Jon Salm '13 Johnson Opportunity Grant Winner Interns with Peppercom in New York.

Jon Salm is an English major with a minor in philosophy from Lakeland, Fl. He traveled to New York City to complete an internship with the Business Outcomes division of Peppercom, a public relations and strategic communications firm.

As an English major and philosophy minor, I didn't really know what to expect when I accepted an internship with Peppercom's Business Outcomes division. While Peppercom is a PR and strategic communications firm full of English majors and other liberal arts students, the company's Business Outcomes division is a hardcore Business Intelligence/Business Analytics group. This means plenty of number crunching, Microsoft Excel, and other database management programs. However, ten weeks later, I couldn't have imagined having a better summer internship experience. Despite my liberal arts background, I was able to hit the ground running at Peppercom due to my strong computer skills (particularly with Excel), and my knack for following trends and drawing conclusions. By the end of the summer, I had a complete understanding of Peppercom's Business Outcomes process, our clients, and how the projects I worked on were positively impacting our clients' business.

In 2004, Peppercom Co-Founder and Managing Partner Ed Moed launched Business Outcomes. Business Outcomes is a tangible, analytics-driven system that combines traditional measurement with prescriptive strategy. Not only is Business Outcomes exciting to me because I worked as the group's intern, but also because of how much the group has grown and expanded in recent years. Business Intelligence is a rapidly growing field, and Business Outcomes puts Peppercom on the cutting edge of the Public Relations industry.

The term "business intelligence" was not coined until 1989 and did not become a widespread business concept until the late 1990's. Despite being a relatively contemporary field, it is very simple. Businesses want to see where they are succeeding, where they are failing, and how they can improve. For industries that don't revolve around sales numbers, such as PR, there is a lack of concrete data that explains this.

Business Outcomes focuses on the "why" of PR. Why are certain messages successful? What kind of messages are more successful than others? And how do different forms of media affect these messages? These questions are what Business Outcomes seeks to answer.

Before analytical programs such as Business Outcomes existed, agencies would simply count the number of media hits and relay those numbers to clients. This sort of measurement was nearly useless. What clients wanted was not simply a number, but an analytic breakdown of that number. Ed Moed saw this untapped niche in the industry and knew that it had serious growth potential.  

Business Outcomes' first offering in 2004 was a basic program of tonality and strategy that examined the positive/negative/neutral breakdown and what a company could do to improve this breakdown. Since then, the Business Outcomes process has expanded to include media quality, content quality, issues and messages, frequency, distribution, audience and a host of other qualifiers.

In order to sort through media hits in both the traditional and social media spheres, we use a number of different measurement tools, including Vocus, Radian6, Cision, Factiva, and Meltwater. Next, our team of analysts sort and evaluate the data using Excel and SAS in order to find trends and tendencies. Finally, the Business Outcomes team partners with the PR team to go over the results and create a presentation.

The final Business Outcomes report includes measurement breakdowns according to client-specific categories and prescriptive strategies about how to improve business and increase return on investment. We constantly communicate with the client in order to provide strategic insights and to expand upon the reports. Each report is created specifically for the client and based on the client's particular needs. Instead of forcing each client to fit within a pre-defined set of qualifiers, we work directly with the client to understand the most important issues of their business. This individually tailored, back-and-forth approach is a large part of what makes Business Outcomes so successful.

The Business Outcomes process encompasses client-specific measurement, prescriptive strategy, and an open dialogue with the client. Without one of these facets, the process would be ineffective. However, because the Business Outcomes team is dedicated to succeeding in each of these areas, we are able to provide effective reports and valuable insights.