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Jul
07

Taking the Plunge

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1Hello from Peppercomm’s favorite (and only) male intern! If we haven’t yet had the chance to meet, my name is John Tompkins, and I’m a rising senior at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. But I’ll leave any further introduction for my next post, because for now, I’d like to briefly talk about one of the biggest transitions of my life—from the art of journalism to the “dark side,” as my professors often refer to the profession, of public relations.

Until I arrived at Peppercomm’s doorstep just six short weeks ago—after taking the wrong train to work and aimlessly wandering along the Hudson River, of course—I had never taken a formal PR course or worked at an advertising, consulting, or public relations firm. I’m a journalist at heart and spent last summer covering Capitol Hill and the White House for McClatchy’s Washington, D.C. bureau. So let me tell you, while I’ve had the time of my life working at Peppercomm with one of the best intern groups I could possibly imagine, the tasks haven’t always been easy. Not surprisingly, this has been compounded by the fact that I’m probably the clumsiest person on the face of the planet—inept enough to personally total two different cars in two separate accidents on the very same day! So, in the hopes that a future intern or employee finds him or herself in a similar position as I, I thought I’d share a few tips to smoothing the transition, if only a bit.

 

1) Don’t be Afraid to Copy and Paste

When I first came to Peppercomm, it took me about 2.2 seconds to realize that “Thou shan’t write what they can simply copy.” might as well be the Golden Rule of public relations. However, after years of having the Cardinal Rule of journalism (i.e. Never, ever plagiarize. Period.) drilled into my head, it took me far longer to accept the easy way out. I’ve since learned that this simple function can only be a gift, especially when compiling lengthy briefing books or internal research documents. So, as long as you’re not drafting original social media content or thought leadership for a client, save yourself time and hassle. You’ll be glad you did.

 

2) Learn to Cope with a more Rigid Schedule

For most journalists, each day is different, and that’s something I quickly learned last summer. There were slow news days when I found it hard not to check Facebook every five minutes, and there were insane days when I found myself (literally) running from one end of D.C. to the other working 11 hours at a time. But one of the benefits of being a reporter is that you can largely tailor your schedule to your personal work style. I could work late into the night or at the very crack of dawn, as long as I met general deadlines. Suffice it to say, life at Peppercomm has been much different, and switching to a rigid “9 to 5:30” daily schedule that’s always packed to the brim has been a huge (and somewhat difficult) adjustment. Try your best to set personal time goals and calendar deadlines early on, or you’ll find yourself falling behind. And that’s never a good thing, especially when your co-workers rely on you to complete your assignments in a timely manner.

 

3) Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

I can’t stress this enough—though keep in mind this piece of advice comes from a guy who was routinely called a “nervous wreck” by his freshman year high school biology teacher. Given my lack of a traditional PR background, I’ve had to ask my team members about 5 million questions since I started at Peppercomm—apologies to Brooke, Carly, Ali, Rose, Yue, Olivia and anyone else I constantly harass via Skype and the phone. But I’m always reminded that it’s better to ask a lot of questions and get something right than to assume you know what you’re doing and leave a team member to amend the many mistakes you left behind.

Well, that’s my two cents on transitioning from journalism to PR. As challenging as the last few weeks have been, I honestly count myself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to take my first steps at a firm as welcoming and supportive as Peppercomm.

Lastly, if you’ve recently taken the plunge from journalism to PR, I understand exactly how you’re probably feeling. And I’ll leave you with the words my seventh grade social studies teacher emphatically stated before each and every one of our tests: “Good luck. God Bless. And may The Force be with you.”

 

By: John Tompkins

 

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madelineToday we are going to meet Peppercomm’s current youngest employee! But you can call her Madeline Simko.

Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm? 

Hi y’all! My name is Madeline Simko. I am 20 years old … pretty sure I am currently the baby of the office. I’m originally from Summit, New Jersey, but I switch between Hoboken and Sea Girt when I’m not at school. Essentially I am a Jersey girl born and raised. The “y’all” might confuse some people –I go to a southern school so I’ve picked up on some southern lingo, which sounds funny paired with my slight Jersey accent.

