Today’s post is contributed by NYC intern Heather Valle
This week, we introduce you to an essential member of the Peppercomm team whose roots here date back 16 years: Jacqueline Kolek. Jackie is full of stories and life experiences that are relatable for entry-level and young professionals. She went from waiting tables at a local seafood restaurant for the likes of Donald Trump, to ensuring the candy was always stocked in a Manhattan PR office, to where she is known and loved today: leading and growing high-level accounts here at Peppercomm. When she is not on top of the 24-hour PR cycle, Jackie is literally cycling, as she is dedicated to her Saturday spin class. A master of work-life balance, here are some fun facts about Jackie, including her favorite meal and why she considers herself a boomerang:
(Pictured above: Jacqueline Kolek)
HV: Where did you grow up/go to school?
JK: I grew up partly on Long Island and partly in Massachusetts. For school, I attended the University of Delaware.
HV: What was your first concert?
JK: My first concert- The Power Station – I distinctly remember because they were a spin off band of Duran Duran, which was very popular at the time, and I was in seventh grade.
HV: What would your last meal on Earth be?
JK: Macaroni and cheese from Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro, it’s the best.
HV: Which TV show is your guilty pleasure?
JK: Now? Definitely the Real Housewives. I watch Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, and New York. I can only watch them in snidbits because if anybody else in my family comes in the room, I have to shut it off.
HV: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
JK: My first job was probably in retail, but my first professional job was at a boutique travel and lifestyle firm. I had to answer the phones, and she [my supervisor] did not believe in voicemails, so I had to take a message for everyone. My other task was going around the office and filling the dishes with Red Hots. I had a really great contact there who taught me about writing and how to craft press releases – that’s where I started pitching media and doing all that fun stuff!
HV: What was your most memorable job?
JK: Probably being a waitress at Gosman’s in Montauk NY, because it was a crazy college summer job and we would get celebrities all the time, I actually waited on Donald Trump.
HV: What drew you to Peppercomm?
JK: I interviewed at Peppercomm for the first time in 1998 I believe. I interviewed with Steve Cody and loved Steve, but I was really young. I was still living at home with my parents, and Peppercomm’s office was in the Graybar building. My father worked in that building, so I was like there is no way I can live at home, commute with my dad and work in the same building.
I came back to Peppercomm in 2000. What I loved when I interviewed with Deb Brown was that she said she had been doing this for a long time, and I knew I wanted to come work for people who had been in the field for a while. I was also drawn to the no-practice area structure, because the focus here was really on the work. But, I’m also a boomerang! I left 9 years ago for just 6 months, and I was like wow this is not where I want to be, so I came back.
HV: What’s an activity you do in your spare time?
JK: When I’m not spending time with my kids, I like to work out. On Saturday mornings I get up at the crack of dawn and take a Tabata class. It’s a high intensity interval training class – 20 seconds as hard as you can with a 10 second recovery. It’s a kick your butt way to start the weekends.
HV: If you could perform PR for any client who would it be?
JK: Athleta, my favorite brand.
HV: Do you have a piece of advice you live by?
JK: As I always tell my kids: “You can’t control other people, you can only control how you respond to them.”
HV: What is your definition of success?
JK: Success is about doing things that get you excited every day. It doesn’t matter what your job is, but it is something you look forward to doing and gives you a sense of accomplishment. In trying to balance work and family, it’s the small wins along the way, seeing a challenge and overcoming it no matter what the severity.
Today’s post is contributed by NYC intern Kamali Lavergne
Part one of our PeppTalks series features Janine Gordon , President, Luxury & Lifestyle and a Peppercomm Executive.
Janine Gordon has been working in communications since the tender age of 20. From Harrods in London, to Saatchi & Saatchi and starting her own PR firm, JGA, Janine took the industry by storm and has not looked back. I sat down with Janine to find out more about her life in and out of the office.
KL: Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?
JG: I am a third generation New Yorker.
I went to the University of Pennsylvania because of the school’s 5:1 men to women ratio.
KL: What was the first concert you attended?
JG: My first concert, at age 8, was a “Leonard Bernstein Young People’s Concert” led and conducted by the acclaimed composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein. It was part of a series for pre-teens and younger. Arguably, that series spawned her life-long love of music.
(Pictured above: Janine Gordon in Singapore)
KL: Which TV show is your guilty pleasure?
KL: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
JG: I was the Assistant Buyer of Junior Coats and Suits at Bloomingdale’s. That job taught me that I didn’t like shopping for other people.
Janine has impeccable taste, wearing pieces that appear curated for the Life and Times of Janine Gordon. I also ask her about the larger than life-size photograph of herself on the wall in her office.
I was asked to model in a charity fashion show.
KL: What drew you to Peppercomm?
JG: Peppercomm came to me, but it was a perfect fit culturally. I respected everything about Ed, Steve and Ted and everyone else I met.
I wonder if they saw in her what others have said to see – she appreciates the little things and makes you feel special.
KL: What activity have you taken up in your spare time?
JG: Learning Italian.
KL: What is your favorite Italian word or phrase?
