As if taking your SAT’s, going to university, and choosing a career wasn’t scary enough, now it’s time to interview. Interviewing for a job is scary – you’re finally “in the real world”, and you’re about to be judged based on a piece of paper and your ability to make each of your life experiences sound applicable to the position you are applying for. A common interview question many applicants struggle to answer is “what is your biggest weakness?”.

 

Many young professionals gripe at the mention of this question and wonder why it’s so frequently asked. If they knew why the question was being asked, maybe answering it would be a little less painful. There are pages upon pages of online message boards offering advice to future young professionals about how to craft the perfect answer to this question. Since it’s the root of so much anxiety when preparing for an interview, I decided to go straight to the sources and ask interviewers directly what they’d like to hear when this question is asked.

 

The first source I spoke with was Ted Birkhahn, Partner and President at Peppercomm Communications. I asked him what he thought the best way to answer the question “what is your biggest weakness” was. His response was “be honest,” being honest shows a lot about a person’s character. He said, “Candidates who actually answer the question with honesty show a lot about the composition of their character. Those who fake it — and it’s easy to spot the fake ones — risk coming off as disingenuous”.

 

Although we are taught as kids that honesty is the best policy, this question can feel like a trap. If you admit failure in one area, maybe it will show that you are unqualified for the position. What many people do to get around this is pick faults that aren’t true faults. Ted cautioned that this is not the right approach, adding “It is human nature to avoid admitting weakness or failure, but the truth is we all have our faults and any employer who doesn’t accept this probably is not the place at which you want to be building a career. So, instead of evading the question, embrace it and be ready to talk about how you want to overcome or address the weakness to become a better-rounded professional and team player.”

 

I agree with Ted’s approach. An interviewer knows that you’re human, and humans aren’t perfect. With that being said, he also mentioned that weaknesses like laziness, being unable to work with other people, “are two of the biggest [weaknesses] to avoid”. Pick a weakness that could be worked on, and that could be improved upon with the help of others.

 

Deb Brown, a Partner and Managing Director at Peppercomm said something similar with a different strategy. Deb said, “Sometimes interviewees answer ‘My biggest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist’”. Like Ted, Deb doesn’t think this is the correct way to approach this question. Rather, she said, “I think the best way to answer this [question] is to turn weakness around to an opportunity. Weakness is a negative word. And by turning it into an opportunity, you’re being more humble and genuine. For example, ‘Actually the way I prefer to look at this question is what is my opportunity to improve and learn?  I like working in a team environment because I learn from others and learn how to work well with others.’  The point here is that you’re answering the question in a more positive way and which benefits you most”. What Deb said is very insightful. Applicants should take the question “what is your biggest weakness” and turn it into an opportunity to showcase your strengths in a humble fashion, rather than saying something like ‘I’m too much of a perfectionist’.

 

Both Ted Birkhahn and Deb Brown offered great advice about answering the dreaded question, “what is your biggest weakness?”. To all the young professionals who are going out to interview, best of luck! Don’t let this fateful question stress you out – the interviewer might not even ask it. But if they do, take the question as an opportunity to be honest and present your strengths in a humble manner.

 

by Oona Welman

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Oct
12

In today’s post, meet former student athlete and Peppercomm NYC intern, Bailey Irelan.

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

Hi, I’m Bailey. I recently graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism, where I was also on the Women’s Rowing team. I’m a Midwestern girl at heart, originally from Columbus, Ohio. I loved growing up in Ohio, but I always knew I wanted to experience someplace different after high school. I immediately fell in love with the East Coast, NYC in particular, and set my sights on working in the city after graduation.

I heard about Peppercomm from a handful of people, and after researching and learning more about the culture here, I knew I had to apply. You can really tell that everyone who works here loves what they do. I was also drawn to Peppercomm because of the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals that have seen the growth and change in the PR industry over the years. Their insight and deep knowledge are incredibly valuable to someone like me, who is just starting out.

