The perks of starting your career in a small PR agency
In 2017, I had just graduated from London College of Communication in PR and, as an Italian ex-pat in one of the most expensive cities in the world, I immediately started applying for every job available on LinkedIn. After five months of wondering whether I was ever going to get a callback, (and whether it was possible to survive on a diet of Tesco’s baked beans), I ended up securing a job in the travel industry. Despite being part of the Marketing team and taking care of some press trips, my main role was to curate itineraries for a villa rental company. The job was fun, especially because I was working for my beloved home country, but it was definitely not related to the media world and the PR industry.
A couple of years later, the stars aligned and a door into the world of PR opened when I met Héloïse Hooton, founder of the small independent agency Hooton. We met for an initial chat in a bar in Shoreditch, during which I thought I’d blown my chances after spilling a full cup of coffee on the floor (I blame it on Italian gesticulation!). But Héloïse wasn’t fazed and a couple of months later I found myself in Amsterdam with a new job, a new home, and a pretty old second-hand bike. As Hooton’s PR Coordinator, I was the company’s second full-time employee.
Looking back now, two and a half years later and as Senior PR Executive, I can see what a fantastic opportunity it was to start my career in a small independent PR company. Here’s why
You get to be hands-on with pretty much everything
In my first few months at Hooton, I found myself helping with office coordination, writing press releases, organising events and managing clients (yes, I made the coffee too). Having the opportunity to learn so many different types of skills so early in your career is essential to understanding what you enjoy. It’s also inspiring and stimulating – every day is different – which is great for someone as curious as I am.
Accessibility to leadership
I have had the opportunity to work for someone I am proud to call my mentor. In small agencies, bosses can really act as a source of knowledge and support for their team. You could argue that this should always be the case, but it’s no secret that in big agencies leadership can sometimes feel inaccessible. Working with a passionate female leader such as Heloise has been inspiring, motivating – and, I’m not going to lie – sometimes a bit intimidating too.
You have to think on your feet
What do you do when your new client hates the hotel he’s due to conduct media interviews in all afternoon and demands to be taken elsewhere? You think fast and put yourself on the line by suggesting everyone heads over to your apartment, two minutes away, (while praying that you left it tidy). In a small agency you need to be independent, make decisions and be responsible for your actions.
You get to see projects through to the end
I have had the privilege to work on each of my assigned projects from inception to launch. If in a big agency you are a cog, in a small one you are the entire assembly chain. Besides being incredibly rewarding to see the full evolution of a project, it is also hugely insightful. You get to experience first-hand the multiple stages of a plan and learn absolutely everything about your client or a project. Most importantly, it allows you to be creative and to form a complete picture of what it means to create outstanding work.
Small makes it human
It won’t come as a surprise that, as an Italian (and especially as a Sicilian), I love creating community around me. You know that very annoying saying, “We are all in this together”, that everyone kept repeating during Covid? (How can anyone quote a High School Musical song?!) Well, in a small agency, it is true all year long, no matter what. Team synergy is a priority, making the business a very human one.
Being able to grow into my career in a company that prioritises personal growth is something I will treasure moving forward. I have always been encouraged to ask questions as well as think for myself; to make decisions and not be scared of taking risks. And those are skills I have taken over into my personal life too. Working in a small independent agency has been like learning how to ride a bike the Dutch way: no matter how fast you go, you can always back-pedal and look for a hand (brake).