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Today’s post is contributed by NYC intern Rachael Collins.

bio_ted-birkhahn_524x550_542_550_s_c1For our fourth installment of PeppTalks, Ted Birkhahn, Partner and President at Peppercomm, shared his views on work and life and shed light on the experiences which have made him who he is today. Ted, who is in charge of client services and managing agency operations, has a diverse background in political public relations, journalism and production.

RC: Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?
TB: I grew up in a mixture of New York and Connecticut and attended the University of Vermont.

RC: What was your first concert?
TB: I saw Air Supply at Radio City Music Hall when I was 10 years old. You probably haven’t heard of them but they are an 80’s rock n’ roll style band.

RC: What would your last meal on earth be?
TB: Steak tartare which is prepared tableside, with the freshest possible French bread and butter.
(For those of you who are unfamiliar with this Parisian dish, it is a meat dish made from finely chopped raw beef. It is often served with onions, capers and seasonings and often served with a raw egg yolk. It is said that the key to a successful steak tartare is fresh beef, freshly hand-chopped at the very last minute and mixed tableside).

RC: Which TV show is your guilty pleasure?
TB: Right now? Homeland, Billions and a family favorite is Modern Family. Also, Seinfeld.

RC: What is your favorite episode?
TB: The Marine Biologist episode has got to be my favorite.

RC: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
TB: I was a camp counselor. I learnt that I hated kids and spent all the money I earned on beer.

RC: What was your most memorable job?
TB: Working for the mayor of New York. It was both terrifying and stressful but it was an incredible learning experience.

RC: What drew you to Peppercomm?
TB: Honestly, I needed a career change from working for the Government. It was a great time to get into PR because of the economic climate and Peppercomm was offering something different with an entrepreneurial spirit and a clear positive work culture. I took the risk and it payed off.

RC: What’s an activity you do in your spare time?
TB: When I’m not playing parent taxi, Hockey, hockey and hockey. Whether it is being played, watched or attended, my family and I are crazy for it. It is something the whole family is keen on. Other than that, I enjoy fishing and have a huge interest in airplanes.

RC: What are your teams?
TB: The NY Rangers and University of Vermont.

RC: If you could do PR for any client, who would it be?
TB: I would love access to a presidential candidate or a sports team like the New York Rangers.

RC: Do you have a piece of advice you live by?
TB: I have two: Trust building with clients and in your job is crucial, and never stop building your network and learning. These two things go hand in hand. Oh and I am also a big believer in the theory behind karma.

RC: What is Your Definition of Success?
TB: To do a job where you feel like you’re making a difference and knowing that people value your work.

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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.


Today’s post is contributed by former NYC intern Shalaka Vinod

Armel headshotFor our third installment of PeppTalks, we discussed all things work and life with Armel Leslie, Senior Director here at Peppercomm. Armel is a crucial member of the Peppercomm team and brings 15 plus years of experience in financial and corporate PR to the team. Armel feels like part of the family to us interns, as his office is in such close proximity to ‘intern row’, daily debates and discussions are the norm.

SV: Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?
AL: I grew up and went to school in South Africa. I came to the U.S. in 1994 and a year later went to Baruch College right here in Gramercy Park.

SV: What was your first concert?
AL: Wow that was a long time ago. The first concert that meant anything was David Bowie in 1990. Since then he has been my favorite musician. I recently attended his tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. A great way to honor such a talent.

SV: Which TV show is your guilty pleasure?
AL: Guilty pleasure?? Hmm… I’m a big fan of House of Cards. It’s a great show.

SV: What would your last meal on Earth be?
AL: Israeli food- Pita, hummus and eggplant.

SV: What’s an activity you’ve taken up recently?
AL: I’ve actually recently taken up kayaking. I hope to go on my first adventure with my kayak, Mellow Yellow (pictured below), over Memorial Day weekend.

Mellow Yellow

SV: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
AL: My first job… was coaching tennis. I learned how to be patient when dealing with people, mainly kids.

SV: What drew you to Peppercomm?
AL: The firm I was at before, Walek & Associates, was actually acquired by Peppercomm in 2013. So I joined with the Walek team, but was immediately impressed by how smart and talented people were.

SV: If you could perform PR for one client/celeb, who would it be?
AL: I’m a big football fan so I would have to say Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s my favorite player.

SV: Do you have a piece of advice you live by?
AL: Yes, I would say, don’t sweat the small stuff.
SV: That’s great advice, short and sweet.

SV: What would you say is your definition of success?
AL: To be recognized as a good team player that leads by example.

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Today’s post is contributed by NYC intern Katelyn Pecorelli

Listen. Engage. Repeat. This is both the tag line here at Peppercomm and a good rule of thumb for any stand-up comedian. You may wonder how the two are connected, but when you think about it, stand-up comedy and strategic communications have more similarities than differences. The main similarity is that in both professions you must use the reactions of your audience to receive the best results.

Peppercomm CEO, Steve Cody, takes his stand-up comedy very seriously therefore it is required of all employees to be trained by the Chief Comedy Officer (CCO), Clayton Fletcher. Clayton recently held a comedy training that I had the honor of attending. From this experience I learned many things that I never would have related back to communications without his help.

I entered the Broadway comedy club at 2:30pm with fellow Peppercomm colleagues, completely unaware of what was in store for the next 3 hours. The room was dark except for the stage lights that blinded each performer. On stage, we saw Clayton eagerly waiting for our arrival. As everyone settled in, we were offered a drink to calm our nerves. With no time to even sip our drinks, Clayton was ready to begin.

First, we went over how stand-up comedy can help with our everyday lives at Peppercomm:
• Helps one to think on their feet, specifically in meetings.
• Helps one to open their mind to new ideas, specifically in brainstorms.
• Helps one to react to others, in client meetings or new business pitches.

Then, Clayton broke down the different types of stand-up comedy: Storytelling, prop, impersonation, put down, and observation. He explained that for each style, the most important aspect is to be honest. You can exaggerate, but the audience will always be able to tell if you are lying.

Finally, it was our turn. Each person at comedy training was invited to take the stage for five minutes and perform a standup comedy bit. Luckily, Clayton gave us a break to help us prepare, but somehow it did not seem like any amount of time would prepare me for what was about to happen.

For unexplainable reasons I volunteered to be the first on stage. Although the lights nearly blinded me, the experience over all was not as petrifying as expected. Taking Clayton’s advice, I spoke about things that were true to me and the audience loved it! Clayton critiqued each one of us once we finished, to help us understand how we could improve.

Peppercomm has a very different culture than many other work places. After being able to participate in the standup comedy training, I fully understand why Peppercomm uses this technique. Not only did it help me feel more comfortable speaking in front of an audience, it also helped me open my mind in client situations and react in ways I never previously thought possible.

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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.




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