Jan 04

“Success has a thousand fathers while failure is an orphan.”

While it’s a day late and a dollar short, I’m pleased to share this infographic with you.

Created in partnership with BrandFoundations, our longtime strategic marketing partner, the list below analyzed the best and worst managed societal crises of the past year

Note: We define a societal crisis as anything ranging from a mass school shooting and the Southern border chaos to trade wars and environmental rollouts. We’ve also included #MeToo crises and self-inflicted wounds. Traditional crises such as product recalls, financial malfeasance and price fixing were not included in the analysis.

As you will see from the infographic, we chose to grade the organizations based on three criteria:

– Speed: How quickly did the organization take a stand on a societal crisis that either aligned with, or was the polar opposite of, their values?

– Strength: Was the stand taken by the organization unequivocal, or could it be interpreted in different ways by different stakeholders?

– Purpose: Did the statement double down on the organization’s stated higher purpose?

Hope you enjoy the graphic. Would love to hear your POV on our POV.


Aug 03

An Uncorporate Image

Guest post by Kendyl Wright – Fellow Peppercommer and "Uncorporate" Senior Account Executive


When I moved to NYC in 2006, I had big dreams and expectations of PR greatness. I took a job immediately with one of the world’s biggest PR firm and set out to succeed in the corporate world. Since this blog is about reputations, I will say that this firm had one of the best “corporate” reputations in the public relations industry.

The CEO was responsible for giving Coca-Cola the infamous classic tagline. I should have been in PR heaven. But as my resume will quickly tell you, I was not. I left after six months and moved to a midsize, privately owned firm. I was much happier and felt that this firm fit my work style so much better. But as young New Yorkers often do, I was lured back to a big firm almost 3 years later by the client list, the promise of more money and the appeal of running some of PR’s biggest launch events. About 2 weeks in, it clicked. I am UNCORPORATE. 

It would take me 2 more years, another job and a 5 month sabbatical to land at Peppercom. When my friend Rebecca asked to submit my resume, I hesitated. “I don’t want to work at a PR firm. I hate everything about them,” I told her time and time again. After a little convincing on her part, (and a lot on my parents’ part…where I had been “temporarily” crashing during my time off) I decided to take a job at Peppercom. 

We talk about image crises a lot in the PR world, but we rarely talk about the culture image of our own firms. Based on my experiences, and those of various friends and colleagues within the industry, corporate life inside the walls of most PR firms is less than encouraging.

In an industry centered around communication and creativity, there’s little brainstorming, less collaboration and not a whole lot of fun. I have friends that work at agencies big & small all over the country and they have countless horror stories of account management, career support and day-to-day lifestyle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I’m just over PR. There’s nothing I like about going to work.” It makes me sad that our industry is so corporate and cold. Why is it that we consistently hear about the creative and inspiring cultures at ad agencies, but PR environments are structured more like banks and law firms?  

Two days after I started at Peppercom, the agency hosted our annual “Uncorporate Challenge,” a fun run followed by a happy hour. The slogan of this challenge is “Peppercom – Keeping it Uncorporate since 1995.” Over the next few weeks, those knots in my stomach about working for another PR firm started to subside – I knew I had found a home. And while the out of work activities we have here are definitely fun, it’s my day to day uncorporate experience that has helped me embrace PR again.

Over the past year, I have learned that just because you have the big client names doesn’t mean you have the best job. I’ve learned that working at a place that values the individual and encourages them to flourish as they are is a wonderful and amazing thing. I’ve learned what it means to have a team, in every sense of the word. What it’s like to collaborate and trust those team members and be proud of the work you accomplished together. There’s very little individual blame at Peppercom, and for an industry that seems to always pass the buck, that’s pretty incredible.

I’ve learned that there are managers who listen to you and encourage growth in the areas you are passionate about. I’ve learned that it is possible for the most senior people at a company to know your name and actually care about what happens to you as an individual. But most of all, I’ve learned what it’s like to love coming to work each day. I do better work, I’m a better person and most of all, I don’t miss “corporate” life at all. 

Dec 28

REPMAN PODCAST: Hi, my name’s Kim. I’m 25, a Leo and totally, like, fried

Stress-womenA recent Forbes.com article not only suggested that Millennial women were burning out at a faster rate than their male counterparts but, get this, female PR millennials were topping the ‘fried at 25’ list.

In an attempt to get to the heart (if not soul) of this frightening trend, I recently invited six Peppercom interns to air their views (note: we had an even balance of men and women in the discussion).

So, kick back (if your schedule permits you to do so), turn up the volume and listen to hear if Peppercom’s millennial women agree with the basic Forbes.com premise (note: all three were multi-tasking as they answered my questions, so some answers may be garbled. The guys, on the other hand, were yawning, stretching and fighting hard to keep their eyes open).


