Archive for October, 2010

Oct
15

Q & A Friday: Maggie O’Neill

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Maggie O’Neill serves as Senior Director of Peppercom and Peppercommotions- Peppercom’s event practice specializing in marketing events, corporate meetings and sponsorships.


Q. Why is experiential marketing so important and how has it changed in recent years?

A. Consumers today are not just satisfied with an advertisements, product reviews or store displays.  They want to see, feel and experience brands and brands in real world scenarios.  This need is why experiential marketing is so important today.  Plus with so many brands, it is a critical platform that allows consumer to forge an emotional connection with a brand beyond product.

A shift in experiential marketing has come with the onslaught of everything social/digital.  Now experiential events must integrate the new media landscape. Whether creating online communities to extend tradeshows, check-in at Four Square for events or virtual events that mirror live experiences, an event is just as much digital as it is physical.

Q. What is one of the most creative or exciting events you’ve worked on to date?

A. Well creating the 25th Anniversary Shell-ebration for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was certainly packed with fun and interesting twists compared to the more traditional tradeshow or press event.  It was a true 360 branding campaign that took us across the country with millions of crazed fans, four Ninja Turtles and a bus load of memorabilia.  Great stories from the road and a huge success for the brand, plus we got to turn the Empire State Building Green and open the Tribeca Film festival.

But sometimes even smaller events turn out to be just as exciting.  A few years ago we did a Bully Pulpit series of events with the College of Charleston and were front and center when president Obama kicked off his campaign.  We experienced the level of excitement first-hand that would become a norm for the presidential election.  It was really cool.

From a creative standpoint, it can be something as small as a different invitation, or a theme coming together 100%.  Just this week at our Whirlpool Spin Cycle event, each floor represented a different appliance brand within the Whirlpool portfolio and was themed around a certain shape that was part of the products.  Even the shape of the food tied in to the theme. When the guests got the theme right away it made it all worth it.

Q. Any event horror stories you care to share?

A. We have had a lot of crazy things happen at events, but the real horror stories come from last minute changes or hiring. Once a client pulled us in to help with a symposium.  It was two weeks before the event and they were having trouble securing attendees.  They told us their target was 200-300.  Two weeks out they had 20.  Nightmares ensued to say the least.  But we pulled it off.

Oh, and the one nightmare I think we all have is throwing an event and no one coming.  It happened once at a small press event.  My suggestion is to be prepared with back-up plans.  Have images to pitch out to media, make calls from onsite.  It doesn’t happen often, but it can.

Q. What was one of the biggest mistakes you made earlier in your PR career and how did you learn from it?

A. I tried to hide a small error from my vice president (who I still work with to this day).  The small mistake – which I thought I fixed – blew up and the client threatened to fire me and the agency.  My boss was caught completely off guard when the client called.  Had I confided in her earlier, we could have prepared for the backlash and addressed together as a team.  No one can back you up if you don’t let them.

Q. What one piece of advice do you have for those just starting their careers in PR?

A. Try everything you can in the beginning.  Don’t get siloed into technology, consumer, financial practices, etc.  Make sure you love it. Oh, and ask questions. You look so much smarter asking questions and learning than struggling and not getting it right.  Trust me, I tried the other way and it’s better to ask.

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Categories : Career Advice, Q&A
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Guest post by Scottie Ellis- Western Kentucky University student, Peppercom job shadow-er, and future PR star

As the plane landed I began to slowly wake up – we are in New York. I start to look around the plane and realize the majority of the people are dressed in business suits. I have on moccasin boots and jeans. I grab a cab and head for Brooklyn to meet the couple (complete strangers) I would be staying with for three nights. Once I meet them they took me up to their apartment, which consisted of one room. I would be sleeping literally right beside one of my new friends who I have known for all of five minutes. Luckily, they seemed nice.

I woke up and got ready to head for the subway. Once I read the address I had been given, I learn that I have somehow managed to end up 25 blocks away from my true destination.  I grab a cab and somehow manage to finally arrive at my location. Fortunately, I would soon be surprised that my stress would disappear, and learn that this trip would somehow give me the confidence I had been looking for through the first few months of my senior year in college.

What was I doing leaving the small town of Bowling Green, Kentucky, and wondering around New York City? I was going to be job shadowing at Peppercom, one of the most well known strategic communication agencies out there, with clients like Whirlpool and Nikon. How did this relieve my stress? Good question.

Stress is the main word that comes to mind every day when I wake up and realize my college graduation date is one day closer. I have been under the impression the last three years that this “day” that everyone speaks of, is something that I will somehow manage to avoid. Unfortunately, I have entered into my senior year and have no escape plan. This is where a job shadow at Peppercom came into play. I am not going to lie, the idea of this scared me to death. Now, the thought that I could have missed that experience is the only thing that is scary.

