Today’s Teacher’s Pet post is about the differences between interning at small firms and large agencies. It’s the time of year when many PR students start to look for internship opportunities, so this post should answer lots of questions for you.
Natalie Schoffer is currently enrolled as a student in Humber College’s Postgraduate Certificate program.
I am looking into internships and jobs right now and I am wondering what the difference is between working at a large agency and a small firm?
Michelle‘s answer: Both small and large PR firms offer interns a lot of solid PR work experience. It’s our opinion that the top two areas of distinction fall under day-to-day tasks and clientele, outlined below.
Small (boutique) firms: These interns get a lot of hands-on experience, including working events and receiving RSVPs, developing first drafts of media materials, building media lists, helping with media monitoring and tracking coverage, assisting with a company’s social media initiatives, and more. Interns have the opportunity to assist everyone from the president to junior staff, and the intimate atmosphere provides invaluable access to senior staff.
Large agency: The atmosphere can feel more corporate than a boutique, and these agencies employ many staff, so there are a lot of smart, savvy people to learn from. Large agency interns are part of an account team (with up to five staff members) and provide support on foundational tasks like media monitoring, managing press reports, building media lists and more. Many of the large firms have offices all over the world, opening the door to work-related travel, or relocation, which can be a fun perk (if you’re hired on after your internship).
The size of company you choose also depends on what you are passionate about.
Small firms: Boutique agencies like rock-it promotions, Brill Communications and Pennant Media Group offer the chance to work with a range of clients, from local start-ups to national businesses to global enterprises. Boutique firms often work within multiple categories like fashion, entertainment, fitness, lifestyle, beauty, restaurants, etc. since there aren’t separate departments. Budgets can be smaller than with big agencies, so creative outreach is appreciated.
Large agency: Large firms like Edelman, Strategic Objectives, Hill and Knowlton or National Public Relations are often separated into specific departments dedicated to client areas like consumer, health, technology and corporate communications, so you can benefit from tailored industry experience, which is amazing if you have a passion for a specific genre. Large corporate clients often have more regulations and specific branding guidelines, so getting a super creative idea off the ground isn’t always easy, but the larger budgets mean there are endless possibilities.
An internship, wherever you do it, is really what you make of it. Make sure you ask senior staff about how you can help on an account, complete the tasks you are assigned impeccably, be cheery and personable (without being irritating), be eager to learn and go above and beyond. This will help land you a job, or at least a wonderful reference letter. Should you intern in an environment that just isn’t right for you, you can (and should!) easily transition between small firms and large agencies.