Sep 24

Lovely to see you again, my friend

Hundreds, if not thousands, of souls have toiled at Peppercom over the years. Reunion-full

Now, as we mark our 15th anniversary, we pay homage to the past with our first alumni event. It's scheduled for Tuesday, October 19th, from 6-8pm at the decidedly downscale, yet strangely appropriate, Desmond's Tavern 433 Park Ave. South, between 29th and 30th streets.

Those of you who have re-connected with us at the Peppercom Alumni LinkedIn site can obtain additional information- i.e. what we'll pay for, what you'll be stuck paying for, Ed's choice of wardrobe for the event, the location of stairwells for those of you who used them at Peppercom for nefarious purposes, etc.

Our alumni have pursued myriad career paths since departing. Some have become full-time moms. Others have become landscape architects or teachers. And, yes, one has even become a bellicose medical supply executive. We don't care what path you've chosen, just beat one to the front door of Desmond's on the appointed date and hour.

So, whether you were with us at the beginning a la Efrem Luigi Epstein, worked endless hours during the frenzied dotcom days a la Dominic Albanese, suffered through the dotcom bust a la Stacy Calder, staggered through the Great Recession a la Coach Zanzal or simply packed up your tent and went to a smaller start-up a la Stein, you'll be welcomed back with open arms (as long as you bring your own credit cards, that is).

As The Moody Blues sang, “It'll be lovely to see you again, my friend.”

Sep 16

Greetings from Asbury Park

Peppercom employees weren’t exactly thrilled when we announced a while back that we’d be  Interoffice chow down  marking our 15th anniversary with a clambake/party on the beach at Asbury Park, New Jersey. At first, they thought I was joking. Then, the jaws began dropping. Asbury Park? THE Asbury Park? That dump? 

Aside from Camden, Trenton and the greater Montclair/Newark area, perhaps no other Garden State locale has a worse image and reputation than Asbury Park. It’s ironic, considering Asbury Park was once the place for 19th century presidents and millionaires alike to ‘Summer.’ It remained a top middle-class watering hole well into the 1960s. Sadly, tPcommers listening 5hough, Asbury Park then became a textbook example of suburban flight and urban blight. And, a mid-1990s attempt at revitalization failed miserably when the lead developer declared bankruptcy. As recently as five years ago, Asbury Park remained a ghost town. Beach sports 1

Then, like the proverbial Phoenix, Asbury Park rose again.

Today, it boasts some amazing restaurants, clubs and boardwalk attractions. We held yesterday’s party at the Watermark, (pictured) a very cool, bi-level restaurant, lounge and bar directly across from a pristine beach replete with surfers, anglers and sun worshippers. The weather was perfect, the food and drink flowed freely and we partied hard, basking in Asbury’s reborn glory.  Pcommers listening 1

There’s already been quite a bit of buzz and word of mouth in the hood, but this place is in  serious need of a public relations campaign. It’s a great spot to visit for a day, or more. In fact, who needs Jones Beach and all of its human and mechanized traffic when one has Asbury Park? I think our employees would agree.

Steve and ed speech 1 Note to Peppercom alumni reading this blog: we plan to complete the 15th anniversary celebrations with an early October alumni gig at Desmond’s Tavern (specifics will be posted on LinkedIn). A favorite of Peppercommers past and present, Desmond’s always has been, and  remains, a dump.  You won’t find any Asbury Park type of renaissance going on at Desmond’s (which is why it’s ideal for a mingling of the past and present). Hope to see you there.

Jun 29

Success is what we can make of the mess we have made of things

June 29
aren't my comments. They were spoken by T.S. Eliot, author of the some of the
most memorable poems in the 20th century.

quote appeared in the Boston Globe in honor of his graduation from Harvard 100
years ago. Despite his later success, Eliot was anything but a
model student. In fact, he racked up only three As to go along with eight Bs,
six Cs and one D. Those low marks, coupled with a spotty attendance record,
bought Eliot academic probation in 1906. Nice, T.S.

story doesn't surprise me one bit. For every overnight success story a la the
founders of Google and YouTube, there are exponentially more 'failures' such as
Alexander Graham Bell (who accidentally invented the telephone as he tried
building a more effective hearing aid), Edison (who said it took him 10,000
tries to invent electricity) and Buckminster Fuller who, at the age of 32, had
had enough of failure and was contemplating suicide. He decided to give life
one more shot, and went on to author 28 books, receive 25 patents and collect
47 honorary doctorates. Talk about comeback player of the year!

gets a bum rap in today's society. And, I see far too many people, young,
middle-aged and old, who are afraid to fail. So, instead, they choose the path
of least resistance, accept mediocrity and end up being miserable.

