Archive for professional
Today’s post originally ran on The Stand Up Executive on May 13, 2013.
Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Laura Bedrossian
As the series finale approaches for one of my favorite television shows—NBC’s The Office—I have done two things:
1) Watched lots of old episodes to gear up for the finale (oh, and went to The Office Wrap Party in Scranton)
2) Been thinking of lots of Michael Scott-isms
If you’re not familiar with the show, you should stop reading here and get out of the hole you’ve been living in . . . the show has been on for nine years. That’s like growing up in the 70s and never watching M*A*S*H.
Anyway, immersing myself in old episodes of The Office made me think of my favorite, real-life Michael Scott story—except this boss isn’t played by the loveable Steve Carell.
An old friend of mine works at a very buttoned up office. There are no Jims, or Dwights, or Michaels. No shenanigans, at least not in the way that you see it on the show.
One of his coworkers—we’ll call him Bob—was taking time off to go to Minnesota to visit his family. The office boss asks Bob why he is going to Minnesota. Bob’s response? “I’m going to support my brother who is competing in the Special Olympics.”
Bob’s boss’s response? “Oh, so your mom had two retarded kids.” (Cue: the boss thinking he said the most clever thing EVER and looks around to see how many sidesplitting laughs he has elicited from the rest of the employees.)
Sigh. No one laughed.
It’s pretty obvious how inappropriate Bob’s boss’s response was. In a culture like Peppercomm’s where people joke and make light of situations, this would never fly, never mind in a culture like Bob’s. Why? Because it really wasn’t funny and it was mean-spirited.
It’s OK to use humor to engage employees and help lighten the mood in a difficult situation, but one needs to know when to draw the line between funny, offensive and mean. If you’re questioning whether something may be offensive or not, you should err on the side of caution and just refrain from saying it.
Now a “that’s what she said” joke, not always appropriate, but always funny.
Today’s post is by Peppercomm co-founder, Steve Cody, and originally ran on RepMan.
Mandy Roth (pictured) is one of hundreds of thousands of college seniors scheduled to graduate this Spring. And, like her peers, Mandy faces a formidable task: finding a job.
But, that’s not enough of a mountain for Mandy to climb. She also wants to work for the public relations firm of her dreams. (That would be Peppercomm, who else?)
So, Mandy set about setting herself apart from the hundreds and hundreds of applications we receive every year from upcoming graduates. And, to say she succeeded is akin to calling North Korea a rogue state.
Here’s why we’ll be interviewing Mandy this Friday and, if her in-person skills match those of her strategic branding campaign, offering her a paid Summer internship:
1.) Mandy created her own website JUST for Peppercomm. See:http://filebox.vt.edu/users/mandyy/Peppercomm/PepperCommsNextTopIntern.html. On the site, she included her resume, a cover letter and our personal favorite: ‘The 10 reasons why Mandy Roth would be Peppercomm’s next top intern.’
Note: Mandy says she built the specially-tailored website because she’d LISTENED to Peppercomm’s messages and wanted to ENGAGE in our conversations with a site that demonstrated her talent and creativity. FYI, our firm’s tagline is: ‘Listen. Engage. Repeat.’
2) In her cover letter, Mandy detailed the journey she’d taken during her college years, how she’d discovered Peppercomm and why our culture is perfectly aligned with her personal and professional goals.
3) She cited two separate Peppercomm blogs as truly inspiring her subsequent actions. One was written by our resident male fashionista, Jason Green, and entitled, ‘Don’t be boring in life, don’t be boring when applying’ . The other one, happily, was one of mine, and entitled, ‘Third party endorsement’.
4) Last, and definitely not least, Mandy’s 10 reasons why Mandy Roth would be Peppercomm’s next top intern was a show stopper (insert link). For the record, Mandy, you had me at 10 reasons. And, BTW, her number one reason (as well as the final sentence in her cover note) killed: ‘I know I could be the salt in your Peppercomm.’
Whether you’re 19 or 90, you MUST create, and continually refresh, your own, personal brand. Why? Two reasons:
- There are more people searching for fewer jobs than ever before.
- There has never been less corporate loyalty. I can personally attest to the fact that many clients will toss away their agencies of long-standing like yesterday’s newspaper if it’ll save their jobs. And, sadly, most businesses today place profits over people.
I don’t know how Mandy’s interviews will go on Friday. But, I can tell you this: regardless of whether she clicks with us, Mandy Roth has a bright future because, at a very early stage in her career, she’s figured out how to breakthrough the clutter AND build her own brand in a cool, compelling way.
Today’s post is by Steve Cody and originally ran on March 7 on RepMan.
