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May
13

PeppTalks: CEO Edition

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Today’s post is contributed by NYC intern Katelyn Pecorelli.

Steve CodyFor this edition of Pepp Talks we sat down with the Co-Founder and CEO of Peppercomm, Steve Cody. At the age of 39 after leaving a global agency Steve found the time to co-create Peppercomm. Today, you will learn all about his life and what drove him to start this energy filled company.

KP: Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
SC: Right across the bridge, I grew up in Fort Lee, NJ. I went to a nearby public school, Ridgefield Park High School and then Northeastern University.

KP: What was your first concert?
SC: Oh I know what it was! I saw Billy Joel in 1972 at a place called Paul’s Mall and it was just before he released Piano Man. There were only about 50 or 60 people there and he was the second or third person on the bill-it was way before he made it big.

KP: Which TV show is your guilty pleasure?
SC: Right now it is Vinyl, on Showtime. I also watch Billions on HBO. To be honest, the presidential debates, as far as guilty pleasures go, are better than the first year of the Jersey Shore.

KP: What’s an activity you like to do in your spare time? Besides mountain climbing and stand-up comedy and how do you find time for them?
SC: I read, all nonfiction. I am not a fiction person at all. I am always reading. I am able to mountain climb, schedule personal training sessions and perform stand-up comedy because of Dandy. She makes sure I set aside time to pursue my passions. As far as reading, the only upside of commuting on NJ transit is that I have an hour plus to pour into whatever book or podcast I choose.

KP: Which living person do you most admire?
SC: I have always thought Winston Churchill was the most amazing figure in history. Living…that is tough. My dad, Pop pop, because he raised three of us, put three of us through college and at 90 plus he is still feistier than ever. I take him out every Sunday for dinner.

KP: What would be your last meal on Earth?
SC: Last meal on Earth would be crabmeat cocktail and Dover sole with some nice Sancerre, which is French Savignon Blanc.

KP: If you could do PR for one celebrity/ client who would it be?
SC: Harvard Business School, I have worked with some great business schools but I would love to have a crack at a number one or number two.

KP: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
SC: Dairy Queen, making ice cream cones and banana splits and I learned a very valuable lesson; I never wanted a job that had anything to do with dealing with the public. It was 3 months in hell, but it taught me a great lesson.

KP: What was your most memorable job?
SC: One of my first co-op jobs with Northeastern, where I worked for a radio station in Greenwich, CT. Two weeks into the job and this murder case was front and center–Martha Moxley and Ethel Skakel-Kennedy’s nephew was the prime suspect. So the first two weeks of my job, I would walk down to the police station and meet the police chief, Chief Barron, and he would tell me the crimes that had happened. Then the Martha Moxley murder happened and she was 16 and was savagely killed, so it became National news due to the Kennedy connection. One of the coolest moments was the morning after. Everyone was there for the press conference and Chief Barron opened the floor for questions. He said he wanted to start with Steve Cody at WGCH radio, which was unbelievable. I was dumbfounded and asked a generic question. The case is still unsolved.

KP: Do you have a piece of advice you live by?
SC: Try to help others. Any age, anyone, just help others in any way. I mentor a lot of students and the most rewarding part is working with them and staying in touch to see where they end up.

KP: What is your definition of success?
SC: Success is doing something that you enjoy every single day that challenges you, that stretches you, that makes you feel like you are in some way, shape or form giving back. That is success. Nothing to do with money, prestige or power, it just turns you on to doing whatever that is. That is professional success. Personal success is being at peace with yourself and having a good group of people that you care about and who care about you.

KP: How did you and Ed meet?
SC: I was at an agency and I got a call from a head hunter who thought Ed would be a good account supervisor. He felt we would click. Ed came in for the interview and I liked him. The company then won a big client, so I made the call and we hired Ed. Ed resigned from where he was, then the client that just hired us, fired us. So, I had to plead with my CEO to still hire him.

KP: What made you create Peppercomm?
SC: Two things; up until then I had just been working with big agencies and with big agencies the more you move up the less contact you have with the client. So, your job becomes administrative and operations–all the stuff I hate. The other thing was, I was at the perfect age. I was 39 and I said it was now or never, I don’t want to be 65 one day and say what if I tried. Those two things, in combination were why I started Peppercomm.

KP: How do you two work so well together for Peppercomm?
SC: We don’t! Only joking, after two and a half years of working together, we knew a lot about each other and who would be able to handle what parts of the company. It is still that way to this day, we are polar opposites in every way. He is the Hillary to my Trump.

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Unless you live under a rock, chances are your everyday activities will involve some level of networking. Networking is critical. It provides the knowledge, resources, and support system that can sustain one’s personal development. Everyone does it, even unconsciously.