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

One of my favorite things about the internship so far is the diversity of my accounts. I started here not knowing what area of the industry I wanted to focus on, but hoped I could get a taste of all areas to better understand what area of the industry I connected to. Although, I am getting to experience each type of client here, I have not yet honed in on which one appeals to me the most. I guess this is to say, I have no idea what my favorite area of the industry is yet, but I’m on my way to figuring it out!

 

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

During the interview process, I was told that the interns are treated as entry-level employees and in turn, they are valuable assets to their individual account teams. This isn’t to say that I didn’t believe them, but I continue to be pleasantly surprised by how much responsibility we are given and how many opportunities we have to really contribute to the success of our accounts.

 

Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

My time at Peppercomm thus far has shown me that I want to build a career in the PR industry. Every day, I am surrounded by extremely smart, dedicated and creative people and I’m motivated to have the same energy and passion in my work as they do.

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drake
kermit

The presidential election of 2016 will certainly be remembered as truly unique to any of its predecessors. Differing from previous years, social media is being seen as a key medium in measuring support and wooing potential voters unsure of which candidate to vote for. In order to stand out in a time when you can tweet and delete, social media and publications alike have contributed to the rise of the meme, the one common ground connecting an increasingly polarized population.

 

ma-boi-barryThe political memes of 2016 have helped to tackle the frustration of the current elections with a humorous twist. Pop icons such as Drake and Kermit the Frog have been used as a way of expressing frustration, excitement and all the range of emotions that the current political contests have brought out.

Memes are being seen as a source of comic relief during a truly bizarre election. The unique way the public is addressing certain candidates on subjects from their age, viewpoints and appearance gives a fascinating character study on how well candidates are received. Additionally, they help measure public perception of how much the candidates engage with the public and how well their message is reaching potential voters. With candidates being portrayed in both positive and negative lights, all bets are off on the context. Even Sesame Street is getting in on the action.

bernie-is-old

trumped-up-trickle-down-economicsUnfortunately, memes are not safe from being used for entirely unfunny reasons. Recently, the popular “Pepe the Frog” meme went from being a way to express common frustrations known as “first-world problems,” to being declared a symbol of hate by the anti-defamation league. Is nothing sacred anymore?

The fact that a made-up drawing of a sad frog has so much political pull shows how much of a reach these images have, and that memes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Thankfully, with five weeks left until Election Day, there will be plenty of time to get a few more laughs in.

 

by Holley Fells

 

Meme Credit –

Drake Hotline Bling

Kermit Sipping Tea

Obama Meme

Sesame Street Meme

Donald Trump

 

 

 

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profile-pictureIn today’s post, meet exclamation mark enthusiast and lone SF intern, Chris Barlow.

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

HEELLOOOOOO!! *Jerry Seinfeld voice* My name is Chris Barlow, and you may notice that I am not the first Barlow to grace the annals of Peppercomm. I attended both Diablo Valley College and San Diego Mesa College, community colleges in San Ramon and San Diego, respectively. I’m not exactly a fan of telling people that I am 22 years old and attending community college, but indecisiveness on what I want to do with my life has led me to it. I’ve dabbled in kinesiology, television and film and journalism, so one could say that I’m a jack-of-all-trades, bachelor’s of none.

Through my agnostic journey, I studied to become a personal trainer, worked on multiple award-winning thesis films at SDSU, wrote for a comedy news show, co-hosted a radio show for the best college radio station in the country, drove for Lyft and much more! I believe that this eclectic background gives me a unique approach to whatever task presents itself next.

I was brought to Peppercomm last summer by my mom (Or Ann. I still don’t know how to refer to her.), who offered me the opportunity to shadow intern at Peppercomm, which I took in a heartbeat. The alternative was making pizza 40 hours a week at minimum wage – I’ve faced tougher decisions. Though it was two weeks of fighting through a mountain of nerves, it was also two weeks of experience and learning about the workplace and myself. Coming into this summer, I was given the chance to come back as a fulltime intern. Needless to say, I dropped everything, came home, took it on and haven’t looked back since.

