Archive for entry level PR
Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm’s Director of Audience Engagement, Sam Ford.
5 Takeaways for Your Work as a Professional Communicator
After a summer working at my local high school—doing odd jobs to get the school premises ready for another academic year–and some “spot jobs” here and there working tobacco fields for my family, my first ongoing job was as a “carryout.”
Many reading this may be from towns where this particularly nicety no longer existed when they were growing up or else of the more modern era where such service has been done away with in favor of the “self service” world of pumping your own gas and checking yourself out in the retail line. If so, the “carryout boy” (and—yes—where I’m from, it was a heavily gendered designation; women who applied were sent straight to the cash register…Maybe they didn’t trust us boys with the till?) was the person who bagged groceries and then carted them out to the car for any and every patron who came through our store.
I had shopped most of my life at Houchens and the other local grocery stores. (My parents skipped around town, so as to cherry-pick from what each grocery store in town had to offer, in a pre Super-Walmart era where small towns actually had quite a few retail stores to choose from.) I spent Friday evenings camped out on the “front bench” at Houchens. My dad sometimes let me have a chocolate milk and a doughnut, if I’d earned it. And I spent my allowance on comic books and sat at the front and read my comic books while Dad talked to the locals. Sometimes, Dad left, and I ended up talking with one or another old man who might tell me how those comic books I was reading were written by the Devil himself, trying to corrupt my young mind.
Or people stopped by to ask me to recite all of the Presidents of the United States in order. I had learned how to read in part off a paper Houchens grocery bag that we had gotten, which listed all the presidents in order, along with their head shots. And my dad, preparing me for the world that is public relations, would promote my ability to recite those presidents to passersby. I sometimes wish he’d put out a hat…or, more apropos, that he had brought that Houchens grocery sack with the presidents’ faces on it for people to throw in donations after I’d ran through all those presidents and even listed Grover Cleveland twice, as the list required me to do.
I’d long been resolved that I wanted to be one of those carryout boys who brought those groceries to the car. Aside from a few dedicated “lifers” who worked the dayshift and the managers who oversaw the shop, Houchens almost exclusively employed high schoolers at night. It was a coveted position. People vied for those Houchens cashier and carryout positions. They often had a couple of the main basketball stars amidst their ranks, as well as a real cast of characters. Almost always, though, those carryouts were memorable “characters.” They were part of the lore.
And Houchens knew how to recruit for that position. They didn’t complain much that their parking lot was the hangout for local teenagers on Friday night in a town where there was little to do than drive back and forth across town…where the socializing from the Friday night football games typically spilled over to after game socializing, and drama, in front of Houchens. The carryouts and the cashiers would run out to join the social scene once their shift ended. And Houchens was always present at all the local sporting events—sponsoring teams, providing food, and whatever else could be done to root the local team on.
For months before I applied, I went in to let my intentions be known. I worked hard on my resume. I checked in often while on those Friday afternoon shopping excursions, to make sure they knew when I’d be available. And all the work paid off: I found myself part of the “Houchens team” and had a glorious time my junior and part of my senior year being amidst those “carryout” ranks.
Eventually, as my senior year of school heated up and I was in the midst of college prep and dating a girl seriously and everything else that came along, I ended that relationship with Houchens. But Houchens had no problem ending that relationship, either. In the time between, the Super Walmart had come to town, right across the road from the high school in what used to be a cow pasture. They were open 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week. They could undercut Houchens’ prices. And, soon, Houchens had started having fewer slots, and fewer shifts, available to us carryout boys.
Several months after I left Houchens, I made plans to get married—right at the end of my senior year of high school. I wanted some extra income, but Houchens didn’t have those spots to bring me back to. Instead, I applied at Walmart. Walmart didn’t bother with carrying people’s groceries to the car—after all, they were about Lower Prices. Always. So I was a “Cart Pusher.” (I wish I’d gotten business cards made up for that.) Our job training consisted of showing us what union representatives looked like and begging us to run straight for a manager if we ever saw one. The store was massive. Managers had been brought in from other Walmarts to help our little town know how to run an operation so impressive, or at least that was the attitude that seemed to prevail among some.