In the fall, I will be starting my junior year at Washington and Lee University. It is a tiny liberal arts college in Lexington, VA, which is the cutest little town. I am a business and psychology double major, which keeps me running across campus between our business school and the science building. Aside from academics, I am very involved with a volunteer program called Campus Kitchen, my sorority and several committees involving event planning for the school.

During my February break this past year, I traveled to NYC to tour PR agencies as a part of a school trip. We visited Peppercomm’s NYC office, and I loved it. There is a W&L alum here with whom I connected and then applied. I was thrilled when I was offered the position of research & analytics intern.

 

When you’re not hard at work at Peppercomm, what do you like to do?

While I do love my excel sheets and Talkwalker dashboards, I also enjoy being active and just hanging out with friends. My weekdays are super busy between nannying and teaching swim lessons, workout classes and walking my dog. I go crazy if my schedule is not jam packed, so I am enjoying the constant movement.

In my little free time between work and chasing after these children I nanny, you can find me out and about. At school I am always hiking or exploring the hidden treasures of rural Virginia. Here, I love going to museums, walking the streets of NYC or soaking up the sun at the shore. I of course also love to meet up with my fellow intern pals. I am so fortunate to be working with such a great group of people.

This past weekend I spent The Fourth down at the shore. I’m that person that refuses to just sit on the beach all day. I love riding waves and walking along the water.

 

What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?

This is my first real experience with the industry, and it has been a lot to take in. I really love the analytics and strategy aspect. I think it is so cool how campaigns and strategies come from the insights we gather from data. The intersection of numbers and creativity has always amused me, and that is why I think PR is such a fascinating industry. Understanding what the consumer wants, and then helping the client meet these interests and wants is a fun challenge.

 

Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?

This biggest surprise, at least for me, has been the amount of responsibility that I’m given. Everyone tells me your first internship is always boring with a lot of grunt work. That is NOT the case at Peppercomm. I get to sit in on important meetings and present my insights. It’s a lot of work, but I love it, and I am learning a ton. My first week was definitely challenging trying to figure out how the industry and how Peppercomm work, but once I got in the swing of things I felt more confident in myself.

I guess the biggest revelation I had was that everyone working at Peppercomm started where I am now. Everyone at some point was an intern trying to learn the ins and the outs of the industry. This has given me reassurance and confidence to tackle my responsibilities and learn as much as I can from this experience.

 

Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

Honestly, at this point, I have no clue! I just learned this past year that there are more than just traditional ‘PR roles’ or ‘marketing roles’. I am definitely more of a numbers girl (over writing). so it was daunting at first to be in this industry. The industry is incredibly intertwined and nuanced. I love the interaction and blending of these different roles.

I do eventually want to focus on strategy, but I have no idea if it will be through analytics or content or both. At this point I am not really worried about where I am headed in the industry. For now, I am just enjoying the journey, learning as much as I can, and soaking up the experience. I do know for sure though that I am here to stay. Sorry PR industry, looks like you’re stuck with me for a while.

I hope y’all have enjoyed learning a little bit about me! I love talking about my experiences with the PR industry. :)

 

INTERN LIGHTNING ROUND

  • Netflix or Hulu? Netflix 100%. I’ve rewatched Friends and the Office at least three times.
  • Text or Call? I actually prefer calling. I’m horrible at responding to texts and often talk/think too fast for my fingers.
  • Coffee or Tea? Low key addicted to both
  • Dogs or Cats? Dogs all the way
  • NYC or San Francisco? I went to San Fran once and loved it, but there is a special place in my heart for NYC since I’ve grown up here.
  • Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars is such a classic.
  • Crunchy or smooth peanut butter? Honestly any kind of peanut butter. I eat it by the spoonful.
  • Mac or PC? Mac
  • Sweetened or Unsweetened Tea? Sweet tea!!!
  • Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network? Growing up the only children networks my family had was Cartoon Network. Scooby Doo and the Powerpuff girls were my childhood.
  • The Simpsons or Family Guy? Family Guy
  • Chocolate or Vanilla? It depends on the food. Cake and icing wise definitely vanilla but everything else I would have to say chocolate.
  • Seltzer or Water? I just recently really got into seltzer. I love that the fridges here are always stocked.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake, but only because it has icing on it
  • Tacos or Pizza? Pizza, although I am a fan of the “Taco Tuesday” trend
  • Hogwarts House: Gryffindor or Puff

 

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shan (2)Today we are going to meet Peppercomm’s only red head: Shannon Clegg!

 Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?

Good day! I’m Shannon. I’m from a town outside Cleveland, Ohio, called Chagrin Falls. I recently graduated from The Ohio State University with a major in strategic communication and minors in professional writing and fashion. It’s been a goal of mine to move to the city. Last fall, my sister sent me a list of best places to work in communications and you guessed it, Peppercomm was on the list! I applied and alas, here I am today.

 

When you’re not hard at work at Peppercomm, what do you like to do?

I really enjoy music and going to concerts. I like scoping out jazz clubs and am a big fan of comedy shows. I recently saw John Early in Brooklyn—I highly recommend checking him out if you don’t know who he is… you won’t regret it. Outside of that, I like to run along the Hudson River and play basketball when I can.

 

What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?

I have an interest in two areas within the industry: branding and social media. Branding interests me because it allows you to have a lot of creative input over an organization’s brand direction. There are opportunities to mix social media, design and strategic thinking when building a company’s brand. I love that. Social media and social media analytics also intrigue me. Analytics is such a necessary skill to possess in the communications industry today. The ability to know how to properly message something and then analyze its impact with fancy graphs and numbers really sets you apart from other individuals and competitors.

 

Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?

The really awesome thing about Peppercomm is that they do not treat you like a typical intern. Each team gives you responsibilities that allow you to show your talents and build your PR skills. The atmosphere is fast-paced which makes you jump right into your work. There’s never a dull moment!

 

Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

I see myself going into more of a creative role within the industry. I want to use both my writing skills and overall design-oriented thinking skills to build companies’ brands and connect them with their target audiences.

 

INTERN LIGHTNING ROUND

  • Netflix or HBO? For medieval TV dramas & Master of None: the ‘flix, for everything else: HBO
  • Text or Call? Call
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee
  • Dogs or Cats? Three words: HYPOALLERGENIC SMALL DOGS.
  • NYC or CLE? NYC but don’t underestimate the power of the 216! #Lebron
  • Cheesy or caramel popcorn? 100% Cheesy
  • Crunchy or smooth peanut butter? Smooth
  • Mac or PC? Mac
  • Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network? Nick minus Nick at Night—that always gave me weird vibes
  • Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate
  • Seltzer or Water? Water, but I’m slowly turning into a seltzer lover. Shoutout to the raspberry lime seltzer!
  • Cake or Pie?  Cake with cream cheese frosting.
  • Tacos or Pizza? Ooooo both.
  • Hogwarts House? I’ve always said I’m such a Hufflepuff.
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Feb
03

How to Survive an Internship

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An internship is an exciting, new and unique experience. But here’s something that is easy to forget when you’re on the outside looking in: it’s terrifying. Typically, an internship is your first stint at a real-life, corporate job, and it will challenge you and thrust you into a life outside of tests and quizzes. Some internships only last a few months, so it’s tough to navigate the water and understand the intricacies of the company. When you finally do, you’re probably sitting in the conference room with a mediocre farewell cupcake from the local bakery, wondering where the time went and if you could have – or should have – done better.

Luckily for us both, that last part has not happened to me…yet. I’ve been interning at Peppercomm since O.J. took his Bronco for a joy ride; along the way, I’ve learned numerous lessons that have kept me afloat. Some were learned the easy way, some involved being locked in a stairwell for an hour and a half. Hopefully these tips can speed up that learning process so your goodbye cupcake tastes that much sweeter

intern

Go to happy hour

You’d be surprised how different your co-workers – and you – can be outside of the office environment. This is a great opportunity to break the ice and really get to know one another. Just be sure to keep the drinks below the “crying about my ex” limit. There’s loose and relaxed, and then there’s fired.