 

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

When I’m not busy, I like to keep myself busy. I enjoy being active, whether it’s at the gym, on a bike, with a basketball or something new. Just about every day I listen to at least one podcast, and when I’m all caught up on that I’m either engrossed in an audiobook or blowing the dust off of a paperback book. Other than that, I’m typically obsessing over the NBA and NFL. I also take great pride in my fantasy football accolades, though many have told me that that just makes me a big loser.

 

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

This is not easy, but I have to say the B2B section has been very interesting to me. While B2C can make for better dinnertime conversation – friends are much more excited when they hear the name of certain companies over others – I think it’s pretty cool to work with corporations that I never would’ve had the opportunity to experience outside of Peppercomm.

 

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

Biggest surprise: After a session-and-a-half of being here, I still can’t answer the question, “What do you do there?” What I do at Peppercomm varies every day. I never know what each week will bring, and that element of surprise kicks the stigma of a nine-to-five desk job to the curb.

Biggest revelation: I am capable of being organized. This is coming from the kid who failed notebook checks in middle school. Interning for Peppercomm means hitting the ground running, and I learned quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to mentally balance tasks from multiple accounts. From creating a “To-Do List” folder in my email, to buying a basic daily journal, Peppercomm has shown that I have the ability to be tidy. I even see this same trait blossoming in my life outside of the office.

 

Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

This is a question that I’m going to have to let the remainder of my stay at Peppercomm answer. According to Peppercomm CEO and Co-Founder Steve Cody, it’s “Out the door.”

 

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Dear Maggie,Pen
Welcome to Peppercomm! You are now officially part of the PeppSquad. To get ready for your three – month adventure with the agency, I, or should I say you, have shared a list of the most valuable pointers specific to each sector: consumer, B2B and financial. Interestingly enough, while you came into the internship with a consumer mindset, you are leaving tomorrow invested in the financial sector. Thanks to Peppercomm, you’ve reconsidered your interests and can’t wait to explore them in your PR career path.

 

I hope these tips serve you well, Maggie! Peppercomm is a very special place, and I do expect you to cherish your time there.

 

The Consumer Branch: Pitching heavy

To best support your consumer accounts, you need to think about why the brand is selling what it is and why its products/offerings can be of importance to its audience. This means putting yourself in the shoes of your client and their target audience. For example, you will be placed on the amazing Seasons 52 account. Seasons 52 is part of Darden Restaurants, along with Olive Garden, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood and others. As a “Fresh Grill + Wine Bar,” Seasons 52 differentiates itself through its healthy, seasonal ingredients. Therefore, when pitching for the restaurant, your most successful hits will be when you include new items on the menu in your invitation. You want to promote your client by explaining to their consumers why trying the, for example, brunch menu at Seasons, is such a rewarding opportunity for a food reporter.

 

The B2B Branch: Research heavy

Gorkana and Talkwalker are hugely important as an intern at Peppercomm! Gorkana helps to pin down the right journalists/reporters/broadcasters to pitch and Talkwalker is an even better search engine than Google. Please pay attention during intern orientation when these sites are covered – it is rare that an agency offers such an in-depth onboarding.

 

The Financial Branch: Organization heavy

The key to succeeding in your financial accounts is being politically and economically aware. Your biggest tasks on these accounts, EY Insurance and Raymond James, will be briefing documents and competitor analyses. Formatting is very precise and specific to each account, whether it’s bolding, spacing or wording. Make sure to ask for any previous examples, if necessary. Even more important, however, is accurate content. Do your research! You will have various questions about the insurance industry and you should ask as many as necessary. Out of every PR sector, financial will by far use the most acronyms. Here is a little preview:

 

SME: Subject Matter Expert (an individual who can best speak for a specific topic)

FASB: Financial Account Standards Board (U.S. accounting principles)

IoT: The Internet of Things (devices talking to devices)

I can’t wait for you to start at Peppercomm, Maggie! Maybe one day, future interns will benefit from these tips as well.

 

Kindly,

Maggie

 

 

by Maggie Rose

 

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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