Written by Laurence James • Published 17th December 2019 • 3 minute read

It was my first ever visit to New York, and one I’ll never forget. The opportunity to experience living and working like a true New Yorker in the city that never sleeps was truly ‘awesome’, to use an Americanism.

Whether we were getting a flavour of corporate life in the Big Apple, from creative brainstorms and new business calls to client and journalist meetings, or whether we were soaking in its vibrant social life at “the most wonderful time of the year” – I learned so much in just a week!

But what struck me most were the curious differences and similarities between the UK and US PR industries, The PHA Group and 5W, and even London and New York.

Differences

  • Scale: “What’s this?” I asked the waiter pointing at a metallic cup he’d just served with my order. “It’s extras” he replied nonchalantly before picking up his tray and whisking away. I peeked into the glass and sure enough there was more ice cream to add to the enormous milkshake I’d already received and the giant hamburger the size of my head. That meal – which I never even got close to finishing – was a taste of things to come. In America, everything seemed to be supersized, and this seemed true of both the food and the PR industry. I was told that 5W is just one of over 2,000 agencies in New York alone, which would dwarf the number of agencies in the UK, let alone London. Yet competition for coverage doesn’t appear to be stifled; the sheer enormous geographic size of the US translates into thousands of more publications for PR professionals to target, meaning plenty of opportunities to be secured.

 

  • Confidence: At The PHA Group, we’re not short of confidence or creative campaign ideas, but 5W put a bold spin on it in typical American fashion. Perhaps facilitated by larger budgets and a broader range of media outlets to target, but some of the creative campaigns blew my mind for their audacity and invention. For example when, at the height of the selfie craze, 5W launched the ‘Belfie stick’ for consumers to take selfies of their behind. The product generated a lot of press for the client and positive sentiment for poking fun at a pop culture moment of the time. The sheer confidence and creativity of their campaigns was impressive, and gave me lots of creative food for thought!

Similarities

  • During my time at 5W, I was fortunate enough to work across a variety of different clients and departments, in different sectors, and at lots of different levels of seniority throughout the business. Very quickly it became clear that no matter which side of ‘the pond’ you’re on, we all face similar day-to-day challenges in PR, which was reassuring.

 

  • City life: While in New York we were lucky enough to experience all of the vibrant cultural activities it has to offer at a magical time of year, including visiting the Rockefeller’s famous Christmas tree, exploring Central Park, sipping cocktails among the slightly excessive festive decorations at Rolf’s bar, taking in a show at the famous Comedy Cellar and looking out onto the city from the top of the Freedom Tower. Although everything was bigger in New York, it was interesting to see that the Americans enjoy many of the same things we do in London: a nice rooftop drink and food from around the world, a musical on Broadway and stand up comedy. New York and London are two very different cities, yet it felt like a home from home.

 

  • People: And this may well have something to do with the people I was surrounded by. As at The PHA Group, everyone at 5W was incredibly warm and welcoming, and the New Yorkers we met outside the office approached life with equal energy and enthusiasm – it was infectious!

 

I’d like to thank 5W for being such wonderful hosts who taught me so much; Frankie, Tom and Kaj for being such great company – I couldn’t have asked for better colleagues to travel with; and of course The PHA Group for giving me such a wonderful and unforgettable experience.