The Importance of Agency Tours

This week is my spring break.  Instead of going somewhere hot where I can get a tan, I have dedicated my weekend to Public Relations.  On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I went to New York City with Boston University and visitedKetchumLBiCohn & WolfeG.S. Schwartz & Co.EdelmanHill & KnowltonMarina Maher CommunicationsCosmopolitan Magazine, and Burson-Marsteller.  During our two hour visits, we had a chance to see the office (sometimes even get a tour), learn about the company, its clients, its campaigns, its practice groups, etc., and ask any questions about job opportunities, social media, and general public relations/communications questions.  I have always thought agency tours were helpful to get a sense of the company, but this weekend really showed me just how important they are before deciding on a place to intern or work.  Here are the top five important lessons I learned this weekend.

1. Culture is extremely important.  During these tours, we were able to get a great sense of the culture of the organizations.  You may think, “Alright, they can fake it and pretend they are the best/happiest agency.”  But that is not the case.  It is very clear whether or not an agency is “faking” how they feel about the company.  We heard from between 4-10 people at each agency.  The way they interacted with each other and spoke about their experiences really gave us a clear image of their level of satisfaction at the job.  It was also clear in some cases how well they worked together, even if they were not on the same teams.  Witnessing this interaction and hearing how they felt about their agency made me realize that it is not important how large or small an agency is, but the culture and the way you feel when you go to work every day is key.  I want to be in a place that makes me laugh every day and brings the best out of me through my work and relationships.

2. Creating relationships with people in your industry (not just particular agency) is important.  Even though NYC is a huge city, PR people seem to know each other.  I heard the same line from many agencies: “Don’t burn your bridges.”  You never know when someone will be your colleague.  You never know when there will be a job opening in another agency that may interest you.  You never know when those relationships you have maintained throughout the years will turn into a job.  You never know when someone will have an opportunity to recommend you.  Obviously, we all know that networking is extremely important, but it is important to remember that it is important in and out of your organization.  It was truly interesting to hear how many of the people were at their jobs because of their networking relationships

3. Think about whether or not you want to be in an independent agency or an agency owned by a holding company.  We hear positive and negative aspects about each depending on which agencies we went to.  The independent agencies like that they do not have to report to someone or get approval before certain decisions.  The other agencies like the network of other agencies available by being owned by a larger group.  I had never even thought about considering this when deciding where I want to work before this trip.

4. Be open to trying new things, and do not pigeon-hole yourself.  We spoke with many professionals who worked in areas they never thought they were interested in, but they took the position because there was an available job.  However, they are so happy that they decided to try something new because they enjoy it more than they ever thought they would.  We found people who found a passion for healthcare, fashion, and corporate even though they were not interested in these areas originally.

5. Take advantage of the classes and opportunities at college.  Join organizations such as the Public Relations Student Society of America (granted, I am biased as President of BU PRSSA).  Take classes that you are interested in, especially classes that teach about social media.  Meet with professors.  Ask questions.  Utilize your alumni network.  There are so many resources that you can take advantage of that will truly help you out once you enter the workforce.

The past few days was truly so beneficial to me, and I have learned so much (those above were just the top five).  A big thank you to Professor Steve Quigley and Kristie Faletra, who organized this amazing trip.  Also, a big thank you to the agencies I listed above for their hospitality and time!



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