What goes on at a top Philadelphia PR agency: From the eyes of a junior staffer

March 9, 2015

This post was written by Katie Lamb, Assistant Account Executive

I started off at Gregory FCA, as so many do, as an intern the summer before my senior year of college. My experience during the summer was incredible as I gained real-world experience working on a wide variety of projects, interacting with clients, and learning the tools of the trade and how the industry works from a team of extraordinary professionals. My hard work paid off, and I was lucky enough to be asked back upon my graduation to begin my career at one of the top agencies in the country.

But I know many hopeful interns and potential job-seekers never see those kinds of opportunities, at least not right out of the gate. For those looking to get their start in PR, how do you tell a top PR firm from a dud? What should you look for to make sure your internship or first job is a slingshot into a successful PR career?

Here I am, nine months after my official full-time start date reflecting on the experiences I’ve had as both an intern and a full-timer, and I’ve narrowed down four key questions you can ask yourself to identify the best PR firms to work for. No one question should veto your decision, but if a firm hits all four, you know you’ve found a great place to start a career.

1) How big and interesting are the clients and events you’ll be working on?
I attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for this first time this year and can say that nothing really prepares you for that experience. The show floor was jam-packed with the newest tech products and innovative companies eager to show off their latest-and-greatest technologies and devices.

It was incredible to be there in the midst of all the activity and chaos, but it’s not just about attending the event (in Vegas!), it’s also about the preparation and execution. There’s pre-event media outreach to do, even before getting to Vegas. Once there, you have to scout the floor to drum up attention. You have to fight hard to win media interest and coverage for the clients. And then, there’s the follow up and constant outreach to create invaluable relationships with the media.

It’s exhausting and exhilarating work, with plenty of clients from robotics to beauty aids and light therapies.  Even B2B companies now have a voice at CES that PR firms can amplify with the right strategy and tactics.

Make sure you have a clear sense of what you’ll be working on before accepting the job, and you will assure yourself of being excited to serve your clients each day.

2) What can the PR firm teach you?

Gregory FCA has a thriving financial services practice, and the agency has opened up financial PR training to all employees to help better support our clients. A local professor comes in to give bi-weekly lessons to help prepare us for the industry and train us to be better professionals. The training gives us the tools and knowledge to handle a variety of clients in growing industries, and it fosters cross-team collaboration among everyone in the agency.

Bottom line? Look for a firm that invests in its employees and their careers.

3) Will your ideas be valued?

One of the most important aspects of any company is how it treats its employees. It’s important to find a PR firm with a good company culture. For instance, we are supplied with free healthy breakfast every morning and the firm has a fully equipped fitness center onsite, free to employees.  But it’s the big things that mean the most, especially advancement programs and the opportunity to voice your opinions, even as an intern and first year member of the company.

For instance, I’m passionate about volunteering. When I expressed my interest, firm management created an initiative called “Gregory FCA Gives Back.” Our agency will soon start volunteering throughout the year with a few different organizations important to employees.

I can tell you from experience: Having senior staffers value your input really improves the employee experience!

4) How will I grow as a PR professional and is there room for advancement?

We’re a 50-person agency in suburban Philadelphia, but we have clients all over the world and we are rapidly growing our base. We represent innovative, exciting clients in a range of industries from the world’s second largest glass manufacturer, to an Israeli-based $4 billion security software manufacturer, to one of the world’s most downloaded weight loss applications. It’s all leading edge stuff, played on an international level.

The company’s founder regularly communicates the company’s vision and constantly challenges the staff to learn more, do more, and excel, not just for the company but also to build their own careers.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for someone to start at Gregory FCA as an intern and work their way up to an account manager, vice president, or even president and partner.

This is especially unusual in today’s job market where employees, especially millennials, job hop and spend an average of just 4.4 years at a company. Here, you see professionals who have worked at Gregory FCA for six, nine, 12 years, including many who started as interns and learned the business from the ground up. That in itself is a testament to a firm, and why I feel lucky to be starting my career here.

How to jumpstart your PR career at a top agency

For any hopeful interns or potential job-seekers, make sure you do your research. Narrow your search to firms that offer opportunities that can expand your horizons and allow you to build a portfolio of experience that will advance your professional goals.

Being treated with respect as an intern and junior staff member is crucial to starting your career on the right foot, so don’t waste your time fetching coffee or picking up laundry. If you’re lucky enough to find a firm that meets these four criteria, jump at the opportunity!

To learn more about job openings at Gregory FCA, check out our career page.

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