Is it better to do PR at a small startup or an established firm or agency?

I see Junior PR roles at big agency that require only 1 year of experience , but at startups, there are jobs for PR Associates that only need 1 year of experience.

I know making the right moves early on is really important so which option is better?

Hi Mel - congrats on setting your sights on a career in public relations! Starting out in a junior PR role at a company can be a fine option, but unless it's the company of your dreams, I highly recommend getting PR agency experience first. Here's why:

1) You will learn a crazy amount. Starting your career at a PR agency is like PR bootcamp. The agency's #1 goal is to help its clients meet their business objectives through delivering awesome results. Because of that, they really don't want you to drop the ball or screw up, and there are lots and checks and balances in place to ensure that doesn't happen. This might sound daunting, but it's an extremely positive thing for you as a new PR pro. At an agency you're going to consistently have more senior colleagues reviewing your work and giving you feedback. They want your work to be "client ready" and this constant feedback cycle on every project you work on will engrain these skills until they become second nature to you. Aside from feedback, many PR agencies offer opportunities to learn outside of the regular billable work you do for the client. Some stuff I went through included mandatory pitching practice and getting access to lunch n' learns where reporters or other PR pros would come into the agency and share on a topic. If you go for a junior PR role at a company, it's unlikely that you're going to have access to the same kind of PR-specific training. Your boss at a company will be focused on the company's business objectives - and you might have a great manager - but it's less likely this person has the time to invest teaching you all of the fundamentals whereas this stuff is required at an agency. Trust me, the fundamentals that you can learn at an agency are things you don't want to miss out on!

2) You will work on a greater diversity of things. When you work in a PR department at a company, your focused is your company's business objectives, like building brand in order to drive user acquisition of a new product that the company is launching, etc. At an agency, you're probably going to be assigned to a few different accounts, meaning you get to context-switch between different business objectives all of the time, and subsequently you'll work on a variety of tasks, projects and potentially even with different media verticals, if you're involved in direct media outreach. This broader scope of tasks not only forces you to learn how to prioritize your time, but it'll reveal over time what clients/industries you like and don't like. Working on consumer packaged goods clients and tech clients simultaneously illuminated to me that I wanted to work at a tech company down the line. Even if you're working on three clients in the same industry, you'll still get a sense of where you want to point your arrow in the future.

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3) Companies prefer that you have agency experience. For an entry level role, company PR departments value candidates who have had PR agency experience. The company knows an agency is going to groom you as discussed above. This makes you a more valuable candidate. I can't tell you how many times recruiters have told me that having agency experience prior to my in-house roles is valuable. In fact, many companies require prior PR or marketing agency experience to even consider you for an entry-level in-house role (like: PR Specialist or PR Coordinator).

To sum up, you'll get a wealth of experience at an agency (with more diversity of experience than what you'd get in a junior in-house role) and in the long term, you'll be a more attractive candidate for in-house roles and be able to come in at a higher level. Good luck!