From what I’ve observed, however, most people have a flawed and negative perception of networking. They think the act of sharing information is unidirectional and often don’t know who they should network with. During events, they tend to target either prominent attendees or panelists, as if they are the only people who can help them achieve their goals. I’ve had many elevator chats with people who went home with their stack of business cards almost untouched because they didn’t get to speak with the people they wanted. The truth is, effective networking runs on a give-and-take basis. No one knows so much as to not need more knowledge and information. Anyone can offer valuable insight and the biggest network that we too often don’t take advantage of is the one that is the most accessible to us: our peers.

Who are they? At a networking event, they are the people who, like you, are either looking to make a connection, find a mentor or learn about a particular topic. Our peers include classmates, friends, colleagues etc. We tend to underestimate them because they are generally at the same stage in life and have similar goals so we assume they can’t help us in any significant way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our peers have knowledge, experience and talents that can benefit us. For example, an old classmate could be the one who refers you to their manager for potential hiring. It’s easier to maintain relationships with this group because they are people we already know. Here are some ways in which you can successfully network with your peers:

  1. Show Interest

The best way to find out how you can help someone (or vice-versa) is by asking questions. Ask about their background, their current jobs, their career aspirations, short or long-terms goals – anything to keep the conversation going. You can send monthly check-in emails to a group of old connections or send out invitations to coffee or lunch dates. People love talking about themselves so be there to listen. Showing a little interest in someone else’s life, is often greatly appreciated. You can learn a lot from that. At the same time, be sure to participate in the conversation as well.

  1. Organize Mastermind Groups

When you’re lucky to meet a group of like-minded people, it’s worth exploring that connection. Start a meetup group and get together frequently to openly talk about your goals, the obstacles that you encounter and your progress. Being part of support groups can only move you forward. It’s a great way to stay motivated and not fall behind as you hold each other accountable.

  1. Share Your Experience

I recently connected with someone after sharing my experience interning at Hearst Magazines. She was offered a position there and wanted to have a better understanding of the company’s culture in order to make a decision. She was wise to ask someone who had been in that position before.

When you share your experience, you open yourself to constructive feedback as people could point out mistakes that you wouldn’t have otherwise realized you’d made.. So always be open to listening to people and sharing your story.

  1. Exchange Knowledge and Information

When you make it a habit to listen to people and voice your goals, you position yourself to be a contributor and to also stay on top of industry news and important events. My friends and I consistently email each other useful articles, links to job postings or important events happening because we know each other’s interests. Having this kind of support is very enriching and it helps us stay focused.

  1. Peer-to-Peer Coaching

I heard this term for the first time at Eventsy’s Women’s Empowerment Summit. If your peers have particular skills, use them to your advantage. If an old classmate knows how to design business cards, ask for their services before hiring a professional. The same way, if you’re good at cover letter writing for example, help your peers proofread their job applications. Harnessing your network’s abilities will cost less and be more beneficial to all of you.

  1. Attend Networking Events Together

Attending networking events with your peers has its perks. It makes it easier to spark a conversation with someone. You can also spread out and speak to as many people as possible and then share the things you’ve learned.

We are constantly surrounded by our peers and it’s a network that we interact with daily. Learning how to optimize it is a worthy investment.

By Shelcy Joseph

About the Author

Shelcy Joseph is a freelance writer and career blogger living in New York City. She frequently contributes to several publications such as Classy Career Girl, That Working Girl, FindSpark, LinkedIn Pulse, Eventsy etc. Connect with her via Twitter, Gmail or LinkedIn.

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Today’s post is contributed by NYC intern Rachael Collins

Arianna HuffingtonCo-founder, president and Editor-in-Chief of Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, recently spoke at the Business Chicks Luncheon in New York, NY on her life experiences, daily habits and views on getting enough sleep. I was lucky enough to volunteer helping Business Chicks with coordinating and running the event, which proved to be an extremely valuable experience.

The focus of Arianna’s address was placed on her newest book, The Sleep Revolution, which explores sleep from all angles. It covers the history of sleep, the role of dreams in our lives and the consequences of sleep deprivation, all of which are backed by sleep science.

Huffington shared her belief that our relationship with technology means that we are now more hooked on our smart phones than ever before. She urged the audience to change their habit of charging mobile devices in the bedroom. This removes the temptation to check in on work emails and social media during a time when we should be recharging ourselves.

Arianna shared her advice that “a good day, begins the night before” and continued with one of the best analogies of sleep I’ve heard yet: “you’re either entertaining the guests or cleaning up the house. Not both.” Here she is referring to the science of sleep and how it plays a crucial role in providing our body time to clean out toxic waste in the brain from the day. Essentially, she said we need to “wash the day away” to enable us to perform better. She referred to several top tier media pieces which have recently covered the topic, however more specifically she called out a Harvard Business Review piece on the link between effective leadership and sleep (tip: it’s a great read).

