Tech PR in the Bay Area vs. NYC — What’s the Difference?

As someone who has lived and worked in San Francisco and NYC, including multiple years at both Bateman Group offices, I often get a specific question from candidates during interviews: “What’s the difference between doing tech PR in the Bay Area vs. NYC?”

In some ways, it feels unfair to compare them. NYC is a city of nearly 9 million people while San Francisco has a mere 900,000. (To be fair, there are 7 million in the larger Bay Area). At the same time, these are the two biggest markets for our industry, and it’s a valid question.

While both cities are great places for a tech PR career, there are some notable contrasts that my colleagues and I have observed. Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking about a move or are curious about the differences:

The Types of Companies Vary — As Do Opportunities for a Tech PR Career

Silicon Valley has been the center of the tech industry for more than 50 years. NYC has become a leading market for tech more recently.

“The biggest difference between doing tech PR in San Francisco and New York is the clients,” says Bateman Group Media Strategist Hanna Johnson, a Bay Area native who moved to NYC in 2017. “The CEOs in San Francisco tend to think of themselves as renegades. They didn’t necessarily go to a top college or come up in traditional business channels — and what they lack in pedigree, they make up for in vision. New York-based companies strike me as a bit more grounded. It’s not that the ideas are less innovative, but they do tend to be more focused on building sustainable, profitable businesses. We need both, right?”

Given each city’s distinct culture and history, it makes sense that the companies founded (and funded) in each location vary significantly. One way to look at this is by tracking startup financing trends.

In NYC, the largest funding rounds in 2017 went to a variety of companies in industries including real estate, media and entertainment, marketing tech, and health and finance (including Bateman Group client Betterment).

In the Bay Area, more companies raised monster funding rounds last year, including some north of $1B. Major players in the on-demand economy — Lyft, Uber, Airbnb — dominated these mega-rounds, and there is much higher representation in tech sectors like gaming than there is in NYC.

Infrastructure and enterprise tech companies have long held sway in the Bay Area (including our clients Snowflake and Portworx, to name a few). This sector is growing in NYC — our client DigitalOcean is an excellent example of the city’s growing roster of developer and infrastructure-focused companies; MongoDB and Datadog are others.  

Proximity to Silicon Valley Is Both a Pro and a Con

Silicon Valley is the center of tech innovation. It is home to tech stalwarts, incredible talent, and a good chunk of VC. It is also an insular community.

For Director of Content Strategy Lauren Scherr, being in NYC is the best of both worlds. “I work with teams and clients on both coasts, and a majority of my network is still on the West Coast. So, I still feel close enough to Silicon Valley without being immersed in it day to day.”

She continues: “I appreciate that tech is not taken for granted in New York City the way it is in San Francisco today.”

“I notice this difference in everything from the themes of networking events to the billboards along the highway. New York’s diversity of industries, companies and people puts things in perspective. It also inspires new ways of thinking about the impact of technology on business and society.”

Johnson believes the two cities should look to one another for inspiration.

“Silicon Valley will continue to be a hub for the tech movement, but the industry will benefit from some of New York’s direct communication style and business sense,” says Johnson. “We have plenty to learn from each other.”

Navigating Different Media Landscapes and Networks

The media landscapes in San Francisco and NYC offer different opportunities for building media relationships. The Bay Area is home to unparalleled tech journalism. Because of this specialization, its coverage of other industries is more limited than in NYC, where tech reporters are part of a much larger media ecosystem.

The two cities also offer different opportunities for network-building beyond media relationships. “In NYC I’ve found I can tap into adjacent industries — such as advertising, branding and public policy — and find common ground with folks,” Scherr adds. “These conversations emphasize the core of what we do, which is storytelling.”

Personally, I’ve found it a bit easier to build relationships in San Francisco due to the proximity of people and neighborhoods. In NYC, building and sustaining relationships often requires more effort (not to mention investment in subway travel time!).

I’m grateful for the time I’ve spent in each city. Both have served my career at Bateman Group in different, but equally positive ways. The colleagues I spoke with agree.

“People like to point out the differences between NYC and San Francisco, but they’re more similar than they seem,” Scherr says. “They’re both compelling and challenging places to work and live. The opportunities, particularly in tech PR, aren’t limited to one place.”

Are you looking for a job in either city? Shameless plug: We’re hiring on both coasts.