Archive for Business

Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm director, Lia LoBello

Or: How to Deal with Crazy Teenage Boys Yelling at You

Soccer Referee Handing Out a Red Card

This is NOT Lia LoBello, but this is what we imagine her experience to look like.

In high school, the goal for many – not all, but many – 16-year-old girls to attract the attention of boys in a positive way. At my first job, I spent my Saturday and Sunday mornings getting screamed at by not just teenage boys, but their parents as well. I was a soccer referee.

It didn’t dawn on me until many years later the lunacy of refereeing boys my own age. As a soccer player, refereeing soccer games was an easy job – I knew the rules, I got paid in cash, and the field was around the corner from my house. The pay structure was simple – the center ref made double the amount of the age group playing in the game, and the line ref made the age exactly. That meant, if I refereed a minimum of four games – and in the South Florida sun, that was a simple 8 a.m. – 2pm work day – I could earn anywhere from $64-$128 in cold, hard, cash.  For a high school student, that was an incredible amount of money to have in hand every week!

The flipside was obvious – 16 year-old-boys are not known for tact, nor are they known for taking sports, shall we say, lightly. Put it together, and every perceived missed call, every questioned line judgment, and God forbid, any yellow or red cards was met by yelling, eye-rolling, and hands thrown in the air accompanied by a John McEnroe-like “ARE YOU SERIOUS?”

Looking back, however, I learned a lot from the job. I mean – how could I not have learned?! I learned how to stand my ground, to trust my judgment and to diffuse difficult situations. I learned how to walk by crazy parents while keeping my head high and I learned what was worth my time and attention to care about, as well as what was not. In the job I do today, which involves negotiating diverse personalities, keeping many balls in the air, and keeping teams motivated – I can make a direct correlation to my success in these departments to my time as a referee.

It’s also worth mentioning I had a killer tan.

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Sep
29

Surviving Office Politics

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office-politic-1Like it or not, there are personalities you’ll get along with very well and then those you may feel some friction with. It’s been the case since your school days and doesn’t end in the office.

Office politics is a game we all know and love to hate (or at least some of us do), but we have to acknowledge its existence. And, surprisingly, office politics isn’t all bad.

When starting your new job or internship, be yourself, but also do your best to assess the situation and the culture. See how your team interacts with each other and with other teams.

Next, think about how best to play “the game.”

The Good:

Some offices have supervisors, some have mentors, and some have both. But, you will always have yourself. You should always be your own advocate. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn when you’ve done something well. If there is a really unique idea that you have, you should share it with your superiors. Just be careful not to have it come off as bragging or to seemingly step on someone’s toes. You can strike a good balance. But selling yourself and what you bring to the table is the key to getting raises, promotions, etc. And while some may advocate for you, oftentimes you also need to do so for yourself.

The Bad:

You’ve started a new job and really don’t know anyone in the office and haven’t figured out if there are any bad apples in the bunch (and there might not be). Be wary of the office bully or any gossips. Like in school, you don’t want to end up in “the wrong crowd” and it actually can happen in a professional setting.

If these people do exist in your new environment, sometimes you can’t avoid interaction because you’re on the same team. Keep doing what you do best and follow the plan of “the good.” It’s also best not to associate with them unless absolutely necessary.

The Ugly:

Unfortunately, not all offices are the same. There are some incredibly volatile ones. Competition can sometimes be healthy, but when colleagues and even bosses are conniving, it’s not a good situation for you. The key here is to weigh the pros and cons and decide whether or not this type of environment is one you can handle. If it’s not, then it might be time for you to move on.

With any new experience, always try to feel things out, do your best work and be yourself. Just remember that office politics exists and it’s best to know how to play rather than ignore it.

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Sep
22

Got skills?

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Today’s post is by former Peppercomm intern and future industry star, Jess Schram, who interned during this past summer session. 

Resume talk: Social Media

social-media-resume-360Eighty-nine percent of 18- to 29-year-old internet users are now active on social media, yet far too many of those millennials seem to think that adding “Facebook” and “Twitter” to their resumes will set them apart from other candidates and land them a high-paying job.

Too often people neglect to consider the important aspects of social media like listening and engaging, and consider themselves social gurus the moment they tweet about Brazil’s embarrassing soccer skills or Instagram a picture of their lunchtime ‘froyo’ and receive a few stars and hearts in their news feeds.

Newsflash: it’s 2014! Social media is nothing new—even my Nana has an Instagram to flaunt her Boca life in filtered glory.

