The pros and cons of boutique PR agencies

Your views on company culture, creativity, and your career arc should be key elements in choosing where to take your first (or next) job.

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It’s that magical time of year when students are getting ready to wrap up their college years and land that first job.

Although it’s a really exciting time, it is certainly stressful to go through the application process, especially if you’re not sure what kind of agency life you’re looking for.

As someone who accepted a position with a boutique PR agency right out of college and hasn’t looked back, I think I have a good perspective on the pros of working for a boutique agency. However, I do recognize that not all things are perfect and there are definitely some cons to this working style.

Below you will find some reasons why I love boutique agency life, and some reasons why it might not be an ideal fit for everyone:

Creativity and spontaneity

Pro: Boutique agencies are small and nimble enough that reps can listen to everyone’s ideas and figure out whether those ideas fit with the client’s PR strategy. I have found that an unexpected spark from a spontaneous creative idea can only improve a PR program.

Con: If you’re a real out-of-the-box thinker, you can run into constraints with pulling off some ideas at a boutique firm. Most large firms will have a dedicated videographer, event planner, etc. Boutique firms often have to work with outside partners to pull off stunts.

Working together

Pro: The structure of a boutique agency gives you more access to senior management, which I have always valued as an immense opportunity to learn from their guidance and grow as a professional.

Con: Boutique agencies are small, so you don’t always have a broad variety of people to work with. If you like to work with different people all the time, then a large agency is probably a better fit for you.

Professional development

Pro: At boutique agencies, employees are encouraged to take initiative in their own paths, often being integral in shaping what their role looks like. That is pretty cool, in my experience.

Con: Large agencies have a pretty strict definition of what one’s responsibilities are in each position, and supervisors don’t really expect you to venture beyond those parameters. So if you like to have each day outlined for you, a large agency might be the way to go.

Company culture

Pro: Within a small company, it is essential that everyone works well together and fosters a welcoming, open, exciting, caring, and educational environment. (My colleague, Stephanie Waxman, just wrote an article for Ragan’s PR Daily on building company culture.)

Con: If you don’t like or fit in with the company culture at a boutique agency, then you probably aren’t very happy; it has a big impact on your overall job. Larger agencies allow you to build relationships with smaller groups of people within the company, and the overall culture isn’t as pervasive.

If you are thinking about where to start your career in PR, these are all important aspects to consider. If any readers would like to share their own insights, Please share them in the comments below.

Lydia Howard is an account director at Vantage PR, a boutique technology PR agency with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Orlando, Fla.

Topics: PR

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