HuffingtonContinuing on the theme of sleep, she gave advice on a few items to keep on your nightstand inlcuding: an old fashioned alarm clock (since your phone shouldn’t be anywhere nearby), a glass of water, a dream book to note down the themes in your dreams, a picture of something you love and a fresh flower.  As usual, Arianna’s sense of humor shined through and she suggested that “flowers can be expensive, so if you are a college student, just pick one on your walk home…I’m sure your neighbor won’t mind!”

Arianna left me with a few additional pieces of advice which I will keep in mind in future career and life situations: live life as though everything is rigged in your favor, never listen to the voice of doubt in your head, disconnect from the treadmill of your life to get creative and read books that remind you that you are more than your job.

 

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Today’s post is contributed by NYC intern Brooke Ferreri

If you are looking for an internship (and it doesn’t have to be a PR internship) stop right now because you’ve come to the right spot! Here are some tricks of the trade, from someone who knows how you feel.

  1. A.B.S – Always Be Stalking (Yes, this is my attempt at a Glengarry Glen Ross pun): As we all know, when going on interviews you want to be prepared with a general knowledge of the company’s history. What’s less known is the importance of understanding a company’s corporate culture, and what better way to do your research than through a little social media stalking? LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram & blogs (like this one) were all extremely useful tools in my internship search. I found LinkedIn to be very helpful because it gave me a professional run down of the company, plus it allowed me to put a face to the name when it came time to interview. I also recommend following the company you are interested in on Twitter and Instagram, these sites tend to be more relaxed and reflective of a company’s corporate culture. You can learn a lot about a person or company by what they are saying on social media. In today’s business landscape, a good corporate culture is just as big of a factor as the job description is in determining whether or not a position is right for you. With a little help from social media, you can easily figure this out.
  1. Organization: If you are interested in PR, chances are you are going to spend a lot of time in excel and your internship search is the perfect practice. I kept a detailed list of everywhere I applied and included the date, position, and person I contacted. This organized list made it easy to know when it was time for me to follow up with companies. As a bonus, now that I have an internship in PR I am an Excel pro (well, kind of).
  1. Connections: Never underestimate the power of a good connection. Talk with as many people as possible in your field of interest, and if you know someone through school, family or friends who work for the company you are interested in, be sure to utilize them. In general, people want to help you find a job, so do not be afraid to ask for advice. That’s how I landed an internship here, shout out to Laura Bedrossian.
  1. Be Aggressive: During this process, don’t be afraid to go after any company or opportunity. If you find a company you are interested in, reach out to them, even if you don’t see any job postings, you never know what might happen and the timing may be right.
  1. Don’t (stop never) give up: A little advice from me and my friends,  S Club 7. I know the internship search can be a complete drag at times but it is important to not let yourself get discouraged. Negative thoughts will not help with the process and it will only slow you down. Always remember, you are a “talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox” and you will find an internship eventually. It may even be here!
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Today’s post is contributed by NYC intern Rachael Collins

The subject of being proactive in both your career and day-to-day work has been discussed on PRiscope in the past, and is something I try to consciously achieve as much as possible. Not only must you do good work to succeed, but being proactive pushes you to the next level.

Working in PR, you never know what will be dished onto your plate without notice. By stepping outside my comfort zone, I put up my hand to attend a panel presentation at Baruch College. I was initially asked simply to accompany Intern Committee member, Chris Piedmont, for the experience and networking. However, in typical PR style, I was asked to be a speaker at the last minute. At the panel, I covered extra-curricular activities that I undertook at college and networking while in school.

Extra-curricular activities

During college, I was a member of a student society called AMPed that was for advertising, marketing, public relations and international business students. By being involved in a student society like this, I was exposed to industry leaders, business owners and college alumni who have gone on to do great things since graduating. The insights I received from being an AMPed member were extremely valuable in shaping my understanding of the PR industry and have helped me to connect with influential communications professionals.

If you can make the commitment to a student society or similar group, it will help you with your day-to-day duties, whether you’re an intern or entry level professional. You will have a better understanding of how an agency operates and will walk away with the ability to reach out to contacts in the future.

Networking

One of the first classes I took in college covered networking and to this day, could be one of the most valuable learning experiences I have been involved in. Networking is vital to being successful in the PR and communications industries because it allows you to make both business and personal connections that help your workplace and career progress.

My advice to the students at the panel, and for any interns or entry level communicators, is to network wherever and whenever possible. Always keep your ears open to opportunities because you never know when a random conversation with a stranger can turn into a new connection who brings a lot to the table. Your coworker today could be a valuable contact in the future who may help you land that job, media placement or client you’ve been hunting for.

These two discussion topics both have one thing in common; they involve putting your hand up for foreseeable and proactive opportunities that will push you outside your comfort zone.

All in all, Peppercomm’s visit to Baruch College was a great experience for us, and we were delighted to answer the smart questions of the students in the room. It was also fantastic to meet the other panelists from such a diverse mix of communication backgrounds.

Here’s to more hand raising.

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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