Archive for New York City

Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm management supervisor, Lauren Parker.

As a little kid, I dreamed of being an actress in New York City. When I had my chance to belt out a solo in Beauty and the Beast’s classic tune “Be Our Guest” as part of a summer musical theater troupe, I quickly realized that being in the spotlight simply isn’t my thing. I was much happier supporting the chorus and trying not to fall out of my mother’s four-inch heels.

All this is to say that public speaking and sales does not come naturally to me. But funnily enough, my first job was in sales. I wasn’t cold calling time-strapped business executives, but I was peddling the latest flat of perennials at Siebenthaler’s Garden Center.

Although I was just a 16-year-old, I had a number of responsibilities including manning the cash register, watering plants and helping shoppers select the ideal bird feed. The job wasn’t glamorous. I didn’t feel comfortable talking to customers all day, especially when they had complex botanical questions and I didn’t have the answer. I also became frustrated from time to time when my job seemed menial or boring (restock the terra cotta pots AGAIN?!).

I did have a few moments of real pride. The longer I worked there, the more knowledge I absorbed and the better I was at helping customers. I began to feel more comfortable in my role, which helped my confidence and even led to some big sales as a result of my recommendations. Halfway through the summer, my manager even asked me to train the new hire.

A few key lessons I learned from my first job are small but significant:

  • Fake it ‘til you make it – I learned that there will always be aspects of any job that you aren’t comfortable with. But if you step up to the plate and try – with a smile – chances are it will become more natural over time.
  • It’s OK to say “I don’t know” – When you’re young, you think you know everything. When you start to get older, you realize how little you know, but you also realize that it’s OK. Back then, I felt like a failure when I didn’t know a question, even though I had zero experience in studying plants. Today, I am constantly confronted with questions from co-workers, managers and clients and I don’t always know the answer. The best response, I’ve found, is “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”
  • Understand the bigger picture – As low man on the totem pole, I felt like an insignificant employee at times. I saw others at the store that had such a wealth of knowledge about plants and others who were skilled at managing a retail store. I, more or less, just did what I was told. It wasn’t until I stepped back and realized that someone’s got to water the plants and change the receipt feed in the register. In my job today, I can take that lesson and not only see how my contributions help Peppercomm and my clients, but how I can help others at the agency recognize their value.

When you are just starting out in your career, you will fumble from time to time. The important thing is to learn from those experiences and improve.

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The Intern Spotlight

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In today’s post, meet Peppercomm intern and future PR star, Chris Piedmont.

Piedmont, Chris

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

I’m currently a senior at the College of Charleston located in historic downtown Charleston, SC where I’m serving as the Student Body Vice President this year. I grew up just outside of Charleston in a small suburb. After spending my first year of college at another university in the upstate of SC, Charleston called me home.  When I originally went off to school, I was dead set on going into education but, after my introductory class had us tutoring local high school children, I felt like something was off. I decided I wanted to pursue a degree in something I could do more with than teach and, if the call to educate came later in life, I could always take classes to get my teaching certification.

After making this decision, I started taking career surveys to figure out what I should consider. One of the surveys suggested that I’d be good at teaching (shocker), psychiatry and public relations. Prior to this, I never understood what public relations field really was but decided to try it out and I’ve never looked back.

My interest in public relations was what sparked my transfer back home to the College of Charleston due to our thriving strategic communication program, our Advisory Council and the internship opportunities available in the Charleston area that were not as easy to find in the upstate. A month after I started at CofC, I had the pleasure of hearing Steve Cody speak at one of our Advisory Council Student Forums about developing your own personal brand. I was so blown away by his ability to connect with everyone in the room, make us all laugh, and learn at the same time. Later in the year, I was able to participate in a networking trip to NYC and one of our stops was Peppercomm. While visiting, we learned about Peppercomm, the internship program and the great work and culture that exists here. After seeing all this, I knew that this was the place for me and I still get excited every day to come in to work because I’ve wanted this for so long.

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

Right now, I find public affairs the most appealing part of the industry because it’s the unknown for me. I haven’t had the opportunity to do much work in this area and would love to take a stab at it. With that said, I really enjoy the consumer and financial services sectors that I’ve been introduced to recently.

 3.  Any surprises or revelations about the industry?

One surprise for me would be the extent to which public relations professionals love their jobs and have fun while at work. In talking with friends at other internships in different sectors, they are getting coffee, filing papers, and not really enjoying life. For my friends in PR internships and myself, that couldn’t be further from the case. We’re getting hands-on experience and learning from professionals who light up when they come to work.

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

Who knows? If I’ve learned anything from networking and speaking to my colleagues here at Peppercomm and elsewhere in the public relations industry, it’s that you never know where you’ll end up because opportunities simply have a way of presenting themselves. While I’d like to say that my crystal ball is in full working condition and that I know exactly where I’ll be in one, five, or 10 years, I can’t. I simply plan on working my hardest and taking any and every opportunity that presents itself because there’s always something more to be learned.

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Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm interns Nick Gilyard and Taylor Hatch and originally ran on RepMan on August 1. 

intern oooqueenTuesday night marked the third annual Intern Queen Party, hosted by the “Intern Queen” herself, Lauren Berger, a well-known career and internships expert. The event was both a celebration and a chance to network with a panel of top intern coordinators and executives from companies such as Mashable, Cosmopolitan, and US Weekly.

At least, that’s how the event was advertised.

We were very excited to be Peppercomm’s intern representatives at this much anticipated event. But, most unfortunately, it was a disappointing evening. The event was billed as a fun and exciting venue for interns to network and obtain career advice from professionals. But in reality it was a party to promote the Intern Queen’s personal brand..

