Spotlight: San Francisco

Terra Carmichael, Eventbrite's head of corporate comms, discusses how the city's entrepreneurial spirit is a major attraction for comms pros.

Spotlight: San Francisco

Terra Carmichael, Eventbrite's head of corporate comms, discusses how the city's entrepreneurial spirit is a major attraction for comms pros.

San Francisco may be a mecca for inventors and innovators in Silicon Valley - home to Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter, but it is also a paradise for sightseers, with attractions including the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

There is a buzz about the thriving city, so it makes sense that Eventbrite - a self-service online events platform that mixes tech and tourism - has its headquarters by the Bay. The platform enables organizers to promote and sell tickets to global events ranging from yoga classes to 60,000-person festivals.

The city's entrepreneurial spirit is a big pull for people in PR and communications, says Ohio native Terra Carmichael, Eventbrite's head of corporate communications, who relocated to San Francisco from Manhattan.

"Sometimes, in big cities, you have to know certain people to get somewhere; you have to be born into it," she says. "In San Francisco, people should still approach the market with a little caution, but the area allows people to reinvent themselves. There is a make-it-happen mentality that I have not seen anywhere else."

Fast Facts

For a coffee meeting, Carmichael favors Sightglass (270 Seventh Street); for a power lunch with clients, The Creamery (685 Fourth Street) is a popular choice; and for business drinks, The Press Club (20 Yerba Buena Lane) is the place to be.

Bay area companies on the 2013 Fortune 500 list include: Wells Fargo (#25); Gap (#179); Pacific Gas & Electric (#183); URS (#248); Core-Mark (#368); and Charles Schwab (#488).

The median household income is $78,840 and the median home price is $830,000, according to Census and Trulia data.

The population of San Francisco's metropolitan area is 1,821,800, according to Forbes.

The area's unemployment rate in July 2013 was 6.9%, compared to 7.4% nationwide, with the number of jobless San Franciscans totaling approximately 460,000, according to the US Department of Labor.

The region's most distinctive landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge (above), links the city on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula to Marin County. It was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Big PR firms with offices in San Francisco include Edelman, APCO Worldwide, and Ketchum, who Carmichael worked with on projects for Nike and Mattel during the mid-90s dot-com bubble. Midsize and smaller agencies abound as well, often with a tech focus, but also working in sectors including green and sustainability, consumer lifestyle, travel and leisure, real estate, and health and wellness, such as Shift Communications, Landis Communications, Atomic, Blanc & Otus, and LaunchSquad.

If you are searching for that "forever job," Carmichael recommends looking in-house. "In agencies, there is more staff turnover," she says. "But usually, a good, local in-house job is equity driven, resulting in less turnover."

Steep living costs, coupled with the fact that tech has always been one of the highest paying sectors for communications pros, equates to a fiercely competitive talent war. To stand out, Carmichael recommends "finding your tribe" via networking and honing PR skills.

"Sure, it's fun to throw parties, but PR is a much bigger responsibility," she says. "In San Francisco, people who really excel and are successful understand that communications can drive a business forward."

Carmichael says the hiring process in the industry is straightforward and fair. Eventbrite, for example, simply looks for communications pros who can see the big picture, but also ones who can roll up their sleeves and get things done.

"There are plenty of opportunities for hard-working people in this sector," she says. "It is competitive here, but worth it."

Reach Out

Local PRSA chapter
(925) 899-3837

International Association of Business Communicators
601 Montgomery Street, Suite 1900, San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 544-4700

General Assembly
(holds classes on tech, business, and design)
414 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

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