Archive for Peppercom


Laughing our way through the workday

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Today’s post is from Peppercomm intern, Madeline Skahill.

It started as a typical Tuesday morning. Rush hour, bustling streets, and a bright New York sky paved the way for three Peppercomm interns on their way to attend Workforce Live 2013, an event that gives thoughtful insights into becoming an employer of choice. Grabbing the only open chairs in the back of the conference room, Stephanie, Madeline, and Jessica were able to apply their fast-thinking and texting skills to live-tweet the event as well as learn an important comedic lesson from two of the best.

Steve Cody, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Peppercomm and Clayton Fletcher, full-time comedian and Chief Comedy Officer, took the stage at the event to discuss the importance of comedy in the workplace. According to Steve, “Peppercomm is a place where it’s OK to laugh and OK to have fun”, allowing the atmosphere of Peppercomm to truly embody the four elements of a successful business: trust, authenticity, openness and teamwork. From the company’s website to client meetings, these four elements are evident in daily life at Peppercomm.

Embracing these four elements is the fundamental goal of a stand-up comedy experience within the workplace. Steve and Clayton stressed the fact that stand-up comedy is not a monologue of your favorite knock-knock jokes or Popsicle stick puns. It is the ability to relax, tell a story, and build a relationship with your audience. This relationship with the audience, or in our case, fellow employees, is a true factor in what makes Peppercomm stand apart from other PR agencies. It is an atmosphere filled with encouragement, motivation, and success all because we can sit back, relax, and share a good laugh.

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When to call in sick

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The amount of sick days one takes regardless of the level within a company, is something all employers take notice of. As an intern or entry-level professional, it can sometimes be a little nerve wracking to make that call. You want to show your dedication to your job, company and clients and prove that you can work through anything, but you also should be mindful of your own health and those around you you could potentially infect.

Check out Sue Shellenbarger’s article “The Art of Calling In Sick—Or Not”  in The Wall Street Journal which discusses this very issue (and, yours truly is quoted in her article). Are you guilty of some of the items in her piece? When do you think one should call in sick?

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A day in the life

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We love “day in the life” stories. It’s a great way to gain good insight into a company and see what you could potentially be doing in a position with your dream organization.

One of our summer interns with our Business Outcomes division did just that and reflected on some of his tasks while on the team. Read his post on the Washington and Lee University website and learn a bit more about our Business Outcomes team.

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Today’s post is by Peppercom intern, Jackie DiMauro–future PR star and current organizer extraordinaire.

Today, a fellow intern asked me, “Hey! I know you are the queen of planners, where can I get a good one around here?”

Cue the horns, fireworks and fist pumps.

Oh, me? Why thank you. I really AM the queen of planners, aren’t I?

Let’s just say I’d usually feel bad for anyone who stumbled across my color-coded planner, but this was the greatest compliment someone could give an organized-crazed person such as me.

I always carry a planner/journal, a calendar and an iPhone to organize and prioritize my day-to-day life. I started doing this in college when I was juggling six classes, a full-time internship, and somewhat of a social life. Now, even though I’m out of school, these prioritization skills are still relevant and necessary, especially in PR.

My planner helps with many things, including:

  • Keeping track of my time and how long I work on projects.
  • Prioritizing current assignments and staying on top of deadlines.
  • Staying prepared for meetings.
  • Having a visual of my workload.

When you’re constantly prepared for meetings and meeting deadlines, it shows you’re serious about the position and the company. Your managers DO notice these things and they WILL respect you more.

But remember: it’s not only important to be organized and prioritize your workload as an intern, but also to be interactive with your co-workers and team members.

Starting at a new place, we interns may not know the best person to turn to if we have questions and we definitely don’t want to step on any toes. Should we lean on fellow interns? How about an AE? Dare I ask upper management? Sure, any of the aforementioned titles have a time and place to answer questions, especially depending on how closely you work with someone, but interns shouldn’t be afraid to communicate with management.

I’m not saying ask your management supervisor where to find a pen, but if you have a question about an account you’re on or a positive idea to share during a team meeting– then by all means say it! Being proactive and contributing thoughts to the people in power will only help an intern in the long run. It will also help gain the trust and respect of fellow team members who are above you.

