper I may not have seemed like the most ideal candidate for a PR internship, I knew I had something to offer them. I was essentially pitching myself to this company for a summer internship position, just as you all pitch your clients to publications. They may not always be the most obvious choice for the article, but as a PR professional, or in my case a desiring PR professional, it is up to you to highlight all of the possibilities your clients have to offer, instead of any downfalls they may have. Fortunately, my pitch was successful and I was offered the position. My summer internship only reinforced my desire to continue in the PR industry, and taught me (along with my dad) that even though I don’t have a PR background, that doesn’t put me at a disadvantage for succeeding in the PR world.

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Today’s guest post is by star Peppercomm intern, Mary Insinga.

 

keepcalmsuperintern12During my summer internship here at Peppercomm, my entire intern class was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to spend the afternoon at the Council of PR Firms’ annual ‘Internfest’ hosted at NYU. The conference gathered interns from 15 different public relations firms in the area.  During the event, we heard from a variety of industry professionals, including keynote speaker CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations; Christopher Graves, Managing Partner at Finn Partners; Gail L. Moaney and four Senior Account Executives from various agencies.

Graves began the conference with a discussion about ‘Reputation Killers’ and outlined how brand reputations are established and highlighted some horror stories about how a reputation can be easily tarnished. Next, Gail L. Moaney’s lecture about specialization in the public relations industry seemed to especially strike a chord throughout the audience. Gail spoke of her focus in the travel and economic development industries, while illustrating the range of specializations that a full service public relations firm often offers. Each speaker opened the floor to questions and after Gail’s discussion in particular, the audience seemed eager to pick her brain.

I began to notice a trend in the questions following Gail’s lecture and during the panel discussion. Questions such as, “how would you suggest we go about exploring other specializations within our firm,” and “have you ever felt pigeonholed in your specialization and have become curious about other sectors?” I realized that these were all questions that have never crossed my mind here at Peppercomm. I even spoke to a couple interns afterwards who also expressed that their internship was a very specialized experience.

On my walk to the subway, I reflected on the past few hours of my afternoon and thought, “did they send us here knowing that this would only further our appreciation of Peppercomm?” Because that was exactly my take away.

As a summer intern at Peppercomm, I work on six different accounts across a wide range of industries and have never once felt pigeonholed or stuck in one sector of the PR industry. I work on a bank, a hedge fund, a skin care line, an art auction, an online credit card marketplace and a leading industrial furniture maker. Each account has quenched my exploratory thirst to survey the industry. Thankfully, I have found myself in a full service communications and Marketing firm that encourages its employees to explore and take risks, always giving us the opportunities to do so.

Each week, Peppercomm offers a PSU (which stands for Peppercomm State University) that every employee is encouraged to attend. The PSU’s expose Peppercommers to the full range of services that are offered to our clients and ensures that Peppercomm employees continue to hone their professional skills. PSU has been a unique part of my internship experience and has been instrumental to my understanding of the Peppercomm culture.

It was actually during a recent PSU that I attended called, “Writing a Creative Brief” that I realized my desire to continue to explore and understand a bit more about the services outside of media relations that we offer.

My educational experience in college was very much a creative one, and after watching and listening to the creative team discuss their role in the firm, I found myself truly intrigued. In turn, I reached out to the Creative Director here at Peppercomm, to learn a bit more about the projects and services they offer our clients. One calendar invite later, and I had a meeting to show him some of my creative work.

Listening to the concerns of those other interns at Internfest who seemed eager to get advice on how to excel and how to break out of their current focus, just made me all the more grateful of the comfort and accessibility I feel here at Peppercomm.

The culture at Peppercomm is what I have found to be the most distinguishing feature of my experience as an intern here this summer. The approachability is unmistakable but it seems like this might not be the case for the rest of my fellow PR interns working in NYC this summer.

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Intern Podcast

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