Get organized

This was my quickest lesson. At Peppercomm, interns will be given a lot of responsibilities right off the bat. I tried to keep track of all of them, only to receive a “Where’s that briefing book I asked for last week?” email about once a day. Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Create a “TO-DO LIST” folder on your email. Every time someone sends you a request, move that email to this folder. Then, anytime you feel like you should be doing something, you can double-check your electronic checklist.
  2. Go to your local Walmart (Whole Foods if you’re SF-based) and get a good, old-fashioned daily planner. Write down what you need to do for the day and cross them off as you complete them.
  3. If you’re really unsure, ask someone. You won’t look stupid asking; you’ll look stupid forgetting. Which brings us to my next point…

Don’t be afraid of looking stupid

You’ll be on multiple accounts, and chances are they will all be wildly different. It’s okay to talk to other people on the account and ask what’s going on, or how they would like a certain assignment to be done. Chances are they are going to be happy with your attention to detail, not mad that you aren’t 100% in tune with everything going on around you. Even if you ask, and everything doesn’t turn out perfect, guess what…

It’s going to be okay

At Peppercomm, you will be trusted with plenty, and treated as a member of the team. No coffee runs for you…at least not the intern kind. This can be stressful as all hell. It’s important to really get a fresh perspective on what you’re doing, and to never make it worse than it seems. Remember: you landed a job at an awesome company, I guarantee you’re smart enough to handle any assignment that comes your way. And as I mentioned before, you’re surrounded by a great team who would be more than happy to help you. Which doesn’t bring me to my last point whatsoever…

Don’t use the stairwell

In my first two weeks at Peppercomm, I wanted to see what the stairs in our building looked like. Not even use them. Just out of curiosity for what stairs look like. Shortly after being disappointed by the fact that they weren’t made of solid gold, I also learned that the door to the stairwell locks from the inside. On every floor. All 30 of them. After spending 60 minutes trying each floor, I sat for another 30 trying to figure out how I was going to contact my team while also trying to come up with a reasonable explanation for what happened. The former happened, but the latter still has yet to be achieved. Just use the elevator.

 

By Chris Barlow

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In today’s post, give a warm welcome to Peppercomm’s very first writing intern, Hannah Tibbetts.

Hannah

Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?

Hi I’m Hannah Tibbetts (Tibbs for short), and I’m one of Peppercomm’s Spring Interns! I graduated from Syracuse University a few years back with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Geography. My specialty was how to deal with massive snowfalls. I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois and I take great pride in my hometown, especially the Chicago Cubs (despite living in a White Sox household) and the important delicacy of deep dish pizza.

I initially enrolled into Syracuse University as a Film major for animation to go into character design. Then I moved to Political Science and did two television news internships during my junior year. But I still couldn’t quite figure out what my purpose was after graduation, and thus the existential crisis began. I took a job at your favorite coffee chain while working on a New York Islanders blog on DYSTNow.com to make ends meet. My only regret is I can’t show off my latte art skills at Peppercomm, which is a bit of a bummer.

There had been a lot of learning curves to get to where I am now, and I owe a lot to the people who helped me along the way. Since they won’t take my kidneys, the best way to pay them all back is to work as hard as I can.

Peppercomm’s internship came up on a LinkedIn search for me, and I immediately applied on a cold Chicago afternoon. A lot of my close friends in college were PR majors and it seemed like a lot of the same skills I’d learned as a newsroom intern would apply to working with Peppercomm. I thought I would give it a shot and see if I could potentially fit in PR. I never expected to be called let alone interviewed!  The biggest relief I felt during the interview process was learning some of the writing team had a similar background in journalism, like me. When I was offered the position, I was scared to death to accept it at first because of my lack of PR skills. But, the Peppercomm team and other interns have made me feel right at home!

 

When you’re not hard at work at Peppercomm, what do you like to do?