The Center for Talent Innovation just surveyed 4,000 male and female executives, asking how the two genders react to workers who dress in a polished, professional manner as opposed to those who, say, look more like Johnny Depp after a weekend-long binge.
- Both genders agree good grooming is a must.
- Both genders agree it’s more important for a man to be tall and thin (which can’t be good news for roly-poly, job-seeking little guys).
- Arrogance is seen as a bigger sin for women because it’s ‘associated with sexual impropriety’ and suggests the executive ‘has an inflated opinion of oneself.’ Talk about a double standard.
Male and female executives alike agreed the biggest communications blunders were:
- Making racially-biased comments.
- Making off-color jokes (Note: I may have erred on that side on more than occasion).
- Someone who cries (Amen. Save it for the pillow when you get home).
The survey is especially timely since an entire new crop of college graduates is about to enter the workplace.
Over the years, I’ve had first-hand experience with good, bad and just, plain ugly Peppercomm wanna-bes. And, when I say good, bad and ugly, I’m addressing their personal grooming, not their attractiveness.
One day, our reception area became a positive beehive of activity for a few, brief moments. Why? Because a fairly attractive, but oh-so-scantily-clad young woman (think: Madonna, circa 1990) was waiting to be interviewed. Needless to say, the guys loved it. But, our female employees were appalled. So, guess who was thanked for coming in, but sent packing faster than one can say Material Girl?
On another occasion, a gum-chewing, torn jeans, mandals-wearing dude strolled in to interview for an account executive position. Since Peppercomm embraces a business casual dress code, we gave the guy an initial pass, and brought him in for interviews. But his aloof, arrogant attitude matched his fashion faux pas and he, too, was given the bum’s rush.
Finally, a middle-aged, impeccably groomed business executive in a three-piece suit arrived to interview for a management supervisor spot. His attire told us immediately that he hadn’t taken the time to conduct due diligence on our firm (i.e. our dress code). Since we are adamant about checking, in advance, to determine whether a client or prospect’s dress code is business formal or casual, we almost always discount someone whose appearance reflects a laziness in his or her preparation. The Don Draper clone was also handed a one-way ticket to Palookaville.
While it may not be a complete show-stopper for job prospects, appearance, attitude and grooming are an intrinsic part of one’s current and future success (and can spell the difference between success and failure).
Take the time to research an organization’s dress code and culture BEFORE arriving for an interview, new business presentation or kick-off meeting with a new client.
Oh, and while there are exceptions to the rule, I’d advise you to also remove the nose ring and cover as many tats as possible before arriving at a prospective employer’s office (unless, of course your tattoo displays Peppercomm’s way cool new logo and tagline. That might generate an immediate offer AND a signing bonus).
In today’s post, we asked Brian Blank, Account Supervisor of Peppercomm and PepperDigital, how technology and social media trends are shaping the way we communicate as PR professionals.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your role at Peppercomm.
A. My role is unique in the way that it straddles both the digital side of the agency along with the communication side of what agency. I primarily work as a consultant with our clients on a variety of areas and ways they can leverage digital media in a strategic way to carry their messages to a variety of audiences. This runs the gamut too – from developing and maintaining social media thought leadership programs to developing strategies for specific platforms. I also help out my accounts with strategic communication work, from writing PR plans and press releases to pitching news.
Q. What drew you to digital and social media?
A. I went to college here in the Silicon Valley and cut my PR teeth in the startup world. I was lucky enough to be on the “front lines” of emerging tech over the years and just loved to find out more about the tools and gadgets coming on the market each day. The digital world is all around us whether or not we choose to participate in social media and provides incredible opportunities for brand to reach new and existing audiences in a variety of ways.
For me, I found the tools fascinating as social media accelerated the feedback loop and changed the way companies interacted with customers. Technology allowed communication to evolve in ways we didn’t even imagine 10-15 years ago. I have always had a fascination for technology and gadgets and I believe this was one of the reasons why I was drawn to the digital and social realm.
How have recent developments and trends in digital and social media changed the PR landscape?
A. For better or worse, it has changed things dramatically, but PR and communications has been evolving for the last 30 years. The advent of the fax machine and email revolutionized the industry just as much as Twitter or Facebook does today. Although with social media we’ve become more open in many ways and sometimes share way too much information. But at the end of the day, we’re talking about tools here and Facebook is a tool, not a strategy. You still need solid counsel and support that matches your business objectives to be successful. The tools will continue to change, so look at the big picture and think critically and creatively.
Q. What skills should today’s PR students be sure to master if they are interested in a career in digital?
A. You have to be comfortable with the technology. As a society, it is becoming a part of our daily lives and you have to be able to know how to use it and be willing to get out of your comfort zone to try new things. Since technology continues to evolve, you have to be able to think about creative ways to solve problems. Think about what tools your client could use to reach their objectives.