Personally, it feels great to interact with upper management, or clients, and be considered a team player. It shows a level of professionalism, that as interns, we strive for.

So go out to your nearest Staples or Barnes & Noble, grab a nice, new, neat planner, and start organizing and prioritizing your workload. And, at your next team meeting, try to contribute an idea or story you’ve come across. Not only will you feel great, but your actions will speak volumes to your team members and managers.

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Today’s post was originally published on Peppercom’s PepperDigital blog.

Every once-in-a-while a marketing/ad team just gets a new product so right. Consumers love the product, the messaging is fantastic and, overall, you wish you and your team had come up with the campaign.

This is not one of those times.

A few days ago I stumbled upon the page for a new writing product from BiC—Cristal for Her. Immediately I was intrigued, because how can a pen be “for her?” Apparently the colors have to be lighter and more sparkly, the weight of the pen must be noticeably lighter and the grip has to be, um, more ladylike.

For reasons I won’t completely bore you with, especially since if you’re above the age of 10, you can see the issue with the product itself. I was fuming just from reading the description of the product.

And I wasn’t alone.

One thing the marketing/ad/PR/apparently the whole company completely forgot about was not just the general public’s reaction to such a ridiculous product, was that, in the digital age, that reaction would get much attention and quickly.

Think about the firestorm you’re creating—you’re offending both men and women:

1) I personally can use a normal pen just fine and suspect a lightweight smaller grip will hinder my writing, not help. The natural conclusion for me is that if this pen is for women and I am a woman, then I must have monstrous hands. Also why do I need a pen “for her”?

2) Men with smaller hands or who like sparkly colors who could potentially want to use this product were just told that it’s a product for women.

And this is just the tip of the offensive iceberg—talk about alienating an entire consumer base.

But these same opinions and many more were mirrored on Twitter, on the reviews and pretty much anywhere an Internet goer can go and quickly.

BiC’s major error was not listening to its audience before creating the product. Peppercom’s go-to-market strategy has completely changed thanks, in large part, to Emily Yellin and her insistence that with new campaigns, etc. we listen to both the client and the client’s audience before implementing a plan. If BiC had done the same thing, they wouldn’t have to include sarcastic comment reviews titled “I’m writing this from the kitchen while making a sandwich for my husband” in their reports about the product. Though, I bet the reports would be pretty funny.

This was definitely not a good move for BiC and they should think about not just apologizing to women, but to the world for such a sexist marketing ploy. But a positive did come out of this; we were again reminded that for better or for worse, social media will spread our ideas (good or bad) in a matter of minutes. This is why marketing/ad/PR pros need to consider all ramifications of a new product or campaign. And, I’ll be completely honest, I would pay money to go back in time and sit in on the meeting to know who green lit this product’s campaign.

If you haven’t already, check out the reviews of this product. I’ll just go off with my monstrous hands and try to make it through the day knowing I’m using a pen designed for a man.

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The Intern Spotlight

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In today’s post, meet Ed Page, current Peppercom intern,  future PR pro and visitor from across the pond.

1.      Tell us about yourself—where did you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercom and public relations?

I am one of the many Ed’s at Peppercom, but the only British one! I am from London, England but live in Henley-On-Thames, a small town by the river Thames in Oxfordshire; famously known for its annual Royal Regatta and cameo in The Social Network. I am a student at the University of Nottingham majoring in American Studies, but a year ago I crossed the pond to go to college in the middle of a corn field, the University of Illinois in Champaign, on an exchange program for 10 months. There I studied a variety of modules such as marketing, journalism, advertising and even got involved with a weekly painting class. During my 10 months at the University of Illinois, I was fortunate enough to join the Illinois branch of the American Advertising Federation (AAF).

While there, I was fortunate enough to gain insight into the world of public relations, marketing and advertising. The membership included placement days, visits to various agencies in Chicago and weekly talks from various notables in the industry. It was these placements and visits to the agencies in Chicago that ultimately ignited my interest and curiosity into the world of Public Relations. It was not however until a family ski trip to Utah with one of Peppercom’s clients in February that I discovered and learned more about the company. Within three weeks I was on a plane to New York for what I thought would be a 20 minute interview, it turned into an hour long conversation with Mr. Ed Moed, Peppercom’s co-founder and the rest is history as they say. It also didn’t hurt that I was wearing a pair of trousers covered in tiny skulls which I think the Peppercom Intern Committee enjoyed quite a lot.