Even though I’m incredibly easygoing, I don’t do idle well. I always need to be doing something in order to keep myself on track.

Because of my grandfather, I love baseball with my whole heart. With spring training just around the corner, I’ve been getting my Cubs hats ready for their New York debut. My mom, twin and I have a goal to visit every MLB ballpark in the US (I’ve got 11 down so far). I love to watch NHL, NWHL, NBA and Syracuse basketball as well. Another intern here at Peppercomm went to North Carolina, so there’s been a lot of gentle (or not so gentle) mocking from the pair of us.

I also enjoy hockey writing & analysis, gently mocking the Cubs and the Sacramento River Cats, kayaking, camping, reading, binge watching Star Wars for the 1977th time, watching terrifying movies at 3 AM, putting my dog in ridiculous hats and exploring my new home for the best cup of coffee New York can offer. Although, I’m still on the 12 step program to accept what New York calls pizza (To me it looks like pizza that got run over by a bus).

 

What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?

I initially thought my answer would be the Consumer branch due to my background in human geography, but I’ve found that Financial Service has been the most interesting (please don’t tell my dad, he’s still hoping I’ll do something in finance). By setting up and organizing a lot of the material on several financial services accounts, it had given me a crash course in whatever subject I need to write about and I enjoy that a lot more than I thought I would.

Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?

As the first Writing intern at Peppercomm, I’ve been introduced into the world of PR while having the ability to hone in on my writing skills. I’ve explained it as a bit like wading into the pool and learning to swim. Every new skill builds on ones I already have and I’m given new ways to utilize those skills in order to float.

I can’t stress enough how amazing everyone at Peppercomm has been with teaching me the ropes of PR and making sure I understand what it is they need from me. They also loop me in with the other PR interns and their tasks, so I am introduced to more than just the stuff I have to write. It’s such an amazing introduction into PR and with their help, PR isn’t as terrifying as I thought it was. Surprise!

I never realized how extensive PR actually is. I knew about various campaigns and some of the work that went into PR, but most of the work and vocabulary is new to me. One big thing I learned about is the amount of accounts the people here at Peppercomm actually work on. It’s multitasking to the extreme and I’m in constant awe of everyone here and the amount of work and flexibility that goes into these accounts. To an outsider, it is absolutely unreal.

 

Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

I hope that I can continue building up the skills I’m learning here and begin to take on a more active role in whatever work I end up doing after this internship. I strive to work hard and be challenged with what I am doing. I have a feeling that PR has a lot more to teach me moving forward.

 

INTERN LIGHTNING ROUND

Netflix or Hulu? Netflix for my good TV habits and Hulu for Real Housewives of New Jersey. J

Text or Call? Text, although I’m awful at both.

Coffee or Tea? As a former barista, my moral obligation tells me coffee is my answer.

Library or Museum? Library, I was always that kid sneaking a book into classes.

Dogs or Cats? Dogs! I have a 16 year old Golden Retriever in Chicago and when my twin and I went to college, she became the Favorite Child™.  She’s an absolute brat but she’s hilarious and my best friend.

NYC or San Francisco? NYC! Less hills.

Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars. I had a 5-foot cardboard cutout of Luke Skywalker when I was 6.

Crunchy or smooth peanut butter? I’m allergic to peanut butter so I’m voting Nutella.

Mac or PC? I use a Mac. I can’t believe how thin they are now, mine is about the thickness of a Cheez-It.

Sweetened or Unsweetened Tea?: Unsweetened is the way to go.

Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network? Disney.

The Simpsons or Family Guy? Bob’s Burgers.

Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate!

Seltzer or Water? Seltzer has become my life since working here.

Cake or Pie?  Pie.

Tacos or Pizza? Deep dish pizza.

Hogwarts House: Gryffindor

So, that’s me. In as much as I can cram into one blog post, working at Peppercomm is such an experience. In my first two weeks, I was writing about cost allocation problems and then the next day my desk was overrun with Fruit Ninja Pigs. You never know what’s coming next. And I kind of like that.

 

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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