Archive for professional
Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm account executive, Nicole Hall.
As a 16-year-old girl, I was motivated by two things when getting my first job—money and boys. So naturally, I decided to apply at Albertsons as a courtesy clerk where my crush at the time worked. I can’t say that the money was great (minimum wage was significantly lower nine years ago), but I did learn the value of a dollar and began to develop a sense of financial independence from my parents.
My first day on the job, I realized that a “courtesy clerk” is actually a pseudonym for “person who bags groceries and carries them out to your car in the blazing Texas heat.” Other duties of mine included collecting carts from outdoors, sweeping the outside and inside of the store, returning groceries to their rightful place on the shelf after a customer return, and cleaning the bathrooms. This job was far from glamorous, and at times I wanted to just walk out. However, my relationship with the rest of the Albertson’s staff got me through each shift. During my rounds of returning groceries, I had made friends with the girls in the bakery (who always managed to give me several cookies throughout the day), the grocery stockers, the deli workers, and of course the rest of my courtesy clerk and cashier family.
So when it came time for everyone in the store to vote on who would represent them at the annual Customer Service Competition, I won the courtesy clerk position by a landslide. The competition involved a cashier/courtesy clerk team from each store, competing in a day-long event of working and being judged on our bagging skills, speed, customer service and overall charisma. If you have ever seen the movie Employee of the Month, it is exactly like that, except this real-life event incorporated employees from several different stores and spirited costumes. Lori, my cashier teammate, and I won the district competition, so we went on to participate in regional. I can’t remember exactly, but I think we placed fifth or sixth there, so we (thankfully) did not proceed to state.
Despite the ups and downs of a job bagging groceries, I did learn a few lessons that apply to me even today:
- Customer service is key: Whether I’m being formally graded on it by judges or not, my customer service skills are always being evaluated and are an indicator of the quality of the relationships I have with my clients. It is essential to know that the customer or client always comes first.
- There IS a correct way to bag groceries: This one may not apply literally to public relations, but the essence is the same. According to my Albertson’s training videos, you are supposed to first build walls in the grocery bag with cereal boxes and then fill in the middle with cans, fruit, etc. In PR, I like to think that this applies most to the writing aspect. Whether it is a press release, strategy document or a byline, you have to develop a base structure or outline and then fill in the details.
- Develop several skill sets: Having different responsibilities throughout the day as a courtesy clerk may have been frustrating at times (especially when it was over 100 degrees outside), but it helped break up the day. I could go outside and grab carts, stand at the cash register and bag groceries, or make rounds throughout the store to clean up and put things back. In my current position, my day may consist of pitching media, writing a press release, a client phone call, helping plan an event, and attend a brainstorm. Not only does versatility help break up my day, but it helps make me a better asset on my different accounts.
And if you were wondering, my crush did end up becoming my boyfriend for about six months. He must have been impressed with my ability to bag groceries in record time with a smile on my face.
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.
Today’s post is from Peppercomm intern, Madeline Skahill.
It started as a typical Tuesday morning. Rush hour, bustling streets, and a bright New York sky paved the way for three Peppercomm interns on their way to attend Workforce Live 2013, an event that gives thoughtful insights into becoming an employer of choice. Grabbing the only open chairs in the back of the conference room, Stephanie, Madeline, and Jessica were able to apply their fast-thinking and texting skills to live-tweet the event as well as learn an important comedic lesson from two of the best.
Steve Cody, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Peppercomm and Clayton Fletcher, full-time comedian and Chief Comedy Officer, took the stage at the event to discuss the importance of comedy in the workplace. According to Steve, “Peppercomm is a place where it’s OK to laugh and OK to have fun”, allowing the atmosphere of Peppercomm to truly embody the four elements of a successful business: trust, authenticity, openness and teamwork. From the company’s website to client meetings, these four elements are evident in daily life at Peppercomm.
Embracing these four elements is the fundamental goal of a stand-up comedy experience within the workplace. Steve and Clayton stressed the fact that stand-up comedy is not a monologue of your favorite knock-knock jokes or Popsicle stick puns. It is the ability to relax, tell a story, and build a relationship with your audience. This relationship with the audience, or in our case, fellow employees, is a true factor in what makes Peppercomm stand apart from other PR agencies. It is an atmosphere filled with encouragement, motivation, and success all because we can sit back, relax, and share a good laugh.
Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm interns Nick Gilyard and Taylor Hatch and originally ran on RepMan on August 1.
Tuesday 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.
Check out this video on CommPro.Biz with Steve Cody picking the brains of some Peppercommers on ways we stay cool during the hottest months of the year.
Let us know what you think of the tips and what you do to reduce stress. Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear sunglasses while responding.
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.