Q. What are some basic rules that PR professionals should keep in mind when using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook for work?
A. Separate your personal use from your professional use as much as possible, because a hilarious tweet you want to share with your friends late on a Friday night might not be so funny if you accidentally post on your client’s Twitter handle. Another thing is that it is OK to keep boundaries between your accounts. You don’t have to follow your boss on Facebook but it might make sense to do so on Twitter or LinkedIn. I use my Facebook page as my personal page for friends and family and really only add my coworkers if they become close friends. I open my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts for professional use and prefer it that way.
Q. What one piece of advice do you have for those just starting their careers in PR?
A. Get started with internships early on and try a few. You might not love agency life but excel working at a non-profit. The experiences will help shape you professionally and will make you a more rounded candidate for your chosen career field. Learn to be a rock star researcher, because you will always be called upon to know a lot about a variety of topics and the quicker you can get up to speed, the more valuable you will be.
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.
‘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.
Today’s post (by Laura) was originally featured on Peppercom Cofounder and Managing Partner, Steve Cody’s RepMan.
The millennial generation has been under fire for some time, especially in the past year or so. I frequently see articles and reports popping up with ridiculous “reasons” for why my generation “is the way it is.” I was alerted to an article in The Wall Street Journal titled: “Delayed Development: 20-Somethings Blame the Brain” (special thanks to Steve Cody and Ann Barlow for sending it my way). This article was no different in terms of the tone.
The piece begins by pointing out that many parents of the millennial generation are worried that their respective children don’t have a career, aren’t married and/or aren’t financial independent—to name a few issues.
According to the article, this is all OK because recent research suggests that the brain develops at a pace that makes people better equipped to make major life decisions in their late 20s rather than earlier in their lives.
Great? From this millennial’s perspective, absolutely not.
First, this seems like another excuse to explain and project a behavior of a small group upon an entire generation. This can’t be too drastic of a development in the brain, otherwise I would think groups should probably start lobbying to raise the legal age of adulthood. Why position it as the reason for why millennials “act the way they do”?
Second, for those who do exhibit any irresponsible behavior, hopefully the millennials parents’ minds are not at ease because this research is just an easy way to justify poor choices. And guess what, Mom and Dad, those poor choices are coming from you too—it’s called enabling.
On a base level, this research is very interesting and makes a tremendous amount of sense, especially in terms of how the average age people are marrying has risen by six years. However, (and, full disclosure: I am not a scientist) it sounds like this is how the brain has been developing since the dawn of man?
So, we’re better equipped to make bigger decisions in our late-20s? Why is it that all of the previous generations have been capable of functioning without having full-scale investigations launched to figure out why they aren’t “successful”?
This article and ones like it stereotype millennials to seem like we are all dysfunctional humans unfit for this world. I’m not sure where all of these examples are coming from; I know plenty of younger people with “underdeveloped brains” who have not been financially dependent on their parents for some time (myself included).
Of course, when I hear some of the examples people have about their freeloading kids, I have the same natural reaction and tone of the authors of said articles—I am incensed. But I think there is a larger issue at work here.
Let’s discuss the group of millennials giving the entire generation the bad name. It is safe to say that parents from an early age want to make sure their child has the best life possible—which includes college. But what are parents really telling their kids? Are they letting their kids know that while college is important, it is still equally as important to pay for said education and also be a functional member of society? Education can become very expensive, very quickly. Why can’t a kid take a gap year and start saving to pay for school? Why can’t they take part-time classes while working to help make school more affordable? Also there is nothing wrong with delaying or not even attending college. I was always told there is nothing wrong with hard honest work, and to be honest, it’s made me who I am today.
Clearly, some parents choose to coddle their kids by allowing them to stay financially dependent for them to focus on their studies. At that point, is the millennial to be fully blamed? Those who act entitled had to learn that they are entitled from someone.
We are a smart and resourceful generation. We seem drastically different because we are dealing with a very different world—a world and economy that our predecessors created for us. We work hard. For those of us who do not, guess what, there are people who are lazy in every generation.
To circle back on the article, I myself am in my late-20s and I made very big decisions in my life starting at age 18 up until now. My brain may not have been fully developed yet, but I still made those decisions and used research and advice from those who have been in similar situations and made the best choices. I am still standing and have been on my own two feet for some time and I certainly did it on my own. I speak on behalf of all millennials as I say “pick on someone your own age!”
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:
- Never put that in your cover letter or say that out loud to anyone outside of your mom.
- 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?
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.