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.”
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.
by Maggie Rose
By Caleb O’Neal
I recently went on a weekend trip back to the Lone Star State. As I returned to work, I fell ill. I tried to soldier on at work, working through the pain until I decided that I couldn’t handle it anymore. I went to the doctor where I was told that I could not go to work or do anything for the rest of the week.
Below are the pros and cons of that week off.
Netflix: Anyone who has a Netflix account knows the dangers of being home with nothing to do for an extended period of time. I was home for 6 days straight. I would watch the usual shows, The Office, Psych, and Parks and Rec, but then I discovered a new/old show, The West Wing. (Chris Piedmont and Samantha Bruno can attest to the greatness of this show). I was immediately hooked on political public relations and political strategy. I watched the first season, 22 episodes, in those 6 days!
Seamless: I consider Seamless a pro and a con. Seamless, if you are unaware, is an app that delivers food from numerous restaurants. You now see why I also consider this to be a con. I ate the most unhealthily I have eaten all summer and loved every minute of it. I didn’t have to go out and sit in a restaurant by myself, because food was brought directly to my apartment!
Caring Managers: During my quarantine I was exchanging texts with my intern committee managers, Samantha Bruno and Chris Piedmont. They would both text me throughout the day asking if I was ok or if I needed anything. I will say that I could not have gotten through the week without them.
No Work Related Anything: As an intern, you have a lot on your plate, at any moment of the day. As a sick intern, you don’t even have a plate. Peppercomm wanted me to get better and that meant resting and disconnecting from work. I begged Samantha and Chris to let me do some things from home but they didn’t budge, not even a little bit, but I was chomping at the bit to come back to Peppercomm.
No Email: As an Intern for Peppercomm you are not permitted to have work email on your phone or personal computer. As an OCD person, I was dreading the day I returned to work and opened my email. I hate unread emails. When I went back to work I had 291 unread emails! I was heads-down all morning sorting through my inbox.
A Whole Lot of Nothing: I did absolutely nothing most of the time I was at home. Like I said, I watched Netflix and I ate food. There were some days when I would get tired of those things and decide to work on an online class I was taking. I became so stir crazy that on one day I took 2 tests, 3 quizzes, and a mid-term!
I Have Kidney Stones: I think this one is pretty obvious.
I not only experienced physical shock as an unprepared freshman wearing rain boots in two feet of snow, but I also experienced a type of culture shock while learning to adapt to the people and life around me. Instantly, I noticed the differences between the two regions of the country. People dressed differently, spoke differently and certainly acted differently.
As a student studying public relations and business, I’m constantly focused on the act of communicating and connecting with people –skills that have definitely grown since my move to the north. I believe that it’s important to understand the little differences between the many ways of life in the world, and by evaluating these distinctions, we are more likely to succeed in the public relations industry.
Language Differences: Let’s talk about the word “y’all.” If you ask anyone from the south, “y’all” is a word, or better yet, an abbreviation of two words. By combining “you” and “all”, suddenly you have a southern accent. Believe it or not, “y’all” isn’t the only word derived from regional dialects. My friends in Pennsylvania like to enhance their vocabulary with “yinz” or “yous” to describe a group of people. It has become a new hobby of mine to go back and forth with my Peppercomm co-workers about words that stem from our various corners of the world. Imagine their faces when I tried to describe the word “catawampus.”
Self-Branding: Beyond our dialect or accent, communicating who we are, or our “self-brand,” is directly influenced by where we’re from. Whether we like it or not, our surroundings impact how we present ourselves. As communications specialists, it’s essential that we establish a solid “self-brand” before we take on representing the brands of our clients. So embrace where you’re from and don’t be afraid to incorporate a little southern charm, west coast ease or east coast pride into your personal brand.
Communication Styles: Depending on your day-to-day lifestyle, your work habits and communication techniques are likely to vary. From personal experience, I had to adapt to a faster work pace when I relocated to the north. In public relations, it’s important to know the different lifestyles that people live in order to better understand their approach and reaction to various matters. Understanding people and their backgrounds will not only help you relate to different audiences, but will also make you a better communicator.
In a country that covers more than 5 million square miles, it is no wonder that regions have developed different cultures. These “invisible borders” have the potential to disrupt communication, but by mastering the art of understanding others we will succeed.
by Lauren Earthman
In today’s post, meet jack-of-all-trades and Peppercomm NYC intern, Aaron Francois.
- Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?
I’m Aaron Francois, a senior at Baruch College graduating in May 2017 with an Advertising and Marketing Communications major and Communications Studies minor. I’m the PR Director of PRSSA at Baruch, which aims toward bridging the gap between professional development and academic success. Outside of school, I am a man who wears many hats. I mentor for the Urban Male Leadership Academy at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where I received my associate’s degree in Business Administration. One of my true passions is as PR Manager of the media and arts brand, Mindlezz Thoughtz. The brand primarily focuses on the performing arts and creative expression through various media outlets. We have worked with companies such as Ubisoft, a gaming company, in regards to Just Dance 2016. We’ve also worked with the Brooklyn Museum where I was given the chance to serve as a master of ceremonies for the Rise of Sneaker Culture exhibit.
I am a resident of Brooklyn, NY (born and raised) and enjoy the fast-paced environment, especially during the summer. Chris Piedmont’s participation in a panel discussion hosted by PRSSA at Baruch is what originally sparked my interest in Peppercomm. Chris discussed the Peppercomm culture and emphasized its openness to innovation. Stalking the website and watching an amazing video courtesy of the past interns gave me the idea to apply for an internship. The final add-on was the PRSSA site visit, where we came to Peppercomm to get an overview of the culture. That day showed me that there is never a dull moment at Peppercomm.
- What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?
Consumer relations. I’ve learned through experience in fields that emphasize interpersonal communication that satisfying the consumer is very important to me. Listening to clients and converting their wants into reality to create satisfaction is an amazing art. I have a personal manifesto that I live by, “there are no bad ideas, some just need improvement.”
- Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?
What surprised me most about my position as a Peppercomm intern was the workload. Based upon stories from close friends I expected the occasional coffee run and filing of papers, especially with this being my first internship. Instead, Peppercomm interns are treated as team members, tasked with associate level work. Although I may have been nervous upon starting at Peppercomm, I have become very comfortable with the culture and have really become part of my client account teams.
- Where do you see yourself going in the industry?
I see myself going in the direction of technology, B2B or consumer/lifestyle as a career path. Conversations, hands-on experience and research have heavily influenced my decision. Agency life appears as a much more appealing setting for me as the repetitive actions of in-house have become a turn-off for me. As a right-brain individual, I would rather not enslave my creativity to something of the sort. I am highly appreciative of the position I’ve been given at Peppercomm and plan to make this summer entirely worthwhile.