Archive for Internship

For the past six summers, the pool has been my second home. Lifeguard shifts, nannying, coaching a swim team and my own swim practices kept me there from sun-up to sun-down. This summer, however, I was ready to give up the chlorine burn and hyperactive children to challenge myself with an internship in the PR industry.

Shown above is a typical post-swim meet ritual. After a big win, the children push all the coaches into the pool. I somehow managed to always be the first one pushed in.

Shown above is a typical post-swim meet ritual. After a big win, the children push all the coaches into the pool. I somehow managed to always be the first one pushed in.


This is my first real-world, intern experience. Ever. I guess you can call me a newbie at the cubical-lifestyle. Walking into the building on my first day, I had no real baseline of what to expect. Snippets of conversations from my interviews and stories from friends of their own experiences (both good and bad) jumbled in my head. As the elevator doors opened on the fourth floor, I had no idea how this experience would unfold.

Looking back to that first day, a lot has changed in these past few months. I am happy to report that the reality of my internship experience has surpassed my expectations, which was, quite frankly, a relief.


Expectation number one: Coffee runs and making copies

I left my interview assured of the many responsibilities I would encounter on the job. Yet, I had no bench mark on what “many” constituted. My friends always complained about their grunt work and never ending errands. I had no idea how much responsibility to expect.

The reality is though, within the first week of work, I was elbow-deep in excel spread sheets and analytics. My team treated me as a true member and not just an intern. I’ve enjoyed contributing to the quarterly reports and conducting industry research for presentations.


Expectation number two: “You’ll figure it out.”

Everyone has heard the horror stories of someone showing up for a job to a stack of assignments and no guidance. Would I have to be an expert in Boolean operations or programming excel by day one? I prepared to make Google Search my best friend for the next three months.

My coworkers have been nothing but helpful and encouraging during these past few months. I have yet to dive into a project unprepared and told, “figure it out.” My endless questions are always answered and feedback given to encourage my professional growth.


Expectation number three: The Dreaded Intern Corner

I have heard of internship programs with an invisible wall between them and the full-time employees. Stationed in a separate area, interns tackle endless case studies and busywork rather than client-work.

While there is an intern row, there is also an abundance of communication between interns and the rest of the office. (I should also note that I sit with the research and insights team, and not even in intern row.) We are members of teams, we sit on client calls and our mentors encourage us to provide input. Peppercomm is a close-knit community with comradery across all levels of leadership.


Expectation number four: Regurgitating Lectures

My biggest misconception of what to expect, was the skillsets I would be utilizing. I brushed up on my business and marketing lectures and prepared for everything from SWOT analysis’ to pivot table manipulating.

While this assumption was correct, it just wasn’t the whole picture. Yes, I am using skills I absorbed from college lectures, but I am also pulling from my extracurricular activities and other experiences. I am fortunate enough to have a small liberal arts background that guides me to draw connections and question the deeper meaning on topics. These big picture skills have aided me in my internship experience.

As I look forward to returning to school, I am also sad that I only have a month left as a PeppSquad member. I want to thank everyone who has helped me these past few months and have made my first intern experience memorable.


By: Madeline Simko


johnpostToday we are going to meet Peppercomm’s only male intern, John Tompkins!

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

Hello, from Peppercomm’s best (and only) male intern of the summer 2017 session! My name’s John, and I’m a rising senior at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, where I’m double-majoring in Politics and Journalism. I was born and raised in Vero Beach, Florida, a small beach town of about 20,000 located on the state’s east coast, and I attended an even smaller, Catholic high school just south of my house. I’ve been interested in media for as long as I can remember, or at least, ever since I began parking in front of the TV screen every weeknight to watch Fox News’s Special Report with Brit Hume at the age of seven. Yeah, you could say I was a pretty cool kid. I’d always thought I wanted to go into broadcast, but after completing a PR internship at a large non-profit organization in Johannesburg, South Africa last spring, I decided to give strategic communications a go this summer. I found Peppercomm through a Washington and Lee alumni who currently works here with us and I’m so glad my teams have thrown me directly into the fray over the past two months!


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

I’d say I’m very “go-with-the-flow,” so it really depends. I love finding new spots across New York City to hang out with friends and I’ve made it a personal mission to avoid visiting the same bars and restaurants twice while I’m interning here. In general, I like to relax with a good book or show on Netflix, preferably somewhere scenic, like in Central Park or along the Hudson River. In fact, I love the outdoors in general, and at school, you can usually ‘cash me ousside’ on the tennis courts or hiking the many trails around our campus. I’m also on my university’s club polo team, but that already sounds a little too bougie, so I won’t go into further detail.

If I were to name my greatest passion, though, I think it’d have to be traveling to new and adventurous places on a whim. I’ve been my family’s personal travel consultant, booking the vast majority of our flights and cruises, since the age of 10, and there’s not a country in the world I wouldn’t consider visiting at some point in my life. My personal specialty is booking last minute excursions to exotic destinations, usually without telling my family. In May, after spending four months studying abroad in Denmark, I popped over to Qatar for the weekend, where I rode a camel through the desert and went night swimming in the Persian Gulf. It looks like my next trip is going to be a quick getaway to Chile’s Easter Island, located about 2,300 miles off the western coast of South America, in the middle of the South Pacific. But I’m open to suggestions.


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

That’s a tough one to answer, but I’d have to say that given my background in writing and reporting, I really enjoy composing social media suggestions and LinkedIn articles for our clients across the board. I’m a very meticulous person, so it takes me an incredibly long time to do so, but I love searching for interesting content and playing around with wording to really grab audiences and draw them in. It’s funny because I don’t really consider myself to be a very creative person. But, I just love that feeling you get when you know you’ve hit the nail on the head with your writing.