Now, I’m not saying social media should be totally swiped from your resume. Being able to use social media is important skill in the communications world, but should only be added to your list of talents if you know how to use it effectively.

If you want to position yourself as an intern who knows the ropes on social, use these tips to help you stand out:

1. Know your audience

Think about your audience’s demographic and psychographic.  What do they care about? How can your social posts evoke emotion (humor, excitement, fear, happiness, motivation, etc.) in your readers? Everything you post on social media should be helpful, useful and relevant to your audience. If you can’t answer the question, “Why should they care?” trash it.

 2. Use correct and relevant hashtags

Because hashtags are how people can easily search for topics on social media, they can help get your posts into threads of relevant conversations, and therefore seen by the masses. Using hashtags correctly can increase buzz around your client’s brand and help you target current fans and future stakeholders.

It’s also necessary to start and continue with relevant hashtags to track and improve your social strategy. The number one reason hashtags fail is the lack of consistency between them. Why use #ConferenceX2013 and #ConferenceX2014 when you can track the success of #ConferenceX year after year and compare analytics for ROI? #Duh

3. Play more

Be human!  If your brand allows, don’t be afraid to be funny on social media or create a voice that will set you apart from your competitors. Virgin Mobile’s Twitter  is one of my favorite accounts to follow, and has done a great job of creating a unique voice for itself through playful, humorous tweets.

4. Actively listen and engage

Pushing out content isn’t enough, even if it’s relevant and interesting. If you want to be an all-star social media intern, you need to jump into conversations happening in your client’s industry and actively participate in them. Listen to influencers, engage with fans, answer skeptics’ questions, and reach out to users in your target demographic to build relationships and improve customer loyalty. Listening and engaging should be proactive not reactive practices.

 5. Repeat!

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re still an intern, so you have some time to practice. That said, it’s important to expand your social media use past your personal accounts and get experience writing on behalf of a client or brand. If you don’t already, just ask! No experience? Tell your supervisor you’ve been reading up on social media, but have yet to get your feet wet. This blog’s a good start, don’t you think? Humor me. Even now, after managing more than six accounts throughout my intern years, including my most recent venture to make my cat famous, I still look for ways to improve and practice.

My final advice to you is this: Just because you’re a millennial doesn’t mean you’re an expert on social media, but it also doesn’t mean you can’t be. Know your audience, use hashtags correctly, create a voice for your brand, and most importantly: Listen. Engage. Repeat. (Peppercomm’s mantra.)

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Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm business affairs supervisor, Kelly Lorenz

 

IMG_8492 Early to rise! That phrase is never music to a teenager’s ears, especially during summer break. However, I was an anomaly. My first job when I was 14-years-old was working on a horse farm, starting in the wee hours of the morning, often before the sun even came up. Translation: I shoveled horse poop and avoided getting kicked in the face by aggressive stud horses. But that’s not all my work experience chalked up to be – it was only the beginning.

To be clear, I had my own horses growing up so I was accustomed to cleaning stalls, throwing large bales of hay and all of the dirty work that comes with these incredible animals. But that was for three horses, not 30, and I was riding solo in this job.

Even though temperatures were in the 90s by early-morning and I wore jeans and boots, I look back on this work experience for giving me the most fun and rewarding summer of my youth. In fact, I’d do this every summer if I could. In the meantime, I carry a few lessons with me to this day:

-          Take pride in your work, no matter the task. Nobody wants to shovel s%#t, but somebody has to. So do it right, and do it well. I could have had a negative attitude and complained about the task, but instead I shoveled that dung like a rock star. My supervisor noticed and said the stalls had never been cleaner, done so quickly or without complaint. She hired two more people to take over most of that work so I could focus on other (less smelly) tasks.

-          Seek out opportunities. Growing up I mostly rode for pleasure and recreation, and my horses were well-trained. Many of the horses at the farm were owned by renowned riders and trainers who had a lot of expertise to share. As I built a rapport with the owners that summer, they saw how I handled their animals. So, they offered me complimentary training and most allowed me to train on their horses. Additionally, many offered me side jobs to exercise their horses at an hourly rate that’s nearly triple today’s minimum wage.

-          Capitalize on your strengths. There were many moving pieces and varying factors to completing this work in timely manner each day. For one, just like people, horses can be somewhat temperamental. Some horses can’t be around other horses (especially studs with mares…hello baby colts!), other horses can’t be removed from their stalls and the damn donkey that bites everyone/thing, but begs to socialize is another story. Not to mention the large ground you’re covering and the amounts of manual labor you’re required to complete in a short period of time. Here, organization and efficiency was everything. This is when I realized I had a strength for process and execution which are skills I use to this day in my professional life. I can steer a wheelbarrow while in a full sprint like a champ.