JG: Porca Miseria!
What does that mean?
You miserable pig!
I crack up laughing, Janine just cracks a smile.
KL: If you could do PR for anyone famous, who would it be?
JG: Maggie Smith because she is extraordinarily talented and has a remarkable range. She’s currently portraying a bag lady in a feature film after playing the Downton Abbey Dowager Countess.
KL: What living person do you most admire and why?
JG: Emma Thompson because she is very funny, a gifted actress, an Academy award-winning screenwriter, and, from all reports, happily married and a good mom.
KL: What would your last meal on earth be?
JG: Strawberry shortcake — the entire cake — or a strawberry rhubarb pie — the entire pie. Either would be a delicious demise.
By the looks of it, Janine does not often partake in these.
KL: What was your most memorable job?
JG: Being Press Officer at Harrods, the world-famous British department store, at age 26. It was like taking the naughtiest kid in the class and making them class monitor.
KL: How did you, a young American, land the job?
JG: When asked by the Managing Director what I would need to do the job, I requested an electric typewriter. Apparently, all the other applicants asked for clothing allowances and big expense accounts. The Managing Director was a good Scot… and I came cheap. Actually, he did tell me later that my answer told him that all I really wanted to do was the job.
KL: Do you have a piece of advice you live by?
JG: ‘Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.’ I believe that this is a better philosophy than, ‘Do onto others before they do onto you.’
KL: What is Your Definition of Success?
JG: That’s a great question. How would you answer?
I tell her that my definition of success is mastering something you love.
Well, that’s it, write that down. As my favorite Intern Kamali would say, “Success is mastering something you love.”
I can now say I’ve been quoted by one of the best – an industry insider and a Peppercomm leader.
This past Friday I took the train down to New York City for an organized day of shadowing at Peppercomm. Upon arriving, I knew little of what to expect besides what Julie Hoang, my contact through which I had organized the day, had arranged for me to do: meet different members of the team in 30-minute intervals for a total of three hours.
For me, the afternoon was about coming away from my experience having a better understanding of what a day-in-the-life of a Peppercomm employee was like. However, I was not nearly prepared for what I was to learn (in a good way!) …
My first meeting was with a former intern, now employee, Carly Sylvester. We sat in the café while she sipped on her soup and I fired questions at her. I knew that I only had a limited amount of time to get to know her story, and I wanted to make the most of it. Turns out Carly was like me in a lot of ways when she was my age: she was big into journalism, but soon found that she didn’t want to be a journalist for the rest of her life. I say we are similar in that I originally wanted to pursue film at school, but also found that a career sitting at a computer desk and pushing buttons was not an ideal career path for me either; I enjoyed more as a hobby.
I’d say my most meaningful experiences during my day at Peppercomm were had upon meeting Sarah Sanzari and Marian Daniells, simply because of their stories while at Peppercomm. Sarah, for instance, now holds the Media Relations Specialist position at Peppercomm, a position that didn’t exist when she started working there, and only exists now as a result of her efforts to work with upper-level associates to create the position. You see, Sarah had really enjoyed the media relations aspect of her position at Peppercomm, so much that that’s all she wanted to do. So now, what she wants to do is what she gets to do, which I find really special. It showed to me that Peppercomm cares about what its employees hope to get out of their time working there and that there is always room for innovative change.
My sit-in with Marian showed me the same thing, but in a different way. Marian is actually from my hometown, which made our talk comfortable from the start; San Diegans have a special connection, especially when we meet each other across the country! Marian really likes to write and now her job consists almost exclusively of writing for clients. Something that is also important to Marian is corporate social responsibility (CSR), a department which does not currently exist at Peppercomm, but an aspect of business that is becoming more and more important for companies all over the country. Marian invests her own time to initiate CSR events like the book drive going on when I came in to shadow. This was just another example to me of how mobile and flexible Peppercomm can be for its employees, which was really great to be witness to.
The last bit of my day at Peppercomm was spent sitting in on the bi-weekly intern meeting. I think it was there that I smiled the most. The interns were so welcoming to me even though it must’ve been weird to have a stranger in the room while they went through their updates. What stuck out to me about Peppercomm was the company’s emphasis on comedy and not taking oneself too seriously. This was evident to me in my research before going and even more so during my visit. The activity of the meeting consisted of improvisation based on a single question about Easter (since that was the nearest future holiday), of which you would have to talk about for one minute straight. There was no catch; the spiel could be true or completely false, but you had to captivate the audience and avoid the “ums” and “errs.” It was there that I saw how comfortable everyone was with each other, even in the midst of learning and making mistakes, and it made me desperate to be a part of the group. Little did I know how quickly that chance would come when I was volunteered to answer a question in front of the group and talk for one minute. While daunting at first (I became immediately red upon my nomination), I enjoyed the opportunity to show my stuff to those in the room and I was really happy to have done it in the end.
All in all, I had a really wonderful experience shadowing at Peppercomm and while no day at Peppercomm is the same, I can truly say that I understand the gist of what employees there do and why they love it.
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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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.
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.