Archive for Public Relations
Today’s guest post is by star Peppercomm intern, Mary Insinga.
During 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.
In today’s post, meet current Peppercomm NYC intern and future communications star, James Stewart.
1) Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?
Well, for starters, I’m a rising senior majoring in PR and minoring in history at the University of South Carolina. I’m from a small coastal town in Rhode Island called Westerly. It’s essentially the smallest town, in the smallest state in the country, but the beaches are amazing and it’s made me a true lover of being on the waterfront. During the summer, I was the town Dockmaster (note Dockmaster, not Harbormaster; told you my town is tiny) for three years and over the course of my time there, it made me realize how lucky I was to be able to sit in a shack on the waterfront. Instead of a computer screen, I got to stare at this all day:
Life was good. But the dock job also made me realize that I love dealing with people (even when I don’t love the people) and a huge part of PR is just that—dealing with all different types of people. I find it fascinating.
I play the bass guitar and have a shameless, secret love for 70s and 80s music (I had an afro in high school.) I also love cars. And time-machines. And Legos. This can best be signified by my Lego DeLorean I bought last week, complete with Marty McFly’s hoverboard. It’s pure awesomeness. This goes back to my love of history; though perhaps I could also be a toddler stuck in the body of a 21-year-old.
I was born in an ’88 Cadillac Eldorado, so maybe that has something to do with my love for cars. Regardless, I would love to be involved in the auto industry someday.
My dad works for a company that is a client of Peppercomm and it was through his introduction that I had the opportunity to meet the co-CEOs, Ed and Steve. After interviewing them and several other employees last August, I walked away from 470 Park Ave knowing a lot more than I’d come in with, that morning.
I had never set foot in a PR firm before in my life, nor did I really understand the day-to-day activities at a firm. Long-story-short, I didn’t know jack about PR (besides the very general survey classes I had taken at USC) I realized immediately that Peppercomm was a place where I could learn far more than school could ever teach me about the industry. On top of this, I fell in love immediately with the work culture, the people and even the reason the company is called Peppercomm (dogs rule).
2) What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?
This is a tough question for me to answer; every day I find myself exposed to a facet of the industry that’s a little different. Most of the accounts I support are financial, though I have gotten a decent exposure to the more consumer-based clients as well. As far as actual work, I love dealing with people (did I mention I like people?). From media outreach to client calls, I find myself enjoying the actual points of contact that I’m able to engage with people in.
With that being said, I have to say my favorite activity is dealing with media relations. My parents were both journalists that worked for The Washington Post, Providence Journal and L.A. Times over the course of their careers, so I find a lot of similarities between the journalists and editors I correspond with and how my parents are. In addition, the media is practically the other side of the coin when it comes to our work, so I love being able to foster those relationships that will benefit both parties for the long-run.
3) Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?
To be honest, everything. Like I said, I had no idea what I was getting into, other than I knew PR involved writing and that I liked to write. My biggest surprise is how much responsibility I’ve been given as an intern. It’s absolutely liberating in the sense that my work and opinions hold just as much weight as the associates and account executives I work with. Yesterday, I got to be involved in a brainstorm and my ideas were put right up on the wall and into the mix.
Also, the only coffee I get is for me. Mind blown.
I once heard a story from a friend who interned at a competing PR firm a few years ago and for her last day of work, her boss had her manually transfer contact info from an old BlackBerry to a new one. All I can say, is that at least she was getting paid. I have never once dealt with anything like this. In fact, the opposite—I often find myself being asked to take on more responsibility, and hit the ground running.
But here’s the flip-side. You can seriously mess something up if you aren’t careful. And that is terrifying yet gratifying at the same time.
4) Where do you see yourself going in the industry?
Once I graduate from school, I want to gain employment at an independent firm. This is the best way to get exposed to all sorts of PR work in a wide variety of industries, and from this knowledge I can learn what I love and hate. I want to eventually make the switch from an independent firm to an in-house department in the automotive industry. Ultimately, I hope to follow in the footsteps of Peppercomm’s founders and establish my own communications firm someday. Until then, being an intern is a good step in that direction.
Today’s guest post is by future communications star and current Peppercomm intern, Samantha Rushovich.
During my sophomore year at Boston University, I found myself in a difficult position–I was a film and television major, but quickly learned that it was not the career track for me. By the end of the term I decided I needed to make a decision, and soon, regarding my major. I decided to try advertising.
I took advertising 101 the next semester and kept film and television as my minor (I wanted to continue with my screenwriting classes). I enjoyed advertising, but I wasn’t motivated. I poked around on some ad agency websites searching for internship opportunities, but wasn’t inspired by any of the positions I found.
