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“Now with the economy as it is and with the proliferation of digital, it’s all changed. Now it’s back to the message.”


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Maggie O’Neill brings 15 years of communications and event planning experience to Peppercommotions, the experiential events division of Peppercom Strategic Communications. The division, which she created in 2005, has grown to a $1M plus arm of Peppercom with a client roster which has included Whirlpool, Tyco, T.G.I. Friday’s, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Panasonic, Crocs, Nikon and more.

Peppercommotions is the award-winning experiential marketing branch of Peppercom, a strategic communications agency that combines strategic events and integrated communications expertise. Headquartered in New York with offices in San Francisco and London, we deliver experiences that build your brand, create industry buzz and address your bottom line.

MO: What’s your favorite part of your job?

Maggie: To get to work with different people whether client or colleague. Each brings a unique perspective to what we do, makes me think about things differently and presents an opportunity to both teach and learn. I know it may sound cliché, but it’s true. The second is that work is different each and every day. One minute I am providing crisis communications counsel and the next I am ordering signage. It keeps me on my toes and allows me to have some balance at the office.

MO: Can you provide some examples of how you’re bridging the gap between strategic communications and events?

Maggie: Back in the day, and by that I mean a few years ago, events were all about show. Let’s see if people can fly above the audience, can we light your dessert on fire, what about 75 plasmas? Now with the economy as it is and with the proliferation of digital, it’s all changed. Now it’s back to the message. What does an event want to say, who is your audience and what is the primary goal? Fluff is fun, but message and what you are communicating is key. Since Peppercommotions was born out of PR, we understand the importance of positioning and brand message and believe we are able to better connect the two.

MO: What’s experiential marketing and how can a business decide whether it’s a strategy they should be implementing?

Maggie: At its simplest form it’s about relationships and connections. It’s critical to all businesses, and has become even more critical as digital communications have become the norm. Experiential marketing is an opportunity for a customer/consumer to interact with your brand one-on-one, in a unique environment where they experience your product or service in a way that makes sense. Experiential marketing is the only way your target audience can be a part of your brand without the influence of advertising, sales channels, etc. It’s unique and important. It can be the equivalent of the Mad Men martini lunch combined with the benefits of a great tradeshow.

MO: What are some trends in the event industry that you’re excited about?

Maggie: It’s no longer about the event only. When events for events sake went away the industry was forced to reinvent itself. Today, it’s about extending the event, and bringing relevance to the brand experience both before and after the actual event itself. This involves digital communities, social networking, online tradeshow experiences and more. While the party may last only one week, one day or one hour, the benefits and experience continue.

MO: Has your personal definition of success changed since you first started your career?

Maggie: I think so. I remember when I decided to go into PR; I wanted to do it to meet Duran Duran. Yes, I was 17 at the time. So it’s changed since then. But since I started, my focus has become more about making a difference for my team and the brand I represent. Success is no longer about a stack of clips or attendees; it’s all about engagement and creating messages to pass along. If someone says, “Oh, I heard about that from XYZ, then I have done my job.”

MO: How do you think that social media is changing the landscape of the event planning industry?

Maggie: It was once considered a threat, but now it’s a benefit. There was an implied threat that live events would be replaced by digital-only events, but we learned it’s about relationships and social can’t change that. What it has done is given us a means to extend our efforts. To make the activation of an event or sponsorship longer and more impactful for our clients, customers and consumers. Its opens up a new communication platform, a new way to engage and a new tool for execution.

MO: What are some tips for planning and hosting a successful strategic event?

Maggie: I can’t say enough about a good project management system. Simply a grid. Organization is key. But beyond that, think about all of the audiences you want to reach and what your ultimate objective is. This will ensure it’s not just a party, but one that people will want to go to, one that people will engage at, and one that people will talk about after it’s over. Having an objective and benchmarking for success from the start will ensure it ties back to your overall strategy and achieves your goals.

MO: Thank you so much for joining us today!


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