Is an Agency or In-House Environment Right for You?

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Posted At: January 1, 2008 10:19 AM
by Ellen Klicka

If you spend your day writing press releases, pitching the media or planning special events, does it matter what type of organization you do it in? The following characteristics of agency life and in-house PR work are not necessarily what you’ll find across the board but point to trends to consider when planning your next career move.

Agency

  • Variety. In the early years of a PR career, many choose an agency position because of the exposure and experience you can get in just a few years. Even agencies with niche specialties work with diverse client personalities and execute different programs for different engagements. Agency professionals often see more variety because each account executive handles a few clients at a time, and turnover brings new projects and opportunities to learn. You can educate yourself on what areas of PR you might want to become an expert on, and the experience on your resume means more doors will be open to you down the road.
  • Networking opportunities. In an agency, almost all the employees are other PR professionals. You can effortlessly build your network of professional contacts every time you stop by the cube next door. The difference between casual conversation and networking is simply the awareness that your working relationship with a colleague may last your entire career. The key is to keep in touch with colleagues after they move to other jobs.
  • Promotions. There’s often a lot of room for professional advancement because experience requirements for each rung on an agency ladder may be separated by only a year or two. In some agencies, you might be promoted up to four times in as many years if you consistently show good performance and if the business is doing well.

In-House

  • Client knowledge. Because you’re basically working on one “client” all the time, you have the opportunity to get a deep understanding of your organization and its products or services. You will be better prepared to answer media questions and will become seasoned at pitching and writing about the core relevant topics.
  • Business acumen. Serving as a PR practitioner on a larger marketing team affords a broader view of how PR fits into business strategies and helps you develop into a more savvy and worldly professional.
  • Stakeholder position. It can feel more real when the publicity you generate impacts your own company. Instead of hearing appreciation of your PR efforts indirectly from a client contact, you could get an e-mail directly from a salesperson who says, “I just talked to a prospect who was really impressed with the BusinessWeek article you got us into.”
  • Money. Salaries are sometimes higher in corporate settings than nonprofit or government organizations, while in-house jobs often pay better than agency gigs.

Of course, you don’t have to choose only one of the options. Over the course of your career, having both position types under your belt puts well-rounded experience on your resume and makes you more valuable in the talent pool.

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