A Tale of Two Coasts – One PR pro’s thoughts on East versus West

By Ashley Boarman, Senior Account Executive at LCI

ashley headshotI recently moved from Baltimore, Md. to San Francisco where I had been working at a mid-sized PR firm for nearly four years. Upon deciding I would head out West with my husband, I was told a lot about the differences between the two coasts. Let me tell you – everyone was right. Not only is the weather unbelievable and much to my liking, but I really appreciate the other people-centric characteristics found in this city, such as a generally pleasant attitude and overall happiness levels. Needless to say, I’m quickly falling in love with all things San Francisco.

However, I got to thinking: Is PR conducted differently on the East Coast versus the West Coast? My answer is no, not really. San Francisco is a major metropolitan city and therefore is full of as much “hustle and bustle” as any East Coast city I can think of. I would compare PR agency life here to that in New York City. While I’ve never personally worked at an NYC-based firm, I have friends who have and we’ve enjoyed swapping similar work stories already.

If I had to pick any key differentiators in PR between the two coasts, it comes down to these three:

Time difference. In PR, pitching is all about timing. As I’ve come to discover, the world (as I know it) really revolves around Eastern Time (ET). Out here, I have yet to turn on the TV to watch the “Today” show, my long lost favorite. Instead, I find myself watching local San Francisco news followed by “Good Morning America’s” late hour, which is still on the air when I wake up.

In terms of my daily work routine, I’ve started writing pitches for journalists and producers on the East Coast the night before. I set my alarm extra early so I can simply hit send at 8 or 9 a.m. ET. Most media tend to look at pitches first thing, so if I need to set an early alarm to get a story, that’s what I’m going to do.

Timing isn’t so much of an issue on the East Coast since you’re already operating on the same clock. In fact, you’re life is even easier if you’re pitching east to west because you’re already well into your day.

Industry focus. The agency I worked for in Baltimore served many different clients that spanned a variety of industries. The difference between what I was used to back east and what I’m finding in San Francisco is that the community here has a much greater emphasis on tech and startups. Silicon Valley oozes innovation and that’s really exciting as a PR professional who’s putting a relatively unknown company on the map. This electric, entrepreneurial spirit in San Francisco is rarely found in other U.S. cities. As a result, if you’re doing PR in San Francisco, you’re bound to work with a startup. Get used to the rollercoaster that can come with a company or owner who has never worked with firm before.

Expectation level. When a business comes looking for outside PR support, expectations are higher with a firm based in San Francisco, New York or even Washington, D.C. As I mentioned earlier, these are major, thriving cities where business is happening and where much of the U.S. daily news is made.

When looking to hire an agency in any of these cities, the expectation is greater in terms of cost, ROI and overall coverage expectations. When you’re living and working in a place that generates news, you’re expected to be dialed in.

I wish I could say that that PR on the West Coast is wildly different than it is back East, but it’s mostly business as usual. The biggest “changes” for me have been adjusting to the time difference for pitching purposes and being in an area where so much of the focus and opportunity is centered on technology.

Have you transplanted yourself from one area of the country to the other? I’d love to hear about your experience. Email me at [email protected] or leave a message below.

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4 Comments

  1. David Landis Reply

    Ashley – so glad to have you on the LCI team, welcome. And yes, the competition here in San Francisco is fierce. But that’s what keeps us going, right? Here’s to great success with LCI team. Cheers, David

  2. Sean Reply

    Ashley,

    Thanks for your post and insights on geographic / market differences with PR. We have learned so much about that over the years, particularly with our affiliation with the Public Relations Global network – http://www.prgn.com/.

    Sean

  3. Kristin Cockerham Reply

    As a fellow-Marylander, I agree with all your points. However, I find a key difference between B-more and SF …the people-watching out here is much more entertaining 🙂 Welcome to the Left Coast!

  4. Elena Fuhrmann Reply

    Thanks for the great post, Ashley! As a native Californian, it was interesting to hear your insights on the differences of practicing PR on both coasts. Welcome to SF!