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

I am particularly fond of event planning and that is where a lot of my past experience lies. Coming from an artistic background I am also greatly drawn to the marketing and creative side of PR. I have enjoyed working on a variety of projects thus far from brainstorming and discussing marketing initiatives to gaining insight through H20–Peppercom’s in-house creative department.

3. Any surprises or revelations about the industry?

Prior to working at Peppercom, I would have always said I wanted to focus my efforts on entertainment PR. However, since working at Peppercom, I have realized the extent of how public relations dominates the world in so many different sectors and markets. One of the best things about working at Peppercom and the industry so far has been the interaction with a plethora of clients from all different spheres. I particularly enjoy working with our clients in the financial sector which I never would have thought I would.  I have also come to learn that no day is the same in the PR world which is very exciting; the industry is extremely fast paced and you never know what might occur on any given day. From a crisis popping up to your pitching efforts resulting in a published story, the PR world is a multi-faceted and diverse arena.

4.       Tell us about your proudest moment in the internship program so far.

My proudest moment so far definitely has to be the third day of my internship, the saying “being thrown in at the deep end” is an understatement to say the least. It was a Friday night and one of our clients had a major event the following week and there was still a lot to get organized, myself along with my fellow intern Nicole, stayed until 1 AM putting together various documents that were crucial to the event running smoothly. My initial reaction when the clock struck midnight was “Is every night going to be like this? What am I doing? Have I made a mistake getting into the PR industry” (please note that this is not the norm for this agency)? As the night came to a close and reflecting on that evening, I not only bonded with my team and got to know them, but there was a huge sense of pride and accomplishment when the job was done. The client was happy, we were happy (if not rather tired), the event ran smoothly and the client was very impressed.

5.       Any favorite/inspiring case studies? (This does not have to be limited to Peppercom)

One of my favorite case studies has to be SPOUT: Connecting With Film Lovers. SPOUT is a unique online film community and it came to Peppercom as it needed to drive traffic to its Web site and encourage new members to join.  Being a film-buff myself, I was fascinated to see the work Peppercom did in driving circulation, buzz and obtaining great media coverage surrounding SPOUT; over 5,000 New Yorkers and film enthusiasts subsequently got involved. I find it fascinating how buzz surrounding a company can snowball and traffic grow as a result.

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Impress me. Impress me not.

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I don’t do this often, but once in a while a resume will come through and I notice a very large error(s)—this is where the “I don’t do this often bit” comes in—and will respond to the potential candidate to let them know. Now, I am a stickler for consistency and grammar on resumes, but errors I am referencing are ones that are unforgivable and shouldn’t allow you to be hired anywhere even if you fix the mistake. Sometimes I feel particularly bad and want to let the candidate know before sending it to more potential employers.

Unfortunately, this happened the other day and it is something that would make me never consider this candidate for an internship ever . . . but only because of the way it unfolded.

After a note from the candidate asking if we required a writing sample, I responded and also let this person know that our deadline was that day, but would be happy to take a look even if it was a day or two after our posted deadline. This person immediately sent a resume and cover letter—both filled with errors.

I’m not sure why, but I felt for this person and let them know about one particularly large (and noticeable) error. My mistake.

The person wrote me back immediately, letting me know that he was under “a lot of stress” and corrected ME on something. Defensively saying “Oh, by the way . . . you’re wrong,” is not the way to impress someone who was trying to help you.

Had he thanked me and sent back a resume with the correction, I may have considered him a viable candidate. Even if he had thanked me for alerting him to a mistake that will prevent him from being hired anywhere, I may have reconsidered. Everyone makes mistakes whether or not they like to admit it, which is why despite being a stickler, I can be a bit forgiving.

This person’s cover letter noted that they had applied to “countless jobs to no avail.” I get that, but two things:

  1. Never put that in your cover letter or say that out loud to anyone outside of your mom.
  2. If no one is contacting you at all, that’s a big hint that the issue might be with you.

If you’re applying to a number of jobs and not even getting a response, sometimes it is just a factor of the very competitive job market right now. Alternatively, it could mean that you should tap some specialists to check your resume and/or cover letter. This is when you should go to your career services department at school or even a friend (if you’ve already graduated, many schools are still more than happy to help even just look a resume over).

