7 Reasons To Work At A PR Firm

For those set on a career in PR or communications, there are many forks in the road. Here’s the argument for a stint at a public relations agency, as opposed to a corporate or nonprofit gig, as a great place to start. Our bias is for a smaller, independent agency, but it’s really more about the PR firm experience and business model than anything else. Here’s why:

You’re a specialist among specialists. Within a corporation, staff learn public relations as it serves the organization, but at an agency, it’s the core business. Usually it’s the only business. That translates into a deeper commitment to training and greater mastery of the PR discipline overall.

Agencies offer upward mobility.  The great thing about beginning a career at an agency is that a mixed client base, coupled with the single focus (or a concentration in similar communications practice areas) translates into greater opportunity to move up the ranks quickly. Almost any road can lead to advancement.

You’ll learn what you love. Juggling multiple clients in different industries or sectors may not be for everyone. But the chance to participate in account management for clients within different industries, from B2B technology to food and beverage PR, will help you figure out where your passion lies and focus your career for the future.

You’ll learn to produce. Or not, in which case your agency experience will be short. Almost any service business places a high premium on generating specific deliverables quickly and well. On the agency side, you earn your keep every day. It’s certainly not the only way to learn time management and other contributors to productivity, but it’s a good one.

You’ll learn salesmanship. This varies from agency to agency, but at most small-to-midsize firms, even junior staffers will have some opportunity to take part in new business presentations. Even where you don’t, merchandising the agency’s value to clients is a part of the daily life at a PR firm. And it’s terrific experience that you can apply to your own contribution and career.

And showmanship.  From packaging dazzling content, to C-level boardroom presentations, this is also a skill that’s highly translatable to just about anything else you may do in life or work.

You’ll never be bored. The agency life is ideal for multitaskers. But, beware, it can ruin you for doing anything else!

A PR Agency’s Take On Mad Men

As the season winds down on one of my favorite shows (that just happens to focus on an industry close to my own) it’s fun to look at what the show got “right” about our world of agencies and clients. Granted, the season isn’t over yet – the agency could sink a big fish client as Don wants, or be happy with their mid-size roster for awhile or even resign Jaguar, what with all its unpleasant associations (namely unsavory sex and suicide), but I think there were some key themes that resonate with today’s mad men and women.

Show don’t tell, all the better to sell

This little axiom proved out during the season most memorably as Don and pretty new wife Megan used their wit and banter to demonstrate to potential client Heinz the agency’ skill in getting housewives to buy more baked beans. During what appears to be just normal chatter between themselves and the Heinz head and his wife, Megan skillfully cues Don to talk colorfully about their own family dinners and, voila, the personal touch sells better than any boards and copy could.

There will always be bad bosses

New copywriter Ginsberg begins to gain real traction as a creative force and even stands up to Don pushing a campaign idea for new client Sno-Cone. Don, feeling old, threatened, jealous or all of the above, demonstrates the worst creative director qualities by leaving Ginsberg’s work in the cab. He pitches only his own idea (featuring a devil, not subtle symbolism!) and closing the deal. Ginsberg never knows about this bad boss behavior but Don later tells Ginsberg “I never think about you at all.” Ouch, bad boss, very bad boss.

Women need to know their worth

It is the mid-60’s on the show, and women have made great strides in the business world but are still treated as 2nd-class citizens (or in Joan’s case, as “chattel!”) Peggy spent much of the season chafing at a perceived (actual?) relegation to solely “female brands” and the knowledge that although she could belt them back with the boys, she wasn’t competing on the pay scale. When she dips one tiny toe into the job market, she is amply rewarded by a great competitive offer and she jumps. Although Don tries to counter, it seems desperate and emboldens Peggy all the more to move to a better work environment. Sadly, this women’s wage gap is still true, with the recent failure of the Paycheck Fairness Act, so the 60s are not dead!