So, what was the biggest lesson learnt while shoveling dung? Turn work into play and you’ll never work a day in your life. I’d be fooling myself if I said this job wasn’t exhausting and dirty. This job was also a blast! Aside from working with horses, my one true love – horses –, I watched the sunrise over the mountains each morning, dunked friends in horse troughs of ice cold water and made human electric fence shock chains (not advised, and I was only 14). Not to mention my toned biceps, blond hair and killer farmers tan were the envy of every country girl when we returned to school in the fall.

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Aug
08

My First Job: In A Nutshell

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Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm associate, Madeline Skahill. 

While I have had my fair share of babysitting jobs and teaching younger kids the ropes of soccer at camp, my first “real” job all began during the warm summer months of Williamsburg. When you say “Williamsburg” to a group of New Yorkers, they automatically assume the trendy neighborhood of New York. However, when you say “Williamsburg” to anyone who has ever been on a field trip or have grandparents who live in the south, they think of Colonial Williamsburg; the mecca of bonnets, cannons, and daily reenactments  of 18th century life.

The summers in Colonial Williamsburg were where the tourists went to play and the high school students sought summer jobs. As a majority of my friends obtained jobs as hostesses at neighboring restaurants, I was lucky enough to land a job as a Sales Associate at “The Williamsburg Peanut Shop.” While I can’t say I ever felt a true passion behind how peanuts were made and seasoned, I can say that my summer months spent in the small store located on the corner of a bustling street, taught me a few lessons I will always be able to apply in my career.

  • Perform at your best, no matter what task you are completing: My first day on the job consisted of grabbing a fork from the back room and picking out the melted chocolate covered peanuts from the cracks of the wooden floor. While some may say this may not seem like the most ideal task, I knew if I did not get this job done right, my entire summer would be spent performing similar tasks.  Dedicating myself to this task, left the floors clean and my manager happy about my positive attitude and efficient works style. This was the last time I ever scrubbed the floors.
  • The customer is always right: This may not be entirely true, but for the most part dealing with an unhappy customer, or client, makes the task at hand, much more challenging. Understanding the needs of the customer, not only makes your job easier, but allows you to complete the job right and in a timely manner.
  • Never under-estimate your skills: Although I worked with a fair amount of people my age, the managers of the store were much older. That being said, I quickly learned that in order to gain more responsibly in the store, I had to show the managers I could think and act on their level.  By contributing to conversations about what products to buy for the store or how to handle the store operations when a summer storm knocks the power out, I was able to close the age gap between my co-workers and myself. While my ideas and thoughts may not have always been right, I did not let the age gap hinder the jobs I deserved to manage.

These are just a few tips I learned along the way, though I have many more stories to share. Unfortunately for you all, there is not enough time in the day to discuss the life lesson I learned from standing outside the store in a peanut hat for 2 hours.

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LennyBoy

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”

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offices2christmasparty_story

Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, Aaron Rodgers’s birthday—it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. With so many occasions to observe, it’s just a matter of time before corporate holiday parties scuttle their way onto the handy dandy Outlook calendar.

Seeing as we’re here to advise on entry-level PR, what kind of mentors would we be if we didn’t provide a little direction on holiday party etiquette? Below, we’ve compiled several tips for navigating your corporate festivities, and making sure you don’t give your managers any reason to quote Taylor Swift on, “I knew you were trouble when you walked in.”