I did some research into public relations. As I learned more about the differences between the two professions, my interest quickly escalated. PR was challenging in a way that advertising wasn’t. Stuck in advertising classes for the semester, I decided to pursue public relations outside of the classroom. I was determined to get a PR internship for the upcoming summer, but had no intention of going in blind.
I immediately joined Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA )and attended as many meetings as I could. At a PRSSA convention I attended, the first keynote speaker was Rob Flaherty, CEO of Ketchum. I was sitting there confused and nervous when suddenly Flaherty called out a number. I looked down at a piece of paper I was handed when I walked in. He had called my number. I raised my hand and he came over and handed me brand new iPod speakers. If this wasn’t a sign that I had found the right major, then I don’t know what is?
I applied to be an account executive for Unleashed PR,the student run PR agency at BU, where I started acquiring account experience, and a better understanding of how the industry works.
Next, I started hunting for all summer internships I was qualified for in the Boston area. Several interviews and a couple rejections later, I received an email saying I was accepted to be a special events intern at the Alzheimer’s Association, helping organize their annual charity walk that drew thousands of attendees each year. A PR internship that also included event planning and was at a non-profit I was a huge supporter of? I was absolutely thrilled. On top of that I had secured a fall internship for myself at a PR and lobbying firm.
From non-profit to public affairs, I was well on my way to becoming a PR professional just like that. At the start of the semester my future seemed bleak. I was picturing myself waiting tables in L.A. while trying to sell screenplays. Suddenly, my future seemed bright and thrilling, filled with potential success and excitement.
So, what does all this mean? It means that even if you’re not a senior graduate student with a 4.0, you can still land the internship you want. You just need to take the initiative and do what you have to do in order to get what you want. It’s surprising how far you can get yourself when you’re determined.
When your new intern shows up late for the 83948394 time and feeds you a story about his/her [insert problem: car, boyfriend, school]
Today’s post is by Peppercomm co-founder Steve Cody, and originally ran on his blog, RepMan.
We just won a very nice piece of business yesterday. And, the new client told me one of the contributing factors was our very different business model.
Unlike 99 percent of PR firms and advertising agencies, our business is divided neither by geography nor by practice group. So, in the former instance, we don’t have multiple profit centers fighting for their share of the client’s budget. In the latter, it means you won’t a find a Tech Group or a Health Care Practice at Peppercomm.
And, while prospects absolutely adore the first differentiator they can be puzzled by our silo-free business model. But, then we explain the logic:
- Initially, Peppercomm DID feature three practice groups: one was a BtoB unit, another was consumer and the third was comprised of dotcom era tech heads. The three group heads saw themselves as Vladimir Putin wanna-bes.
Even though they didn’t have separate P&L’s, they acted as if they did. So, they wouldn’t share information or resources. Within a few years’ time, we actually had three tiny agencies within one. And, the internecine warfare actually got nasty at times.
The dotcom crash enabled us to blow up the practice silo approach and start over.
- Today, we match the client or prospect’s specific needs with an integrated communications team that possesses the deepest industry-specific expertise, the right set of traditional, social or digital skills AND exhibits the most passion for the new account. That assures a win-win on both sides.
A practice-free workplace also assures our employees aren’t pigeon-holed in one area for their entire careers. Trust me, once you’ve spent five or six years plying your trade as a health care specialist, you’ll never find a gig with an agency representing Fortune 500 BtoB or financial services organizations.
It also provides an employee with variety. So, in the morning, Jane may be working on MINI Cooper and TGI Friday’s and, in the afternoon, she’ll switch to Honeywell and Oppenheimer. It’s a beautiful thing when it’s managed correctly.
And, truthfully, the latter is really our greatest challenge. Happily, though, we have a talented group of middle and senior managers who keep a close eye on who works on what.
Like my alma mater, Northeastern University, which pioneered the Co-op system of education, our practice-free model isn’t for everyone. Nor is it for the faint of heart.
And, for those of you who think it prevents specialization in an era of specialization, think again. Our model also assures that should Sally WANT to specialize in financial services only, she can. Ditto for Dave’s desire to only work on consumer business.
The model works.
So, for those of you who are burning out after 10 years of representing the same old clients in the same old category and pitching the same old trade or beat reporters, shoot me a note. Ditto to those of you who may just starting out, and believe variety is the spice of life. We just might have a silo-free gig for you.
Having helped run Peppercomm’s intern program for several years–knowing hat to look for in a candidate has become second nature.
We’re always looking for candidates who are:
- Smart (duh)
- Quick studies
- Willing to learn
- Fit in with our unique culture
Of course, there are some basic skills that are a must such as great writing and researching skills. It’s always a bonus if you already posses some media relations skills, but those are skills that can certainly be taught.
