I moved to Arizona from Minnesota when I was 9 years old. At the time, my knowledge of the “old west” was gleaned from what I saw on television or in the movies. I envisioned riding a horse to the one-room schoolhouse, miles away. And that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Our bustling city has much to offer, and for those seeking a public relations career in the “old west” there are plenty of opportunities to find your passion. I asked a couple colleagues to provide some insight from their perspectives. Thanks to Cynde Cerf, information specialist at the City of Chandler, and Michelle Olson, head of Fingerpaint Marketing’s Scottsdale office, for contributing to this article.
Which areas of public relations are popular in Phoenix?
Public relations professionals will find a wide variety of career opportunities to choose from here in the Phoenix area. Not only is the cost of living affordable, but those first starting out in public relations can try their hand in a few different disciplines if they are unsure. Nonprofit, agency, government and corporate opportunities are plentiful, and although Phoenix has fewer Fortune 500 corporations than similarly sized cities, satellite offices often house corporate communications departments for the region. Of course, being a member of the PRSA Chapter helps a great deal in staying connected.
What are the biggest sectors (e.g. technology, entertainment, food)?
Our region was literally built on hospitality, tourism and homebuilding markets, and they’re still thriving here. Government and technology are some of the biggest employers in Phoenix and the surrounding cities. For instance, the City of Chandler is considered the silicon desert, with a lot of technology companies — established and startups — moving here. There is room for public relations professionals who can easily adapt to change and want to be part of a growth company. Phoenix is also a great place for nonprofit public relations professionals to find their footing, and some of the most progressive organizations were founded here.
What advice do you have for someone trying to break into this market?
Join PRSA. It is a great way to meet people who are in the same business and to find a social circle while also networking and finding out about jobs in the market. PRSA is also the perfect way to continue getting knowledge on our ever-evolving profession.
Be sure to get an internship or two under your belt before you graduate. It is a good way to find a discipline you are interested in and it helps to make you more marketable when you are searching for that new job. And don’t be afraid to consider an internship after you graduate, especially if you are considering relocating to a new market. This helps you to learn more about the community as well as gain the valuable experience you’ll need in seeking out that first full-time position.
What’s important for someone moving to this area to know about the culture?
We love to say the Phoenix is a big small town. And the public relations community is a perfect example of that. We are a very collegial group, always happy to help each other out and more than willing to connect and collaborate. Professionals in PRSA can be wonderful guides and mentors and this information-sharing and support are what helps make Phoenix a unique place do public relations. And the culture of our region marries PRSA’s collaborative spirit. Business leaders are eager to help young professionals, even outside of our profession. One thing that may be surprising, depending upon where you are relocating from, is that Phoenix has a “no pantyhose or ties” culture during the summer. So pack your suits for those occasions when you need one, but also invest in professional business casual items to keep you cool during the hot months.
Abbie S. Fink is vice president and general manager of HMA Public Relations and has been with the firm since 1993. She is a past president of the Phoenix Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and is a member of the Public Relations Society of America’s Counselors Academy and a former executive board member. She is the recipient of the Phoenix chapter’s Percy Award and the national Patrick Jackson Award for Distinguished Service to PRSA. Fink has both a master’s degree in mass communications and a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism/public relations from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She is an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.