Management supervisor, Peppercom; Associate director, Peppercommotions
It is rare for a young PR professional to be given the opportunity to seriously contribute to a new practice or office. Marya Pongrace, 27, was given the even scarcer opportunity to do it twice.
When Pongrace served as junior account executive, Peppercom put her on course to help found not only its events practice, but its UK office.
Ann Barlow, partner, says that the agency immediately knew that Marya had the rare combination of creativity and practicality.
"She never thought, 'we can't do this,'" Barlow says. "She was excited for the adventure."
Barlow describes Pongrace's strengths as having a tremendous work ethic, being creative, and instilling client trust. She is also a kind and natural leader, Barlow says.
"People like and respect Marya because she's been there," Barlow says. "She knows how to get the permit from the city and gets on the phone with a disinterested reporter."
Pongrace went to Syracuse University, where she switched from magazine journalism to PR after taking an industry class as an elective. When she began looking for an agency, she felt an instantaneous fit with Peppercom.
"The Peppercom structure plays to people's strengths," Pongrace says. "The opportunities available speak to the [lack of] hierarchy."
"Peppercom is a meritocracy; there's nothing to hold people who do well back," Barlow says. "We value maturity, but maturity doesn't necessary mean years."
Peppercommotions handles event planning for both existing Peppercom clients and new ones. It is, essentially, a business extension and a new business driver. Thus, Pongrace says the decision to create a new practice was both a strategic and financial decision.
"The days for doing events for the sake of an event are over," Pongrace says. "If you want to touch your consumers and business partners, you have to be smart about it."
While the agency has handled events for clients for years, it did not have a separate practice.
"Peppercommotions was a natural evolution for the agency," Pongrace says. "We pride ourselves in creating programs for clients to reach their audiences."
The other initiative Pongrace helped create was Peppercom's UK office.
She moved to London in 2002 and worked with an MD who was hired from outside of the agency for the role.
"My role was to help transition some of our clients like GE and Panasonic and help find new business," Pongrace says.
She also says she learned a lot from the actual logistics of setting up the office, which help her handle the myriad different tasks that pop up during the course of planning events.
Barlow says that she expects Pongrace to continue her work with the events sponsorship business, as she says Pongrace still has a lot she wants to accomplish
"I'm sure there's more she wants to do," Barlow says. "And we'll try to help her find a way to do it."