If you’re interested in our program, SURPRISE, we’re hiring now. Check out our intern program page for more information and how to apply. And if you’re looking for the perfect intern model, here’s a great video to use as a “guide” (maybe don’t do everything from this video . . . or any of it–but who doesn’t love the Muppets): What If The Muppets Were Interns.
Recently, my mother (of all people) directed me to the following Cracked article from David Wong: “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person”. In her note with the link, my mom advised, “Long and with bad language, but funny and good points made.” Naturally, I was intrigued, and decided to give ‘er a read—and a delightfully inappropriate, engaging read it was!
In addition to a glorious image of Lenny Kravitz prancing around in a titanic scarf, Wong gave me the push I needed to “own” 2014. While this specific piece features many worthy pointers, one argument stood out in particular. To quote Wong*:
… The end of 2014, that’s our deadline. While other people are telling you “Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to lose 15 pounds this year!” I’m going to say let’s pledge to do freaking anything — add any skill, any improvement to your human tool set, and get good enough at it to impress people. Don’t ask me what – good grief, pick something at random if you don’t know. Take a class in karate, or ballroom dancing, or pottery. Learn to bake. Build a birdhouse. Learn massage. Learn a programming language. Film a parody. Adopt a superhero persona and fight crime. Write a comment on PRiscope.
But the key is, I don’t want you to focus on something great that you’re going to make happen to you (“I’m going to find a husband, I’m going to make lots of money…”). I want you to purely focus on giving yourself a skill that would make you ever so slightly more interesting and valuable to other people.
“I don’t have the money to take a cooking class.” Then Google “how to cook.” Dagnabbit, you have to kill those excuses. Or they will kill you.
Of course self-improvement, and this idea of “adding value to society” is nothing new; but Wong found a way to voice the point in an amusing way that forced me to listen. As a semi-recent college grad making my career début in the PR field, Wong made me consider the many ways in which I can add value to the audiences in my life—I can learn a new communication skill or program that will benefit my agency and my clients; I can add a new activity to my repertoire to be more interesting and useful to my friends and family; I can be a more gracious neighbor to well…benefit my neighbors (duh); and the list goes on.
The opportunities are there, and excuses are so 2013. Now it’s up to you to develop the skills that’ll help you stand out—as a student, intern, prospective employee, whatever it may be—and benefit the world around you.
How will you apply Wong’s advice to your life this year? Tell us in the comments below!
* And by “to quote Wong” I really mean to “express Wong’s sentiment in a slightly** less offensive manner that aligns more closely with PRiscope’s values & purposes”
** And by “a slightly” I mean “an extremely”
We all love lists, right? I sure do (*cough* Buzzfeed *cough*). I came across two lists this past week that not only give good advice, but also have fantastic imagery to go along with each point. One has to do with what journalists do that annoy PR pros and, of course, the second list looks at what PR pros do to annoy journalists.
I hope you enjoy as much as I do:
I hope you pictured me with a cane while shaking my fist when reading the headline.
Almost every intern session, we have one or two people innocently ask, “How did you do XYZ before the internet?”
Luckily for me, I was not working in the field prior to Google being the go-to for any quick research, so I have always been able to look up a reporter, do research, pull data, etc.
It always surprises me when that question pops up—maybe because I was used to not simply relying on the Internet in school. I definitely benefited, but even in college, I was still mainly using books (yay, being a history major and really getting to know LexisNexis).
When I first started in the industry, I had purchased a book on public relations that might have been printed in the late-90s. Most of the tactics were tailored for pre-internet success, which was great for learning how things used to be done. Not so great for getting things done when I had no one to learn from.
So, what did you have to do without the internet to be effective in the industry? You were making more phone calls, having more in-person meetings and you were fighting over a printed database of media contacts that was issued periodically.
After doing some research (yes, using the internet), it looks like there are a fair amount of “history of PR” courses offered. I’m not sure if this is a requirement for any programs, but it should be. It’s always good to know about your own industry and how it started and evolved. Even the term “PR” is too specific to describe the type of work I do at least at a strategic communications and marketing firm.
But not knowing the history and evolution of your own industry goes beyond knowing how current companies were formed. You can learn about effective tactics that might be applicable today, spark ideas, but, most importantly, not look “uneducated” by asking questions like that to supervisors who may have worked during the time before the internet.
The Economist printed an interesting article a few years ago that touches on some of the beginnings of the industry as we know it. I’ve been looking into some good books–and better than the ones I initially read–that provide a good history of the industry, but am always open to suggestions.