From Big to Boutique

After dipping my toe in the communications waters during high school – serving as yearbook co-editor and the school’s television program anchor – entering Florida State University as a mass media studies major was an easy decision. A summer-long internship during college at a small public relations firm in San Francisco solidified my decision to pursue public relations through the fast-paced agency route.


I was fortunate that Tallahassee was home of The Zimmerman Agency, an integrated communications agency of nearly 200 employees. My seven-year tenure at the agency jumpstarted my professional growth, providing client-facing experience at an early age, ownership over global clients like Cooper Tire and Interstate Hotels & Resorts, high-profile projects, travel opportunities and an exciting agency culture.

With nearly two years as a Magic City resident under my belt, my transition to Peritus PR – a boutique firm only four percent the size of my previous agency – sparked an unexpected amount of explosive professional growth. A small but passionate team deeply rooted in the Birmingham community, the majority of our clients are founded or based in the Southeast. In working with entrepreneurs and startups, our communications strategy must be authentic, efficient and directly support business objectives. Shifting my tactical thinking from splashy media activations fueled by big budgets to strategic advocacy and awareness campaigns designed to incite action has propelled my growth and expanded my skillset.

There are pros and cons to each agency setting. Neither is right nor wrong; it’s about finding what challenges and fulfills you – although the similarities between the two might surprise you. 

High stakes. Savvy in-house marketing directors for global companies oversee sizable budgets and expect tangible public relations results – but growing startups with everything on the line are relying on you as a trusted communications partner to move the needle. Working with either type of client brings an exciting, results-driven intensity to the daily grind.   

Big brands. A common misconception of boutique agencies is that you will forfeit the opportunity to work with impressive, recognizable brands. Because we know the Alabama landscape and have a large network of influential movers and shakers across the state, national or regional corporations will often hire us for projects requiring local network expertise or “boots on the ground” support.

Hectic schedules. Although you may find yourself hitting Gold Medallion on Delta Skymiles with ease, the stretches of in-office time at a larger agency are more predictable, filled with conference calls or internal meetings. With the majority of Peritus’ clients within driving distance and community involvement paramount to our firm culture, my schedule is now packed with more in-person meetings, coffee or lunch dates and networking events on a regular basis, making my calendar busier than ever.

Team size. At a smaller agency, you will report to everyone at one point and time. Because we each have our own specialties and are in a constant state of collaboration, the number of individuals I work with directly is surprisingly similar in size compared to my core team in the larger agency setting.

Broad experience. Despite the size of the agency, you will gain broad, diverse experience – just in different ways. Managing the multiple moving parts of a newsworthy media activation will flex your creative, collaboration and media relations muscles. However, serving as an extension of a client’s marketing team (or as their entire marketing department) forces you to wear every hat, refine your strategic thinking and deploy out-of-the-box tactics to boost their sales goals.   

My PUBLISHED by Peritus takeaway is this:

Pursue experiences and opportunities that not only diversify your skillset but fuel your passions. You will be a more valuable public relations practitioner because of it.

For students, an agency internship will help you explore whether this type of setting has long-term career potential for you, whether large or small.

, IndustryErin Vogt