There were four managers overseeing the store at one time, and the “Cart Pusher” was the day laborer who had to answer to the will of any of those managers. Sometimes, all four of them gave me instructions at once—and there was no clear designation of which I was supposed to listen to.
At Houchens, I was heavily encouraged to engage with the people whose groceries I carried out—to have fun with my coworkers and to talk with the people who shopped at our store. At Walmart, I was given a cross look if I stopped to talk to someone. I was officially “written up” because I didn’t answer a call to go outside and bring carts in. I tried—and another employee tried as well—to explain that I didn’t answer the call over the PA to go outside to gather carts because I was already outside gathering carts. But the managers didn’t care.
To be fair, Walmart did give me a $1,000 scholarship for college, which I was grateful for…But they gave me a heavy dose of what it was like to work in a toxic work culture I abhorred to go along with it.
Houchens wasn’t just a retailer in town. It was a local institution. It was part of the community. It invested in the community, and the community invested in it. Its people loved working there (for the most part; I’m sure some disgruntled “bag boy” might provide a counter-narrative). People loved shopping there. And it was part of the local social life in a way that it embraced.
All that goodwill didn’t protect it from business realities. If another store came along open all hours of the day, and which could offer a far greater product range and far lower prices—Houchens couldn’t compete. And people’s love of Houchens wouldn’t necessarily stop them from crossing the road into that old cow pasture, fill up their carts with Walmart merchandise, and then go through the indignity of pushing that cart to their cars themselves.
But it did matter. The old men sitting at the front of Walmart didn’t laugh and joke about life. They told jokes about how long their wives spent at Walmart. (“I was in here one time, and a man and his son was sitting here. The boy was really cute and looked like he was in first grade. I asked the man, ‘What’s your son’s name?’ He said, ‘Ralph.’ I said, ‘Well, how old is Ralph?’ And he said, ‘Well, he was 3 when we came in.”) They complained about how much money Walmart brings in and ships right off to Bentonville, Arkansas, without much investment in the local community. And they have spent the last almost 15 years watching as many of the local hardware stores, grocery stores, and other staples of the old main street shuttered their doors, unable to compete with “We Sell for Less.” They’ve even seen the local newspapers take a real hit for awhile, when all the local businesses that ran advertisements that supported the local journalists closed their doors and Walmart didn’t need to advertise…because, after all, they’re Walmart.
I don’t know that people line up around the block to work for Walmart, or vie for a position. They sort of resign themselves into working for Walmart, if they’re not flipping burgers for a fast food chain. And now, as most of town has died out, what largely remain is that lit up campus in that old cow pasture, standing as a headstone for the town it had played its small part in sucking dry. And, nevertheless, people in Beaver Dam, Ky., can now get papayas and almond milk and all sorts of items only a Walmart could afford to ship in on those big trucks. And, while I don’t see the same “hangout culture” in Walmart’s parking lot, people are known to do their best to “co-opt” Walmarts aisles as a reinvented town square. If you go to Beaver Dam and someone’s not home and it’s not a church night, you just as well drive over to the Walmart and look around the aisles. You might find who you’re looking for.
But there’s no love or loyalty there. If anything, there’s a slight resentment as people push their carts down the aisle and say hi to one another. Walmart’s a necessary evil in their lives, not a community member.
And don’t feel like the community turned its back on Houchens, by the way. While they couldn’t compete across the road from Walmart, they still own a “Hometown IGA” in Ohio County, and a Sav-A-Lot discount grocery store, and a few different gas stations. Houchens actually had $3 billion in sales last fiscal year and is currently #154 among Forbes list of America’s Largest Private Companies. They are an employee-owned organization whose holdings range from a wide variety of grocery store, gas station, and convenience store brands to insurance companies, restaurants, transportation, construction, recycling, health clinics, healthcare services, financial planning, indoor tanning, and website/software. But when people around Kentucky talk about Houchens, they much more often do so with some admiration in their voice and a deep feeling of community investment.