beautiful thing about entrepreneurship is that it forces one to confront
failure on a daily basis. Ed and I have failed countless times since starting
our company. Some have been minor. Some, as the Japanese executives at Sony
used to say, were 'epoch-making.'

and every failure is a tremendous learning experience if you're able to pick
yourself up, shake off the dust and try something just a little bit differently
the next time. Edison failed 9,999 times in his search for electricity. Talk
about OCD! And Fuller figured he'd hit a literal dead-end at mid-life. Look at
Harry S. Truman. He was a complete failure and destitute at the age of 40.

the Globe's editor put it, 'Life is messy and unpredictable.' The individuals
who recognize that and see failure as an opportunity are the ones who
eventually succeed. Sadly, we never hear about the vast majority of others who
give up.

here's a homage from one mediocre student to another. T.S.: I was never a fan
of your poems or your genre, but I sure respect your perseverance.

Jun 25

The acceleration trap

do President Barack Obama and Peppercom have in common? We're both challenged
by the acceleration trap.

acceleration trap is the title of a fascinating Harvard Business Review article
co-authored by Heike Bruch and Jochen I. Menges (Download Acceleration Trap). Its premise? Successful
individuals and organizations can unknowingly become victims of their own
success. Emboldened by one success after another, they take on far too many new
initiatives without clearing their plates of existing ones. As a result, they
end up doing too many things poorly instead of a few things well.

Obama's plight. He's either tackled, or been tackled by, far too many

passage of a comprehensive health care program

a weak economy

high unemployment

the usual instability in the Middle East

the Gulf disaster

the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively

rank insubordination and back-stabbing from, and among, his top civilian and
military advisers

a financial sector run amok

the ineptness of the Big Three Detroit automakers

a rotting infrastructure of roads, bridges and tunnels

and, many more that I can't think of at the moment

choosing, or being forced, to choose to deal with these issues simultaneously,
Obama has appeared weak, indecisive, detached and beleagured (and that's on a
good day).

acceleration trap authors would counsel our president to immediately put most
of these initiatives in a 'holding pattern.' They'd suggest he hold a 'wake'
for those initiatives he kills (so, that those individuals who have worked long
and hard to make them happen, can have a period of mourning). They'd also tell
'The One' to give his staff and the nation periodic 'time outs' to re-group and
refresh. Think about it. We are bombarded multiple times a day with negative
news about one or more of Obama's initiatives either stalling or going South
(housing starts, unemployment figures, the 'runaway general,' a possible
hurricane approaching the beleagured Gulf, etc.). Phew! Man, do we need a time
out from negative news, or what?

for Peppercom, we live and die by innovation. We pride ourselves on outflanking
our competition and staying one step ahead of clients' needs by developing new
and different service offerings. Many have been very successful (i.e.
licensing, digital, tailored workshops, etc.). Others have become sacred cows
that exist in a permanent state of limbo that demand staff time but produce
little, if any, revenue.

taken the acceleration gap very seriously and have been meeting on a
fortnightly basis to clear out the closets, shelves and files. We've put some
initiatives on hold and euthanized others. We have a long way to go, but the
benefits are already obvious. We're also looking for ways to provide more
time-outs for our people.

White House needs to do the very same thing. Obama needs to focus on two or
three macro issues and drill down deep on each (oil spill pun was
unintentional). He needs to do far fewer things. And, he needs to do a much
better job on the issues he does select. If he doesn't, The One will be a one
and done president.

Success demands flexibility.
The successful individual or institution has to know when to say when and
either avoid the acceleration trap or, like us, find ways to extricate oneself
from it.

Jun 24

An Ice Cream Campaign Worth Screaming For

Today's guest post is by Kristin Davie, Peppercom JAE. 

Ben&Jerry(2) There are three people a girl can count on to carry her through any heartbreak- her father and good ole’ Ben and Jerry. 

Turns out, Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t just help mend a broken heart, they’re not half bad at social media either.

To commemorate the creation of its New York Super Fudge flavor, the Ben & Jerry’s NYC Scoop Truck has been making its way around Manhattan delivering tasty, frozen treats- over 500,000 samples in 6 weeks.  What better way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of such a flavor staple than in the city that served as inspiration?

Every Wednesday, Ben & Jerry’s accepts suggestions from hungry Manhattan tweeters as to where
Ben&Jerry(1) they should stop next- and after a great group tweeting effort (including a rather persuasive picture of some hungry Peppercommers), Peppercom was fortunate enough to be paid a visit yesterday.