I will tell you that if a potential employer encourages you to make an edit, you should apply those corrections and resend. The wrong way to respond is with a bad attitude.

Impress me not.


How would you have handled that situation? Any other tips for this candidate?

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An Uncorporate Image

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Guest post by Kendyl Wright – Fellow Peppercommer and “Uncorporate” Senior Account Executive. This post was originally published on RepMan (posted on 8/3/12).


When I moved to NYC in 2006, I had big dreams and expectations of PR greatness. I took a job immediately with one of the world’s biggest PR firm and set out to succeed in the corporate world. Since this blog is about reputations, I will say that this firm had one of the best “corporate” reputations in the public relations industry.

The CEO was responsible for giving Coca-Cola the infamous classic tagline. I should have been in PR heaven. But as my resume will quickly tell you, I was not. I left after six months and moved to a midsize, privately owned firm. I was much happier and felt that this firm fit my work style so much better. But as young New Yorkers often do, I was lured back to a big firm almost 3 years later by the client list, the promise of more money and the appeal of running some of PR’s biggest launch events. About 2 weeks in, it clicked. I am UNCORPORATE.

It would take me 2 more years, another job and a 5 month sabbatical to land at Peppercom. When my friend Rebecca asked to submit my resume, I hesitated. “I don’t want to work at a PR firm. I hate everything about them,” I told her time and time again. After a little convincing on her part, (and a lot on my parents’ part…where I had been “temporarily” crashing during my time off) I decided to take a job at Peppercom.

We talk about image crises a lot in the PR world, but we rarely talk about the culture image of our own firms. Based on my experiences, and those of various friends and colleagues within the industry, corporate life inside the walls of most PR firms is less than encouraging.

In an industry centered around communication and creativity, there’s little brainstorming, less collaboration and not a whole lot of fun. I have friends that work at agencies big & small all over the country and they have countless horror stories of account management, career support and day-to-day lifestyle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I’m just over PR. There’s nothing I like about going to work.” It makes me sad that our industry is so corporate and cold. Why is it that we consistently hear about the creative and inspiring cultures at ad agencies, but PR environments are structured more like banks and law firms?

Two days after I started at Peppercom, the agency hosted our annual “Uncorporate Challenge,” a fun run followed by a happy hour. The slogan of this challenge is “Peppercom – Keeping it Uncorporate since 1995.” Over the next few weeks, those knots in my stomach about working for another PR firm started to subside – I knew I had found a home. And while the out of work activities we have here are definitely fun, it’s my day to day uncorporate experience that has helped me embrace PR again.

Over the past year, I have learned that just because you have the big client names doesn’t mean you have the best job. I’ve learned that working at a place that values the individual and encourages them to flourish as they are is a wonderful and amazing thing. I’ve learned what it means to have a team, in every sense of the word. What it’s like to collaborate and trust those team members and be proud of the work you accomplished together. There’s very little individual blame at Peppercom, and for an industry that seems to always pass the buck, that’s pretty incredible.

I’ve learned that there are managers who listen to you and encourage growth in the areas you are passionate about. I’ve learned that it is possible for the most senior people at a company to know your name and actually care about what happens to you as an individual. But most of all, I’ve learned what it’s like to love coming to work each day. I do better work, I’m a better person and most of all, I don’t miss “corporate” life at all.

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The Intern Spotlight

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In today’s post, meet Jonathan Salm, current Business Outcomes intern with Peppercom’s Business Intelligence Group.

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

I am from Lakeland, Fla., and currently live in Lexington, Va., where I will be a senior at Washington and Lee University (W&L). I am majoring in English and am a philosophy minor, but I’ve been able to take a wide variety of classes as a part of W&L’s liberal arts curriculum. I’ve taken courses in Latin, formal logic, philosophy of law and even a miserable semester of calculus. I’ve also spent some time in W&L’s C-school (school of commerce, economics and politics), where I was in an awesome marketing class last year. In that class we worked on a full-fledged marketing campaign for the National Student Advertising Competition and were divided into teams based upon our skills and interests. I was on the media planning team and was personally in charge of feedback, measurement and evaluation. When my professor forwarded our class an email the Business Outcomes internship at Peppercom, it sounded like it would be a great fit for me. And so far, it has been!