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

Since this is my very first experience at a PR firm, I’m still surprised each and every day by the hectic schedule professionals in this industry lead. I think it’s incredibly impressive. Keeping track of so many different clients and requests can be a little maddening at times, but I love keeping busy, so I’m thrilled that Peppercomm has kept me on my toes all summer. Coming from a journalism background—in which it’s often said that if you’re pleasing everyone you’re writing about, you’re doing your job wrong—I’ve also been surprised and impressed by the conciliatory tone and attitude PR professionals have to constantly maintain to conform to the industry’s “client first” mentality. Luckily, though, everyone I’ve interacted with at Peppercomm has been incredibly gracious and helpful, so it seems that all of our team members are in the right profession!


Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

Well if that isn’t the million-dollar question, I don’t know what is. Honestly, I have no idea, and I’m not even sure that I want to stick to PR yet. It’s going to take a lot of time and even more thought, which is why I’m so thankful I have another year of school to, you know, get my entire life figured out. If I do end up sticking to PR, I can only hope I have the privilege of working at an agency as amazing as Peppercomm!



  • Netflix or Hulu?  I’m terrible at technology and wouldn’t even know how to download Hulu if I wanted to.
  • Text or Call? Call
  • Coffee or Tea?Two weeks ago, I got a stomach ulcer—allegedly from too much stress and black coffee—so I’m going to have to go with tea. I’d rather not spend another Friday night at Lenox Hill Hospital.
  • Dogs or Cats? Dogs for sure. Cats are horrible.
  • NYC or San Francisco? Concrete jungle where dreams are made of (See: Jay Z)
  • Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars
  • Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?1996-2016: Smooth; 2016-Present: Crunchy
  • Mac or PC? Mac
  • Sweetened or Unsweetened Tea? Sweetened, preferably from McDonald’s
  • Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network? Are you kidding? Nick! (Drake and Josh was my childhood.) I still have nightmares about Ed, Ed, and Eddy.
  • Chocolate or Vanilla? Dark chocolate. (But not Lindt—it makes me nauseous.)
  • Seltzer or Water? Water
  • Cake or Pie? Pie (preferably cherry). Icing makes me sweat.
  • Tacos or Pizza? Pizza (Hawaiian, without the pineapple)
  • Hogwarts House: Harry Potter always gave me the creeps. All those black robes and aggressive spells…none of those children can be up to any good. And where are their parents?
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nataliepostToday we are going to meet Peppercomm’s only SF intern, Natalie Clendening!

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

Hi everyone, I’m Natalie! I’m a rising senior at Villanova University, where I double-major in Communications and Political Science. Although I go to school on the east coast, I grew up in Lafayette, California, a suburb outside San Francisco. I was introduced to PR through my first internship, which dealt with the in-house side. I knew I was interested in PR from that experience, and from my classes at school, but as I learned more about PR agencies I became intrigued about what the agency side is like. I was lucky enough to connect with Ann Barlow, learn more about Peppercomm, apply, and now here I am!


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

Music has always been a big part of my life. At Villanova, I’m the executive director of my a cappella group, and I also sing in the women’s choir, so when I’m not in class I’m usually at rehearsal! I’m also always listening to music and trying to attend concerts whenever I can.

This summer I’ve mainly been relaxing and hanging out with friends when I’m not at Peppercomm. Since I studied abroad last summer and attend college pretty far away, it’s been awhile since I’ve been home for a long period of time. I’ve developed an even bigger appreciation for San Francisco and the Bay Area as a result of leaving, so I’ve been trying to take advantage of being around this summer.


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

This is a difficult question to answer because I’ve loved getting to know different areas of the industry! However, two that have stood out to me are crisis strategy and media relations. I think it’s interesting creating strategy for existing and potential future crises, and making sure every possibility and potential reaction is taken into account. This kind of critical communication strategy is especially appealing to me. I’ve also enjoyed the media outreach aspect of PR. I think the process of communicating your client’s message to the media in a way that makes them stand out and also fits with a reporter’s interests is such a unique challenge. While these aspects of PR are taught at school, getting real exposure to them and learning from others here at Peppercomm has taught me so much!


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

This is my first experience at an agency, so while I came in with some expectations, I knew it would be different than anything I’ve done before. I feel like I’ve been able to learn so much about PR in a short period of time! One of the things I’ve realized I love about agency PR is exposure to different industries. Working on several accounts allows you to learn about so many different areas. It’s very fast-paced and exciting. I found it challenging to adjust at first, but interning at Peppercomm has made me become more organized and able to quickly switch gears than ever before. As for surprises about Peppercomm, everyone always says this, but it’s true – the amount of responsibilities you are given is truly unique for an internship, as is everyone’s eagerness to help you learn and succeed!


Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

I can’t say for sure! I like to keep an open mind when it comes to the future. That being said, I would love to work within agency PR. This internship has definitely reinforced that for me. But for now, I’ll focus on graduating! :)



  • Netflix or Hulu? Netflix for the shows I’ve re-watched a million times, Hulu for my current ones because I never watch anything live.
  • Text or Call? Text
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea for when I’m stressed or sick, but coffee any other day.
  • Dogs or Cats? Dogs for sure. I don’t really understand cats.
  • NYC or San Francisco? SF will always be home :)
  • Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars
  • Crunchy or smooth peanut butter? Smooth
  • Mac or PC? Mac
  • Sweetened or Unsweetened Tea? Unsweetened
  • Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network? I was a Disney kid, but Nick was a close second.
  • Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate 10000%
  • Seltzer or Water? Water
  • Cake or Pie? Cake because of my love of chocolate!
  • Tacos or Pizza? Pizza
  • Hogwarts House: Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff
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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



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. :)



  • 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




Intern Video

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