As the first person to job shadow at Peppercom, I have to say it exceeded my expectations. I never imagined I would walk in and get the opportunity to learn from different people in the office, but that is exactly what happened. Social Media Coordinators, Account Executives and Interns all had advice to offer me. Topics discussed throughout the day included social media, time management, event planning, pitches, research and even personal accounts of how they got to where they are now. They included me in staff meetings, and even gave me the opportunity to take a writing test. One of the most helpful points of the day was meeting with the internship committee, who went over the writing test along with my resume. They also gave me personal advice on what to do to prepare myself for graduation, and steps to take when applying for internships or jobs.

Job shadowing is an opportunity many do not think about, but everyone should take advantage of. Job shadowing at Peppercom was one of my best experiences to date. Stress is no longer what I associate with graduation. Instead I have confidence that I will make it. I know your thinking what about internships? I have had one and I am currently in my second. Applying for these was just as competitive as some jobs! Job shadowing is a great way to learn what you can do to land that internship. I walked away from Peppercom with a great deal of information, less stress and advice from the pros. Oh, and of course an autographed photo of the Maytag Repairman. If you get the chance to job shadow, take it! Leave the stress behind and replace it with confidence.

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Earlier this week, Mashable posted a great article about successful job search strategies- specifically, strategies tailored to social media. We here at PRiscope are big fans of social media and so we were clearly fans of the post.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece below:

It only seems logical, if more and more organizations are going online with their job openings, that having a digital resume will be equally important for job seekers. Not only does it make sending an online resume easier, a digital profile allows companies to find job seekers. So, optimizing online profiles for search will need to be part of the development.

Remember- social media is a powerful tool for job seekers, but also for employers.  An intern committee may be blown away by you in an interview, but a simple glance at that less-than-flattering profile picture on Facebook could nix your shot at a position.  Be sure to take the following in mind when building your social media presence:

  • Including your Twitter handle or blog URL on a resume is a great way to demonstrate your social media savvy to an interviewer, but be warned- I’m immediately going to check both. Blogging about a former boss isn’t going to make a great impression, no matter how great your grammar may be.
  • Don’t claim to be a social media “expert” or “guru” if your last tweet was from February 2009.
  • Try to keep the cursing in status updates or tweets to a minimum.  It’s not flattering and looks unprofessional.
  • Had to reschedule your interview? No worries.  Did you unlock the ‘Crunked’ badge the night before? Trust me, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot.

Employers and interviewers- any other tips for job seekers in the social media space?  How to go about searching for a job- or how to avoid losing one?

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Guest post by Laura Bedrossian, Peppercom intern

Moving to the big city—and believe me, most things seem big when you’re from Rhode Island—can be quite the adventure. Everything is new, there is so much to learn and do, and half of the fun is getting to your job, right?

I thought taking the subway would be so much easier than having to drive everywhere and worry about parking like one would in every other city. If you’re good with maps and knowing where you are, the subways are great. For others, myself included, it can be a bit challenging if you’re not used to knowing or thinking about what “uptown” and “downtown” refer to at first.

Commuting anywhere can be annoying, though it seems to be more annoying in NYC. Between the LIRR, Metro North and the subway, things can get backed up and you can find yourself a half hour late for work.

I personally would never drive through Manhattan, simply because I value what sanity I have. But, in the few weeks I have lived in the NYC area, I have already had some of the weirdest encounters on the subway from my commute to work—a man with a samurai sword, police searching through the car I was in, lovely smells that come through to noses with even the worst allergies.

Apparently you are also required to think pretty quickly on your feet.

My biggest work-related fear happened during my second week at Peppercom. On my way to work, the train kept stopping for much longer than normal—to the point that the other passengers were getting agitated. And then it happened, the train stopped at one stop, and after 10-15 minutes of waiting, an MTA employee informed people that if they needed to get into Manhattan, they had to take a different line.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t quite sure how to get there. After whipping out my little subway map and looking like a typical tourist, I was eventually able to navigate to Grand Central Station (which is easy for most) and I just walked to work.

Since that point it has been a daily adventure for me traveling to and from Peppercom on the subway system. But luckily I have learned a few things and would like to pass them on to my fellow directionally challenged/new to the city PR people:

  • You should definitely carry a subway map
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for directions
  • Make sure you have the number to work in your phone
  • Leave yourself enough time in case there is some kind of commuting catastrophe (such as being told to take a different subway line that you have never taken before)
  • Keep an umbrella/sweatshirt handy for quick weather changes (you can’t just run home to get one)

Any other tips for brave commuters?

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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