New York vs. Los Angeles: The tale of two PR cities

The author draws upon his experience working in both cities to compare and contrast what it’s like to work in public relations on the coasts.


Los Angeles and New York City are two great towns for building a career in the communications business; two great places to live and play. I’ve had the benefit of working and living in both.

People often ask me how New York and L.A. differ when it comes to the PR agency business. One moment, please, while I get in my car; I’m in L.A. this week.

New York

Home to many of the Fortune 500 companies, the city can also claim that 95 percent of all national media reside within 50 miles of Columbus Circle. New York also takes pride in still having three daily newspapers. It’s the financial heart of America; the advertising and PR mecca; and it’s “on” all the time. In this 24/7 city, there are no 9 to 5 jobs; you can get anything done, anytime.

In New York, walking is a way of life, as is taking the subway or a cab at any location, almost any hour of the day. New Yorkers don’t really do lunch, they grab it. New Yorkers are also a bit more judgmental on academic pedigree and, of course, fashion sense, since it is arguably the style capital of the U.S. The city abounds with energy and vibrancy and the workforce pumps right along with it.

Here, the opportunities for large client programs abound. Despite the still-lagging economy, there’s been a resurgence in technology start-ups. It’s not Silicon Valley, but Silicon Alley has benefited from a steady stream of venture funding, favorable business and real estate conditions, and top-tier networking for tech-based businesses.

In PR terms, the “big fee” pitches happen a couple of times a month, and there are plenty of smaller, early-stage companies looking for help in breaking through.

L.A.

The business environment here for agency pros is more challenging in some ways. Most of the broadcast networks, national media outlets, ad and PR agencies have major offices on the coast, but typically aren’t headquartered here.

However, there are many independents and small shops with very creative people. Film and TV production rule the roost with nearly one in every five jobs somehow related to entertainment.

To the shock of some New Yorkers, there are few or no cabs on the streets, and very few pedestrians, since everyone drives everywhere. And everyone seems to own a nice vehicle, since we live in our cars. You can’t race off to a meeting, or anywhere, as being stuck in traffic (on the 405 or the 101) is a given.

And we’re not usually racing to a Fortune 100 client meeting, since there are more Fortune 500 companies in Pittsburgh than in L.A. Requests for proposals from the state are the big fish here; big fee presentations come up once every six months.

But there’s a great entrepreneurial spirit that translates to a slightly more relaxed vibe about personal and business relationships. Startups and new businesses also abound here, with the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something that could be great at some point down the road.

George Drucker is president of Crenshaw Communications West Coast. A version of this story appeared on the Crenshaw Communications PR Fish Bowl blog.

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