If you are starting your career in PR, small agencies outside of London offer excellent prospects says Roland Moore-Colyer Propel Technology

Creative, campaigns, big budgets, graduate schemes, and even free breakfast seem to attract many prospective PR professionals to the large agencies in the fashionable parts of London. This was made quite clear when, in early June, I had the pleasure of attending the CIPR Excellence awards. The big players of the PR industry, like Edelman and Ogilvy, picked up gongs, and when I mingled with fellow bright-eyed account executives, I discovered that many of them had moved to London to join these large and well-known consultancies amidst the bright lights of the capital.

With the caveat that the agency I work for, Oxfordshire-based Propel Technology, picked up the award for Outstanding Small Consultancy of 2013, I couldn’t help wonder if smaller agencies outside of the capital are a tad over-looked by current and wannabe PR professionals.

If LinkedIn is anything to go by the answer could be “yes’” as entry-level roles posted by the big names in PR, are swarmed with applicants. Yet cast your eye beyond the M25 and you’ll see a host of graduate and entry-level jobs in small agencies. While securing these roles is no walk in the park, the competition can be less ferocious.

I believe these agencies offer graduates an alternative to graduate schemes as a way into the PR industry. So allow me to make the case for considering these smaller consultancies outside of the nation’s capital.

Being an account executive in a small and closely-knit team is a rather intriguing experience. In my current position I report directly the two owners of the business; there are currently no account managers to add another link in the chain. This leads to more involvement with the clients, and at times I can find myself with more influence over the direction of a PR strategy than I might have if I held the same role at a larger agency. This two-tier hierarchy means bulkier workloads with more accountability, yet is matched with valuable mentoring direct from two experienced MDs.

The tighter budgets that many small agencies have to work with may mean that the highly creative and abstract campaigns are left out of reach. Instead, PR activity is more business orientated and strategically targeted towards driving sales and delivering cost-effective results. As such, I’ve found myself in client meetings with business owners, discussing potential new markets, applications and even packaging for products. In many ways a small PR agency acts partly as a business consultancy, presenting the opportunity for the attentive account executive to develop knowledge that goes beyond the confines of public relations.

For a newly-minted account executive the opportunity gather such experience and involvement in PR activity is deeply rewarding, and the skills rapidly gained from being in such a position could be invaluable. 

All this being said the big agencies in London have their attractive reputations for good reasons and are worthy of the attention. Yet I’d still like to encourage prospective PR professionals to keep an open-mind when they stumble across a position in a small agency with niche clients, as there’s a rich seam of experience just waiting to be mined.