Other than this old codger reliving some nostalgia here on PRiscope, what’s the “moral” of this story for those of you working in the public relations field? There are five main takeaways from this “comparison of corporate cultures” that I hope you take with you throughout your career—the companies you work for, the clients you work with, and the communities you seek to reach:
- Your job can be more than a job. Seek out workplace cultures where you can thrive and where you enjoy working. In every industry—in our industry—there are some behemoths who may always do well because of their size and the business practices that size allows them to engage in. Some of them may treat you well; I don’t know, and I don’t know that I ever will know. But, if you have options, don’t just work somewhere to earn a paycheck. Work somewhere that causes you to enjoy going to work and where you feel that your work is respected.
- Business is about More than Business. Business is about people. The companies we work for, or consult with, aren’t just there to sell stuff to people, or to spin a message. They are part of the communities—whether physical or otherwise—they seek to engage. It’s our job as communication professionals to push those companies to be true members of that community: to listen, to empathize, etc. We are there to make sure that not only their bottom lines do well but that their reputation does well, too.
- Have Fun. When I worked at Houchens, I looked forward to clocking in. I and fun with my co-workers. To this day, I still keep up with my old managers there. I thought seriously at one point about heading home from the East Coast, while I was still living there, to go back to Kentucky for a Houchens employee reunion. I tell stories about the time I spent there. I feel emotionally invested, even now as a “Houchens alum.” Seek out jobs like that. When you find one, get the most out of it. And, if life takes you elsewhere, don’t forget about the time you spent there.
- Our Clients Are “Selling” Experiences. For me, Houchens was an experience. It was woven into the fabric of our neighborhood, and it openly embraced that role, rather than indifferently allowing it. I desires that Houchens job as a teenager because I liked being there. My managers embraced my banter with old Remus Evans or my talking about the latest school gossip with Pixie Graham. And people looked forward to coming. In Houchens’ case, the experience wasn’t quite enough to compete with Walmart’s undercutting prices and greater product variety, but it was more than enough to maintain a variety of business holdings in the county, once the flagship grocery store closed. Generating that sort of loyalty, goodwill, and passion from audiences requires doing all we can to ensure a superior customer experience.
- Goodwill Matters. When a company is beloved, its customers will often jump to its defense. Economic necessity allowed Walmart to prevail against Houchens in the direct grocery war…but almost begrudgingly so. Many people who shop at Walmart would love nothing more than to see another company who respected the community more come along and offer a similar product range at competitive prices but which actually pays its employees well and engages more deeply with the community. When people give Walmart “down the road” back home, I don’t hear people jumping up to their defense. Instead, they talk with snark about the inevitable reality that they will end up pouring their money into the Walmart Corporation. Walmart has a retail foothold. But they don’t have a loyal customers and they remain open for potential disruption.
Sam Ford is Director of Audience Engagement with Peppercomm. In addition to his experience with Houchens and Walmart, he has honed his retail chops as a seasonal worker at Target, as a pizza delivery man at “Pizza Tonight,” and as a bank teller at Bank of America…and even degrading himself to working as a telemarketer for all of two or three days.
Today’s guest post is by current Peppercomm intern and future industry star, Alexis Tedesco.
As a recent college graduate the feelings of adjusting to life after college are still more than fresh in my mind. The echoes of “welcome to the Real World” are still bouncing around my ear drums. Even my mother’s constant reminder that “the party’s over” still puts me into shock.
Sitting in Alumni Stadium, about to be finished with my 4 years at Boston College, I could not comprehend what post-grad life would really entail. As I surreally walked across the stage for my diploma, completely packed up my small dorm on campus, and said goodbye to my roommates (more like sisters), I felt like I was being thrust out of the community that I had so lovingly called home. I was worried because so many of the people that surrounded me for four years encompassed the same values that I held at the center of my life. What would life be like without these people?
Not that all Boston College kids are the same, but there is a bit of a classic B.C. persona that usually holds true amongst students. I took pride in the fact that my fellow Superfans were so filled with school spirit that they rarely missed a B.C. game. I enjoyed being surrounded by people who were type-A overachievers, but still wanted to have fun together on the weekends. As nerdy as it sounds, I loved being in class with students who enjoyed learning for the sake of learning and always wanted to be part of the discussion.
But most importantly, I would not be able to live without my Eagles who always lived by the moto “For Here All Are One”, this bonding sentiment that we are all united, working together for the same cause, and with each other for every step or fall we take. This phrase was printed on t-shirts, chanted at sports games, and constantly repeated by faculty.
