Spotlight: Philadelphia

Jennifer Francis, executive director of marcomms, Philadelphia Museum of Art, says the city's creative energy makes it a top destination for PR pros.

Spotlight: Philadelphia

On Friday nights in a former industrial neighborhood, art galleries open their doors, a crowd gathers for a local band's show, and young professionals sip craft beer at a bar down the street. It might sound like a scene from Brooklyn, but the place is Philadelphia's Fishtown district, which along with other parts of the city is experiencing a creative revival.

"The cultural and creative offering [in Philadelphia] is absolutely breathtaking," says Jennifer Francis, executive director of marketing and communications at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

"That offering is leading a modern-day renaissance in Philadelphia, which is bringing in a lot of people and makes it very exciting for everyone who lives here."

The creative energy of the city is a draw for communications pros such as Francis, who moved there in 2012 after serving as head of press and marketing at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Along with her employer, which is the third-largest art museum in the US, Philadelphia is home to cultural and historic institutions such as The Barnes Foundation, The Franklin Institute, Rodin Museum, Independence Hall, and Liberty Bell.

The city also boasts a number of galleries and art schools including The Art Institute of Philadelphia, Tyler School of Art, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Fast Facts

For a power lunch, Francis enjoys R2L (50 South 16th St.) or Water Works Restaurant (640 Water Works Drive).

The population of Philadelphia County is 1.54 million, according to the 2012 US Census Bureau data. The median household income is $36,957 and the median home price is $140,000, according to Census and Trulia data.

The University of Pennsylvania was one of the first US universities and founded the first medical school in the country. Philadelphia was also home to the nation's first newspaper (the Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser, 1784), the first zoo (Philadelphia Zoo), and the first library (The Library Company, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731).

Outside of Paris, Philadelphia has more impressionist paintings than anywhere else in the world.

Philadelphia was once the nation's capital, and George Washington was the only US president to reside there instead of Washington, DC.

Largest private employers in the region: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Temple University, and US Airways, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Besides the arts, Philadelphia has burgeoning higher education, healthcare, and service and hospitality industries, says Francis. Companies such as Comcast, Aramark, Crown Holdings, and Urban Outfitters are based there, while SEI, Subaru, Campbell's Soup, and Ikea US have headquarters within miles of the city. Local PR agencies include Cashman & Associates, Bellevue Communications Group, and Tierney.

In addition to outlets such as The Philadelphia Inquirer, Francis and her team often reach out to media located nearby in New York, New Jersey, Washington, DC, or Baltimore, as well as international art publications.

Such close proximity to major markets is an advantage for PR professionals in Philadelphia, but can also present challenges, such as making employee recruitment more competitive.

Francis says it can also be difficult to find communications practitioners in Philadelphia with more specialist skills, such as internal communications, the arts, or celebrity PR.

As a result, her department often taps New York-based agencies to reach larger markets or overseas companies for international campaigns.

"There is more of a generalist way of doing PR here," Francis says. "That's also where the opportunities are for growth."

These challenges aside, Philadelphia offers a lower cost of living, more manageable pace, and rich heritage, Francis says.

"It's comfortable and cool being in Philadelphia," she adds. "It's a really promising place."

Reach Out

Local PRSA chapter

The Philadelphia Inquirer
(215) 854-2771

Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
(215) 545-1234

Office of Mayor Michael Nutter
(215) 686-2181

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