Firms in smaller locations still have advantages

The same people drawn to the fast-paced, media-driven nature of PR also tend to gravitate to the major cities where most big firms are concentrated, such as New York, LA, or Chicago.

The same people drawn to the fast-paced, media-driven nature of PR also tend to gravitate to the major cities where most big firms are concentrated, such as New York, LA, or Chicago.

But even firms located in less cosmopolitan locations are finding ways to attract both young PR pros and more seasoned veterans.

For some agencies, the physical space of the office itself is a way to attract employees who might otherwise be leery of leaving the big city for a work opportunity.

Nancy Sacunas, president and CEO of integrated marketing communications agency Sacunas Stoessel in Harrisburg, PA, says she has devised a workspace that is attractive to both current and prospective employees.

The firm works on many large b-to-b accounts, most located within two to five hours of Harrisburg. "We needed major-market talent to live here to service those accounts," she says. "We've made it a point to create a fun, collaborative environment. We do not just say it in the interviews; we work hard to prove it."

The agency recently moved into a customized building constructed around the Team Share concept, which promotes face-to-face interactions and an open, collaborative environment. Sacunas notes that the firm has successfully recruited from Boston, Philadelphia, LA, and DC.

For Hopkinton, MA-based Kel & Partners, the main selling point for prospective employees is the agency's culture. "The biggest thing that we have to recruit people is we really have a core foundation of lifestyle balance," says president Kel Kelly.

Many of the agency's employees had previously worked in Boston, but opted to switch because of the flexibility the agency offers in terms of hours and time off for family commitments. Taking an hour or two during the day to attend an event at a child's school is not at all uncommon.

Such aspects of the agency's culture make it especially attractive to working mothers, Kelly notes, many of whom have become frustrated with the challenges that city agencies would place on them. "When women have a child, they either have to sacrifice their family life to prove that they're still 'committed' to corporate initiative, or they're put on the mommy track where they're given less-than-desirable work," she says.

Often agencies in smaller cities are smaller in size, which provides an attractive proposition for those considering making a move. Ten years ago, David Chapman ended a nine-year stint at IPG to start 919 Marketing in Holly Springs, NC. He says the agency attracts both young pros and more seasoned veterans.

For those with several years of agency experience under their belts, the opportunity to work on national and regional accounts, including Unilever, while living in a slower-paced environment is a real draw, he says. And even those at the beginning of their careers can be enticed with increased responsibilities. "For a more junior person, it's a chance to be a lot more active and play an integral role in an account versus being compartmentalized," he says.


Key points:

Stress improvement in work-life balance to attract talent from bigger cities

An agency's physical and emotional culture can also be used as a selling point

Big-name clients - and more responsibility earlier in their careers - could woo staffers to smaller cities

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