Needless to say, I was more than ecstatic to visit B.C. for the first time following graduation this weekend; So much so that Grace, a fellow intern, had to ask me at lunch on Friday why I kept randomly grinning during our conversation. But when I finally arrived and talked with the friends I missed so much about the internship I just began with, I started to realize how much of these same B.C. values Peppercomm embodied.
My friends of course asked me, “What is your favorite part of working with the company?” And I could tell them that I loved Peppercomm for the same reasons I love B.C.: The People. Peppercomm, like my alma mater, is still filled with hard-working, driven, spirited, but still fun-loving people. My co-workers who plug away on their accounts and ensure their clients success, are still the same people who eagerly decorate t-shirts for their office-wide softball game. My fellow interns Grace and Nicole, who I watch crank out pitches and media lists like it’s their job (Oh wait. It is.), will chat to me about their friends and weekends over lunch and happy hour.
Still most importantly, I can say that at Peppercomm “Here All Are One”. Everyone is happy to work together. This supportive environment is the same exact thing I experienced at B.C. where I am encouraged to ask questions and learn as much as possible. Everyone is so willing to make sure that any other co-worker/intern gains the skills we need to grow our careers and help keep this agency at the top. In this way, every person that I work with truly has the entire company’s interests at heart, and they are willing to do it while having some fun.
YES — via #iworkinpr
How you feel about the first reporter that took a story you pitched
That title sounds like a unicorn, right? We always doubt that our résumé are perfect and it’s scary to hit “send” when applying for jobs.
- Are there any typos?
- Did I provide enough details?
- Did I provide too many details?
- Am I using the best adjectives? Are they strong enough to get me hired?
Answer those questions and maybe a few that you didn’t think of with this great infographic in PR News.
Are you still searching for an internship or job? There are plenty of sites that claim to be the definitive source for that quest, but are they all the best? We’ve compiled a list of go-to sites for you that we think will help:
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with 300 million members in more than 200 countries. You can connect with colleagues, network with potential employers, do research on the industries and companies you may want to approach—joining this site is a no-brainer. And with any interview, you know your potential employer would be searching for your online presence, so having a strong LinkedIn profile can only help with that first impression.
Why bother with other job searching sites when Indeed.com exists? This website combs all job listings. Basically, if the job is posted online, Indeed will find it for you.
It’s easy to search, apply for jobs right through the platform and, if you’re looking to hire someone, you can easily list, too.
This site currently boasts 140 million unique visitors every month.
This website is a great supplement to LinkedIn and Indeed. With Glassdoor—which is touted as the most “transparent career community”—you have access not only to job postings, but you can look at company reviews, salaries, etc. It’s a great resource for your research.
One word of caution, like with other review sites, keep in mind that some may post inaccurate content. If you’re a disgruntled employee, you can easily take to Glassdoor to post an anonymous review. On the flip side, perhaps some happy employees may post extremely positive reviews/experiences to combat other reviews. While these could be true, good thing to keep in mind and all the more important to go for informational interviews at any prospective company.
It’s no secret that those of us at PRiscope love Twitter. We’re all pretty avid tweeters, but you’re probably wondering why we think this could be good for your career. Well, we’ll tell you:
1) You can do great research on the companies and employers you’re targeting. The tone, news and basic content their sharing is a good indication of the company culture.
2) This is a great way to network with different companies and professionals. You can interact with them by replying to tweets, taking part in Twitter chats, etc.
3) You can search for jobs here, too. Use the hashtag #HAPPO (Help a PR Pro Out) as some listings are posted with this.
4) Your own following and the content you share may or may not be impressive to potential employers. Whether you have a slew of journalists following you or you’re great at sharing relevant content, this is a talent and will potentially be part of your job in the industry.
So, those are our top sites. Any that you think we’re missing?
You’ve done it. You may have just graduated from college or perhaps finished a post-college internship, but either way, it’s your first entry-level job. There are so many factors to consider, many of which we cover in this blog, but wanted to share this great piece from US News & World Report on the 10 things you need to know when beginning that first job.
These are also great tips for those in an internship.
Any other tips you’d add?
