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Atlanta: The PR Industry’s Undiscovered Jewel

Posted on February 22, 2016, at 7:40 p.m.
by Lindsey Young.

Atlanta is one of the best cities in America to be a millennial. According to a study by Time Money in 2015, Atlanta ranked second on the “Best Cities for Millennials” list . But what about millennials who just graduated from college, with public relations degrees in one hand and résumés in the other? Is Atlanta a great city for them?

Atlanta is a city full of opportunities for new PR professionals. With pressures to enter large markets like New York or Chicago, students often forget to consider the Atlanta area. Here are several reasons you shouldn’t count Atlanta out.

The Atlanta niche

In the communications industry, Atlanta has a wide range of fields to explore. From consumer to health to tech, the city has it all. Atlanta is home to several Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies, providing an abundant communications marketplace.


Alicia Thompson, general manger at Edelman Atlanta, described her firm’s work as broad in comparison to those of other cities.

When it comes to a specific area that the market focuses on, Thompson said, “I think Atlanta is the odd ball out. I have a bustling consumer team, a really robust corporate team, a big digital practice that is growing daily; I have a creative team and a health team. I think that Atlanta is unique because a lot of companies find that this is a great business environment.”

Thompson noted how her co-workers get to work with a variety of clients.

“I can’t say that there is one particular industry that makes up the largest part of our portfolio,” she said.

While Atlanta offers a diversity of industries to dabble in, it is also home to a much-needed specialization: the digital hub. Johnathon Justice, account executive at MSLGroup, discussed how Atlanta is beginning to join the digital space.

“The Atlanta office of MSLGroup specifically is known for its digital media, social media and digital marketing,” Justice said. “Lots of other MSLGroup offices often reach out to us to help with their digital plans and to come up with new ideas for the network. We’re definitely known for digital social media in this Atlanta office.”

A booming tech industry

When the technology sector is mentioned, minds automatically go to Silicon Valley and San Francisco. What about Atlanta? With Georgia Tech right down the road, many young professionals are graduating and creating their own startups.  Atlanta Tech Village, a collaborative office building for startups, has attracted more than 180 tech companies, including startups, early-stage tech firms and PR firms .

“There are a number of tech incubators popping up, like Atlanta Tech Village,” Thompson said. “They’re taking these young people coming out of school and graduate programs and giving them the space, resources and environment to broaden their technology companies and to make them grow. We’re starting to see more and more of them getting great funding. We have a really strong foundation of tech companies popping up, and they just need to be continually nurtured. It’s exciting to see these incubators have the support and funding to do that.”

Atlanta is also beginning to find its place in the social marketing world. “Look at what is currently happening in the market,” Justice said. “Pinterest is moving a new headquarters to Atlanta. Twitter is moving its offices here and MailChimp is out of Atlanta. There is a ton of great companies and a lot of social companies are moving here.”

Just recently Pinterest announced it will open an office in the refurbished Sears Roebuck Tower, which is now referred to as Ponce City Market. Pandora has opened an office at shopping hub, Atlantic Station, and Twitter and Amazon will also open offices in Atlanta in the coming years.

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“I think that’s because of the tech space that we have booming here, the number of global agencies you have and the number of headquarters,” Thompson said. “I think you will start to see a lot more of that. Just because there is a need for it, and they have clients in the city, just like the rest of us. They want to be closer to their clients. I think we are just going to see more as we start to do things with some of those other tools and platforms. Atlanta is starting to be on people’s radars a little more broadly.”

The best city for millennials

Back to the original question: Is Atlanta a good city for recent PR grads? According to Thompson, it definitely is. Atlanta has offices for many of the major PR players: Edelman, MSLGroup, Ketchum, FleishmanHillard and Weber Shandwick all have Atlanta offices. It is the well-kept PR secret waiting to be discovered by new professionals.

“Atlanta is, from a communications, public relations and marketing perspective, not just an upcoming city,” Thompson said. “I think that we are more of an undiscovered jewel, because the major corporations that are here know that this is a great city for communications talent. I think that the agencies, just by the fact that every one of the global agencies have an office here, know that this a great market for business and that the talent exist. I think it’s just now the opportunity of letting the secret out. It’s not that we are up and coming, I think we’re there, I think that people haven’t discovered us yet.”

Justice agreed with Thompson, discussing the amount of opportunity available in Atlanta versus other markets. What Atlanta offices have that other cities may lack is the opportunity to dig deep in an entry-level position.

“I don’t think Atlanta should be overlooked,” Justice said. “I think it offers as much opportunity if not more than say a city like LA or New York primarily because, when you’re talking about a cost of living vs. income balance, your quality of life in Atlanta is going to be significantly better than what it is going to be in New York and LA from an entry-level position. So I would absolutely say it could go toe-to-toe with any market and in some ways it’s better.”

Not only does Atlanta offer new professionals a better quality of life and more opportunity, but it also gives them the chance to build their PR skills. Thompson discussed how at the Edelman Atlanta office, entry-level employees are able to do work beyond their position. She believes Atlanta is the perfect launching pad for a student’s career.

“You can get lost in a major office like New York,” Thompson said. “Edelman’s New York office has over 1,000 employees vs. coming to Atlanta where we have 120+. The opportunities to really dig into a piece of work as a junior staff member might be much more available for you in an agency in a market the size of Atlanta. It gives you a chance to get your feet wet and build a capability and an expertise in your skill set that may or may not take you longer in a bigger market. Come and train in Atlanta, and if you like it great, but if you have bigger aspirations, then you’ve at least gotten a great foundation to take to a New York and a Chicago and an LA [office].”

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