The campaign is a great example of social media reinforcing brand loyalty.  Not to mention, it made publicists out of everyday consumers, as more and more people took to Twitter to spread the message and encourage friends and office mates to submit a 140 character pitch of their own.

Yes, we took the tweeting pretty seriously.  There’s a rumor I pumped my fists in the office kitchen when I heard the good news (DISCLAIMER- I’m from New Jersey), but who could blame me?  Cold, delicious ice cream is a welcome reward when the temperature is nearly 90 degrees outside. 

At the end of the day, Ben & Jerry’s reminded me that I shouldn’t limit myself to picking up a pint when a boy breaks my heart.  The brand can help make some happy memories, too- just check out the smiles on all of us. 

May 19


I'm dedicating Aretha Franklin's 'R-E-S-P-E-C-T" to 
some ADD-ravaged marketing folks at a leading distilled spirits maker. They’d recently invited us to pitch their business despite the fact we possessed little, if any, 'liquor' experience. Naturally, once we were in the midst of the presentation, the lead marketer asked about our creds and, after listening to two or three brief case studies, sighed and asked: 'That's all?'


But, disrespecting our lack of industry experience didn't prompt today's blog. It was something far more pernicious. The entire team used their BlackBerries throughout our presentation. 


I kid you not when I say that each, and every, member of the seven-person team consistently sent and received e-mails on their PDAs as we walked through our pitch. It was unbelievably rude.


But, according to research conducted by Christine Pearson, a professor of international business at The Thunderbird School of Global Management, this sort of boorish boardroom behavior has become par for the course.


Pearson says increased incivility in business is a direct result of the PDA craze. Why? Because we believe simultaneously attending a meeting and multitasking on a Blackberry increases our efficiency. Neuroscientists say it produces the exact opposite effect: dividing our attention between competing stimuli instead of handling tasks one at a time actually makes us less productive.


The folks from this leading spirits company are by no means alone in their multitasking boorishness. Peppercom has two senior executives who are notorious for their use of BBs during our weekly management meetings. I've even tried to hide one of the offender's PDA in the hope that he'd cease and desist. Alas, no such luck.


Prospective clients are more insensitive than ever to an agency's time and resources. It's one thing to demand a proposal overnight, select the best ideas and then never announce a winning agency. But, it's even worse to publicly humiliate a firm by paying more attention to a BlackBerry than to a presenter. So, note to this particular marketing team: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me.

May 07

The (not so) good, old days

had the opportunity to dine with two Peppercom alumni last night. I hadn't seen
one for several years and the other for at least a decade.

May 7  Talk
naturally turned to the good, old days and some of the crazy dotcom clients
from with whom we'd worked. To wit:


The group of Israelis who, until they leased their own Manhattan office space,
walked up and down our hallways day after day screaming in Yiddish into their
cell phones.

The 23-year-old PR director of another dotcom who, in our brief kick-off
meeting, dropped more F-bombs than the entire cast of Goodfellas did in their
two-hour plus movie. This ill-mannered young lady later went on to be named a
PR Week Young PR Professional of the Year. Talk about a f**king injustice

The dotcom CEO who, on the day of his firm's IPO, went ballistic on our hapless
account supervisor for some slight transgression. The latter now practices law.

The 'me-too' dotcom company who aspired to be seen as nothing more than another
Scient or Sapient so they could make the same kind of killing when they did
their IPO. We ended up suing them for unpaid fees after they went belly-up.

The brand-new dotcom client I confronted after learning from a Peppercom job
prospect that her agency was actively pitching the account. We fired the client
on the spot. That was fun.

The dotcom client that hired us in the morning and, after learning their
funding hadn't come through, fired us the very same afternoon. They still hold
the record for shortest client relationship ever. 

then, the talk turned to the employees. Because we were growing at an annual
clip of 75 percent, we hired anyone who could walk and chew gum at the same
time. So, we had:

– The employee who, one month after joining us, strolled
into my office, sat down, folded his arms behind his head and sighed, "You
do know I'm working on two of the hottest btob tech accounts in the nation
right now, correct?" I nodded my head. "Well," he continued.
"I want a raise and promotion now." Let's just say he moved on to
another agency shortly after that conversation.

One employee who got in a heated argument with a client, telling the latter he
had no clue what public relations was all about and singlehandedly killed the

Another employee who, on his first day of work, simply disappeared after lunch.
We sent out a search party around 4pm and found him chatting amiably with a
friend at a nearby Starbucks. He didn't think there were time limits to lunch

The two employees who, anticipating today's vitriolic Fox vs. MSNBC shout
downs, would scream at one another on subjects ranging from gender and race to
dress code and education. That sure made for a great workplace culture.

those were the days. Today seems so pale by comparison. How about you? Any
memorable dotcom tales you'd like to share?