It’s Friday and we saw this and thought it was hilarious. We love our interns and definitely work to mentor them, not do this (which we found on #iworkinpr):
Trying to comfort a stressed intern
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.
In today’s post, meet current Peppercomm NYC intern and future communications star, Marlee Murphy.
1) Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?
My name is Marlee Murphy and I am a week away from beginning my senior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill! I am double majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication, and Political Science. My specific track within the journalism school is Strategic Communications (a mix of advertising and public relations). During this past school year, I was a nanny for a few families, worked at QSR Magazine as an editorial intern and led Wyldlife—part of Young Life for those of you who are familiar with the organization.
Now that you’re filled in on my professional background, here are some fun facts about me! I am the oldest of four children, I think coffee’s the best thing since sliced bread, my face is in a Coca-Cola commercial and I adore the color blue. Good start?
I’m from a fairly small town in Rowan County, North Carolina named Salisbury. Ever heard of Cheerwine (the soft drink), Food Lion or F&M Bank? All of these originated in Salisbury. While growing up in small town USA could be boring at times (a “raging” Friday night is considered swinging by fast food restaurant Cook Out and possibly hitting up the local movie theater), I wouldn’t trade my experiences there for the world. I will confess Salisbury has certainly left its mark on my personality. For example, I love country music, hate techno-y dance clubs, love homemade tea and Bojangles’, hate Snapple and croissants, love being outdoors, hate huge crowds. Now I know what you’re thinking; how in the world did you end up at Peppercomm—aka the heart of New York City?
The story began with an email to Peppercomm in early January inquiring about the internship and company as a whole. I had noticed their name on a list of national top 25 public relations agencies and decided to do some further research. I took note of their awards for great company culture and work environment, and decided the internship was worth pursuing. Unlike many other New York firms, I felt Peppercomm aligned with my personal values and better suited me in terms of company culture and agency size. When I heard back from Peppercomm in March, I was elated! I skyped in for an interview and a few weeks later, I was offered the internship.
Fast forward to today, this has been the summer of a lifetime. Peppercomm exceeded my expectations and is truly a phenomenal place to work and learn. This summer I not only learned more about the industry and agency life, but by stepping outside of my comfort zone, I also learned a lot about myself and have become a more well-rounded individual. I will be forever grateful to Peppercomm for giving me this internship opportunity.
2) What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?
As of now, I am not drawn to a specific sector within PR. While at Peppercomm, I’ve enjoyed working on an array of projects that incorporated a variety of industries. Due to a lighter load of account work, I was able to complete at least a dozen one-offs for an array of clients. All of the interns have appreciated the opportunity to explore the world of PR rather than being pigeonholed in one sector. I’ve also found that I enjoy the strategy and branding side of communications more so than media relations.
3) Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?
Peppercomm’s office culture and inclusive environment surprised me. Every company claims to have great culture and a welcoming workforce; however, in Peppercomm’s case, the claim was 100 percent true. Peppercomm organizes workout events, hosts pub nights, encourages stand-up comedy, and recognizes birthdays and births. They include the interns in every facet of the company and are happy to help us understand new concepts even if it inconveniences them. They put intern row (our line of open cubicles) in the center of one of the floors. We sit right outside the executives’ office doors, which is an incredible opportunity. Not only do we work side-by-side with account teams, but we also are able to see what the day-to-day is like for communications and PR agency executives. On the first day, we (the six interns) hit the deck running, each on multiple client accounts. I jump from one client to another, creating media lists, drafting tweets, monitoring social media and press mentions, researching, writing blogs, editing, etc. The work never ends (which is a good thing in my opinion), and I’ve loved every minute of it.
4) Where do you see yourself going in the industry?
Post-graduation, I see myself working for a public relations agency. Interning with Peppercomm this summer demonstrated how important it is to have agency experience when launching a communications career. In most agency settings, you are able to work with a variety of clients with an assortment of unique needs. While working for an agency, you are able to dabble in event planning, branding, strategy, media relations, social media and more. No work day is the same at an agency. In addition to acquiring new skills on a daily basis, you’re constantly learning more about how to better communicate and work as a team. After working at an agency for a while, I would like to open my own small marketing firm or event-planning boutique.