2)      Explain what Business Outcomes is.

Business Outcomes is a division of Peppercom’s Business Intelligence Group. In this industry, firms like Peppercom help companies to form and push out their respective messages. However, the amount of influence and the type of message is hard to quantify. That is where Business Outcomes comes in. By analyzing data and using a flexible algorithmic scoring system, the Business Outcomes team has created a verifiable way to measure success and identify “white space” areas of opportunity. To achieve this we measure the quality and quantity of share of voice and public responses using different analytic variables. With these results, the Business Outcomes team provides benchmarks for success and prescriptive strategies for the future.

3)      How does your division and work fit in with the rest of the agency and clients?

Business Outcomes is an additional service that Peppercom offers on top of public relations work. Some companies want the extra service and analysis that Business Outcomes offers, while others may not be interested. Right now, the Business Outcomes team works with a number of Peppercom’s clients.

4)      What attracted you to this type of work?

During my internship search, I applied for positions with companies in the marketing, advertising, and public relations fields. What really attracted me to the Peppercom Business Outcomes internship was the division’s focus on the “why” of PR. Why are certain messages successful? What kind of messages are more successful than others? And how do different media forms affect these messages? These questions are what Business Outcomes seeks to answer. As an English major and philosophy minor (which might seem at the opposite end of the analytical spectrum), I am continually asked to analyze stories, novels, essays, etc. While postmodern novels and PR messages are quite different, the methods for analyzing and understanding both are exactly the same. The more I thought about it, the more similar this job and my background seemed. Additionally, my strong computer skills (particularly in excel) helped me hit the ground running once I began.

5)      Tell us about your proudest and/or favorite moment of your internship so far.

It was definitely finishing a special project for a Peppercom client. We were asked to analyze every single traditional media hit for a competitor over the course of an entire year. Our search gave us somewhere around 6,000 total hits that we had to read through, sort into buckets, and analyze under a deadline. Thanks to lots of hard work from the Business Outcomes team and the help of a few of my fellow interns, we were able to get it done accurately and on time. It was a great feeling to see the finished presentation after all of the work we put into it.


Other ways to connect with Jon:

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Camouflage and Comedy

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Today’s featured post was written by Nicole Hall, current Peppercom intern and future PR star. This post was originally published on The Stand Up Executive (posted on 7/27/12).



In a culture where everyone is required to dress the same, act the same and sport the same haircut, how are you supposed to practice authenticity?

Before working at Peppercom, I performed media relations and event planning for a Marine Corps organization. I worked mainly with the junior Marines and heard many accounts of their overseas escapades and barracks shenanigans. My favorite is probably their attempt at parachuting off their three-story barracks roof during Hurricane Irene (I didn’t say they used their free time wisely). But what all of these Marines had in common was their ability to be completely uncensored and authentic, both with me and each other. Last Halloween, I planned a short trip for a small group of Marines to see a haunted battleship. At the beginning of the trip, there were two distinct groups of friends who were attending. But after a couple of hours of exchanging funny stories on the road and laughing at the terrible actors on the ship, they were all hanging out together by the end of the night.

From that raw authenticity is how they develop relationships that carry into their workdays and combat situations.

It probably comes as no surprise that enlisting in the military is cited as the most stressful job of 2012. Aside from the obvious stress factors that are associated with overseas deployments, war zones, training and weapons, service members also experience the same situations as we do in our corporate jobs: impressing the boss, working for promotions, being on time, etc.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, comedy doesn’t necessarily belong in all situations, and the military is one of these examples. That doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t practice comedy outside of their camouflage.

When Marines spend time outside of their uniforms, they have the chance to practice comedy which forms bonds that carry into the field.  Living a lifestyle constantly defined by rank and a strict adherence to protocol, it is critical that Marines get the chance to laugh often and be able to express themselves in less stressful environments.

Even though practicing comedy outside of work is effective for the military, it does not mean this is the right mindset for a corporate culture. You don’t want your employees to only enjoy themselves outside of work. And you don’t want to run your business like a military institution—there’s a reason that only a small percentage of Americans choose that environment.

Do your employees practice comedy at work? Or is it encouraged to keep all personal interaction outside of the workplace?

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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