The problems began in the line outside the Ann Taylor Flagship Store, where the Intern Queen Party was held. Since the first 100 guests inside were promised a gift bag, we arrived an hour before doors were scheduled to open and were surprised to see a line of 50 interns had already formed.
It seemed we were waiting to enter a club rather than an event with professionals. Many of our fellow interns—almost entirely female—were dressed in tight clothing with short skirts and sky-high heels. After about 45 minutes, a bouncer came through the line, rejecting numerous fake ID (yes, hopeful interns actually tried to use fake IDs at an event filled with potential employers) and handing out pink wristbands to all legal guests for the open bar.

We were greeted by music blaring from the DJ on the second floor, and Bartenders in tight, pink shirts that read, “Keep Calm and Intern On” handing out drink after drink to those swarming the bars. Of course, we have both attended professional events where drinks were served, but we had never seen this happen at an intern-centered event (perhaps because most potential employers and mentors prefer that interns not be buzzed when asking for advice). It reminded us of a college party, with people rushing to the bar for as many drinks as possible before it closed.

At Peppercomm, we see a lot of brands run into trouble when the service they think they are providing doesn’t at all match up to the experience the customer is having. This is why it’s so important to listen to your consumers and to experience your brand or service through their eyes. So here are some things that The Intern Queen brand might want to take into consideration:

•    RSVP has a purpose. It is unacceptable to insist that attendees RSVP, print out tickets and wait in line for over an hour only to get inside and realize people who are clearly neither interns nor invited professionals are wandering in off the street. This makes the customer who took the time to preregister feel fooled and undervalued.
•    First 100 should mean FIRST 100. Promising the first 100 people into the event a gift is a great way to ensure that people show up early. But having people show up early only to open a second line for what could only be perceived as VIPs minutes before the door opened is dishonest, which is never a good thing.
•    Space matters. If the point of the event is to network and listen to a panel but there are entirely too many people to do either, you’ve failed your guests. We could not make it up to the third floor when it was time for the panel discussion due to the sheer number of people attempting to crowd the stairs. Even attendees who did manage to make it to the panel complained that they were so far away they could not even hear the experts’ advice.
•    Be inclusive. If your invitation is open to everyone (males and females) but the event caters only to women (with teal, over-sized totes as gift bags and professional makeup artists doing touchups for free) then you are being misleading and exclusionary, two words that can be extremely damaging to any brand.

The criticisms we’ve made thus far about The Intern Queen Party would be nothing but minor complaints or annoyances if it weren’t for the element that has plagued many a brand: deception. As interns we developed certain expectations after reading about Ms. Berger and the promotions for her event.

Perhaps our expectations were a bit naïve, but we expected an event for interns and hosted by such a well-respected career expert known as the “Intern Queen” to serve interns in a meaningful, career-minded way. Instead, we were handed copies of Ms. Berger’s book and offered the opportunity to pose with her in pictures, making us feel used rather than valued.

Based on our experiences and observations at Peppercomm, we even commented that the Intern Queen Party had all the elements for a great example of public relations. Obviously, it is both acceptable and smart to build word-of-mouth around your brand. Some strategies include generating an eye-catching line outside the door, offering giveaways of your product, and encouraging photo-ops.
However, when you succeed at generating attention for your brand while failing to provide value for your customers, that is nothing but bad PR. While we appreciated the opportunity to attend the Intern Queen Party, frankly, we left feeling more like jesters than royalty.

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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.

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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.

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Categories : New York City
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Finding the best place to work

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We probably hooked you with that title, right?

Everyone wants to find THE best place to work. Well, Kristin, Lin and I were asked to give some tips on what to look for and how to get to that perfect company for New York Women in Communications’ NEXT Blog.

Check out the post for all of our tips.

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The office party

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‘Tis the season for lots of cheer, fun, gifts and . . . company holiday parties. The latter is almost always fun, as long as you remember a few key points, the basis of that being to remember that despite how much alcohol is served, it is still a work function.

You can still have fun and let loose with your coworkers, but remember, what happens at the holiday party definitely stays in everyone’s memories throughout the year (or who knows, maybe even longer depending on the legacy you leave).

It’s never bad to carry yourself a bit more formally and remember that how you want to be perceived in your work life, is also how you should carry yourself at work events. But there are a few rules to remember.  Check out The Wall Street Journal’s 23 Rules of the Office Holiday Party for a full (and funny) list of tips and tricks.

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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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How rude

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There are many things in life that annoy me and other people who hire for his or her respective companies, including, but certainly not limited to:

  • Spelling errors on a resume/cover letter
  • Using a different company name when mentioning the place you’re applying to
  • A resume that’s on two pages—especially when you’re entry/mid-level, there is no need for a resume that long and if you do, make it two FULL pages; not a page and a half . . . or a page and a quarter

While these are pretty big errors, sometimes they can be saved by a follow-up note apologizing, etc. However, one faux pas that you can never save yourself from (without having a very legitimate excuse) is having a set interview time and not showing up/picking up the phone when you are called by the person who has set that time aside.

There is nothing more disrespectful to an interviewee and someone who coordinated a meeting time than to simply not show up. Of course, things happen and some people take different positions at other companies, but you should alert the person you’re meeting with to withdraw your application.

Many may think this is just common sense and the first rule of interviewing etiquette, but you would be surprised. It’s one action that will make me remember someone in a negative light. Cue Stephanie Tanner’s catchphrase.


What are your thoughts on this behavior? Do you think this is the kiss of death with a potential employer? Or is there something worse?

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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