PR folks who’ve worked at both small companies and large corporations know that their role, title and responsibilities can vary widely depending on the size of the company they work for.
Smaller companies tend to have fewer titles to cover the PR function in their organization, but the role often encompasses a greater number of responsibilities. Larger firms are more likely to have a team of PR people, each with more specific duties.
Some job titles, such as “receptionist” or “speech writer,” mean pretty much the same thing no matter where you go. And although you can glean information on how many years’ experience the role requires from titles such as “PR Specialist,” “PR Manager” and “Director of PR,” (entry-level, 3-5 years and 5+ years, respectively) the responsibilities for each varies depending on the size of the company they represent.
Funnily enough, receptionist and speech writing duties could be included in those responsibilities!
When looking at PR positions with a smaller company, consider:
Is the company a good culture fit for you? You’ll be spending most of your time with a set, small number of co-workers and it helps to understand up-front if their work style matches yours.
- The role likely has a broad set of responsibilities. Small companies often expect everyone to pitch in, which could mean you get to flex and develop a wider range of skills. On the down side, this could mean you get saddled with less strategic projects or even tasks that are outside the normal realm of PR.
- The job’s responsibilities aren’t etched in stone. Small businesses feel the effects of sales and economic cycles differently that big companies do and the PR role will adapt with those changes and the company’s needs.
- Small companies can offer more opportunities for career advancement. Working with a smaller employee pool means that you may get more direct access to the boss. It’s also easier to stand out in the (smaller) crowd. There’s often more flexibility to “write your own ticket” and define the role by introducing your own ideas/strategies.
- Your growth is tied to the company’s growth. Although many start-ups fail within the first five years, if your small company takes off so could your career.
While PR positions at larger firms include:
- The benefits of working on a team, such as working with others who understand and appreciate PR and support your work and the decreased possibility that you’ll need to “sell” PR internally
- The chance to practice PR on a broader scale. Larger companies have more and bigger audiences to communicate with, more media that are interested in them, and impact more people overall.
- PR programs and projects that are better funded. At larger companies, there is more budget to start with, more resources to work with, and there can be a chance to try innovative and cutting-edge techniques.
- The opportunity to change jobs without leaving the company. Working in a PR department can be your window into other areas of a large company with opportunities through internal transfers/hires.
- A more stable work environment. With the exception of last year’s melt-down among Wall Street firms, larger companies can be more stable fiscally than smaller firms and can withstand financial losses better.
And then there are PR professionals who work independently, like me. In addition to having strong PR skills, solo practitioners also need to be proficient networkers, self-promoters and salespeople (to win new business) and should have the confidence and self-discipline to keep their business going at a steady pace.
Alison Kenney is an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She can be reached at alisonkenney at comcast dot net.