Not until the end of my sophomore year did I figure out I wanted to major in public relations. I tried liberal arts- that was a no, I tried advertising- that was a no, but when I came around to taking a few PR classes, I liked being able to present in front of an audience (hello theatrical background!) and both technical and creative writing styles.
I quickly learned that if I wanted to land a job somewhere down the line, I needed to network like a crazy person. So I did. I went to every networking event I could, had countless people look over my resume, and kept hustling to get good grades while working long hours at Nordstrom. A few classes that really helped me understand what PR was all about was my campaigns class and my Chicago agencies class at DePaul. From learning in my classes, I started interning at a boutique firm, and when I say boutique, I mean a strong boss lady one woman show. I learned how to write a press release, what a media list was, and how to pitch media. After I graduated from DePaul, I later landed my first internship at Weber Shandwick, a global PR agency in the Hancock with 300+ employees. This was quite the culture shock let alone being able to comprehend how one agency can have so many clients. PR is all about work hard, play hard, and Weber knew how to have fun. At times you can feel a bit lost with so many people because we all want to stand out a little bit, don’t we? A lot of us interning were friends which was nice- we ate lunch together and went to happy hours after work.. living out our interning days in its best form. It was great to be able to work on reputable brands and feel like you were in the heart of corporate America straight out of college, but PR internships like to take you on a roller coaster ride, so I kept on networking and trying my best.
Then I interned at Olson: a 75 person mid-size agency with cool clients in a lofted space in west loop. Here I felt like everyone knew who each other was and could joke around the office. The work I was able to do was so hands on because the teams were smaller, so the more exposure for me the better! I decided after interning at Olson I liked the smaller office vibe. Everyone was friends, they had fun, and did great work.
We are almost there! Then I received a job offer at MSL. The coolest thing about MSL is it’s a global agency but with such a tight knit, boutique feel. There are about 35 employees in our office, and the best part is everyone is friends. I tell my work pals I count my blessings because I found great coworkers, and great friends too.. and sometimes those are hard to come by! Funny story: before I knew what PR or advertising was, I always envisioned myself working for Leo Burnett, not because I knew what I wanted, but because to me, Leo Burnett was the place to be if you wanted to be the catalyst of advertising (hello naive 20 year old self…). Little did I know a few years later I would be working in the Leo Burnett building, working with PR pros and advertising creatives and strategists in such an integrated way.
So I will say this, big or small, PR pros know how to have fun. I do think there is something to be said about being at a smaller agency: you are more hands on which only benefits you in the long run, and you get noticed pretty easily. It’s also cool to work at an agency where you have a mix of clients both national and local to Chicago. I did a round up of pros and cons for all agency sizes from my experiences- and I hope you find the perfect PR agency fit if you are looking to enter agency life!
Boutique Firm: 1-10 people. You will see every task from the beginning to end and you have to be willing to get down into the nitty gritty. Great way to learn about the industry quick if you are new to it! Very fast paced and sometimes overwhelming if you are new but don’t be afraid! Smaller clients and sometimes smaller budgets mean lots of creative thinking and workarounds. 🙂
Mid-Size Firm: 15-75 people. Great client exposure and great brand recognition with all the perks. Small enough to be noticed yet big enough to execute ideas that might be a little more costly.
Full Size Agency: 100+ people. Brands with budgets and great perks. What I found at large agencies is that it is a great place to network and maintain relationships. You never know who you might run into down the line. Sometimes you might feel lost in the mix, but easy solve because you can get your hustle on and do great work.
Questions? Thoughts? Concerns? Ask away!