One of the first decisions Steve Cody and Ed Moed made when they launched Peppercom in 1995 was to put the term "public relations" out to pasture.
"We lost the term `PR' early on because from the beginning we wanted to be more than just a media relations firm," Cody said.
Moed added: "Of course, PR is a large piece of what we do. But we've instilled an entrepreneurial culture in which people understand the business challenges of the client and can offer any number of programs to solve those problems."
Take MaxMD, the official provider of .md domain names in more than 90 countries, including the U.S. Peppercom, which landed the account late last year, created for MaxMD the Online Media Advisory Council. Through online partnerships with medical schools and medical associations, the council provides content to teach physicians and hospitals how to take better advantage of the Internet.
"Obtaining the domain itself isn't that compelling," Moed said, "so we provide content so doctors and hospitals can feel more comfortable about using the Web."
It's a formula that Peppercom-whose name was inspired by Cody's dog, Pepper-applies to all of its clients.
For many clients, Cody and Moed offer Peppercom's Executive Leadership Forum. This program tutors C-suite executives on how they can be "thought leaders" in their particular profession and how to distinguish themselves from their competitors.
In 2003, Peppercom introduced Business Outcomes in concert with market research and data analysis firm Goodmind. The program is designed to help clients bridge the gap between measuring traditional media spending and digital media spending.
Peppercom embeds a measurement program into Business Outcomes. Moed stressed that while ROI doesn't strictly have to be about the dollars, "there have to be clear goals and some type of assessment as to engagement, whether it's sales, online traffic or reputation."
Cody and Moed aren't shy about turning away clients whose marketing programs they feel are unfocused.
"The secret sauce is getting involved and playing the fly on the wall on sales calls, which has been incredibly helpful to come up with strategic programs for our clients," Cody said.
Moed said Peppercom's business is expected to grow about 20% this year, hitting about $10 million in billings.