  • Keep it classy. Contrary to popular belief, staying classy isn’t reserved for those residing in San Diego. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your colleagues and managers can and will take note of your behavior. You don’t want to be that girl/guy whose behavior is still a topic of conversation at your firm’s holiday shindig in 2019. Take Mean Girls’ supporting character Amber D’Alessio for example. She may have made out with a hot dog just one time, but people don’t forget. Amber can’t go back in time to fix her famous frank faux pas, but it’s not too late for you to keep it classy. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Use the holiday party as an opportunity to really get to know your colleagues. Electing to participate in the summer kickball league was one of the best choices I made during my interning period at Peppercomm, as it posed an opportunity to connect with colleagues outside of the business context. The holiday party presents a similar opportunity: an occasion to click with coworkers in a casual, stress-free environment. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and converse with people you may not be extremely familiar with—that’s exactly what you should be doing!
  • If you’re going to drink, have a glass of water between each beer. Holiday parties are not the time to whip out your tremendous beer pong skills, or engage in a flip cup competition- especially as an intern. Socially drinking is acceptable, but you never want to be “that intern” for years to come. General rule of thumb is watch the alcohol intake- and as tempting as it may be when you see other coworkers engage in such behavior- do as they say, and not as they do. Which brings us to our next point…
  • Don’t always do as you see. Depending on your office situation, some office parties can be a little more “free” than others. If you see a supervisor/superior drinking a little more than they should, it doesn’t mean you should, too. Always err on the side of caution and keep it to a two drink maximum. It’s important to always maintain a level of professionalism.
  • Dress the part. Ask your coworkers who may have been at former office parties what the dress code is. You don’t want to be underdressed—or on the flip side—wearing a gown if it’s casual.
  • Beware the next day. Whether or not you’re always early, right on time or a few minutes late for work—make SURE that you’re early for work on the morning following your corporate party. This is a day some higher-ups may be paying attention to those who are a bit late or, even worse, calling in sick. Even if you have completely legitimate excuses, being late or calling in is a red flag that you may have had too much fun the night before . . . and believe me, people notice.

For even more tips on the topic, see Jacqueline Whitmore’s recent Entrepreneur piece 7 Ways to Stay Out of Trouble During Your Holiday Office Party.

Do you have any holiday party horror stories or additional etiquette tips to share? Please comment below—we’d love to hear from you!

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Oct
17

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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Aug
21

The first business trip

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Today’s guest post is by Catharine Cody, current Peppercom intern and lover of London.

A few weeks ago I had the unique opportunity to work at Peppercom’s strategic partner in London, Flagship Consulting.  One of Peppercom’s newest offerings is Comedy Experience, where we teach clients, prospective clients, and even our newest staff members the benefits of performing stand-up comedy.  Since I received comedy training a few weeks prior to the trip, I was asked to help train Flagship Consulting.

However, not all of my time was spent working inside the office extolling the benefits of laugher.  We also went out to dinner every night and got to know each other very well.  The people were amazing.  Not only did the entire staff make sure I had everything I needed, but they became my friends.  Even though we work together and have exchanged numerous emails in the past, seeing them in person solidified our bond.  We realized that, although we work thousands of miles away from each other, our general attitudes and dispositions are the same.

Once back in the states, I realized that the bonds I formed while in London carried over to my work in New York.  I am constantly emailing with the staff about the Olympics and Kate Middleton. (Yes, those are my two London vices and I refuse to defend them.)   I’ve also become friends with them on Facebook and follow them all on Twitter.

If I can only give one piece of advice to my fellow junior workers it would be to travel as much as possible for business.  Not only does it broaden one’s perspective, but it allows you to see that, although we may talk, dress and act differently, people are people no matter where you go.  If you are a great worker, it will be evident on any continent.  Travelling expands one’s horizons and allows you to meet people you might never have the chance to otherwise.  As we know, networking is one of the most important tools one can utilize in their careers.  Why not network with someone from a different country?  This blogger certainly will be doing so from now on.

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Categories : Business, entry level PR
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Guest post by Sin Yee Ng, Peppercom intern.

The rule above sounds simple, and it should be. But as we have seen time and time again, companies often fail to honor promises. And not only do companies lose customers, but the bad publicity often prevents new customers from trusting them. My experience came in the form of a simple task- booking a flight and hotel for my colleague. I thought generating business was hard enough, who knew giving business could be such a challenging task as well.

When I was given the task, naturally, I turned to the easiest way to book it- the internet. We’ve come a long way since sifting through brochures and dealing with travel agents and airline companies. The efficiency and cheaper operations cost are some of the main reasons why businesses shift their sales online while customers such as myself enjoy shopping online for the ability to compare prices, get the best deals and to do it at our convenience.

After multiple attempts at booking online and getting errors, I knew it was time for some personal communication with an agent. However, the agents I spoke to were not helpful and made the problem worse. So much for the reservation.

After my first bad experience, my colleague and I went back online to another website, this time hoping it would be a more pleasant experience. Nevertheless, the transaction online failed to go through.

When a company advertises themselves to have the “Best Rate Guaranteed” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed”, is it too much to expect that they uphold minimum standards? Walk the walk. Keeping a customer is not only cheaper; it is easier than generating a new one.

I hope companies learn from dealing with unsatisfied customers and make those necessary changes. For example, listen to those recordings they make when people call in and determine what issues they are having. Offering the “best deal” is no use if you cannot deliver on it.

Anyone else like to share their stories of good or horrible online shopping experience?

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Categories : Business, Intern Tasks
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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