The Heavyweights: Agency v. In-house PR

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Posted At: May 3, 2012 10:30 AM
by Lauren Cuervo

The public relations field has a seemingly endless list of career choices — government, sports, nonprofit, entertainment . . . the list goes on. Each has its own characteristics, advantages and disadvantages, and deciding which one to pursue can be a difficult task. But before choosing a specialty, the main consideration for many professionals is whether to work for an agency or directly for an organization.

For those unfamiliar with the choice, it may seem as if there would be little difference between in-house and agency PR work, but depending on skills and personality, individuals are often more suited for one more than the other.

*Agency work*

Working in an agency usually entails dabbling in many different projects. General firms have a diverse range of clients that all require a different type of PR assistance. Even agencies that specialize in a particular area, such as travel or sports, require work in many different kinds of assignments.

“Agencies tend to work at a faster pace, with employees constantly jumping around from one project to another and one client to another,” Regina Nisita, human resources and operations manager at Affect Inc., wrote in a blog post. She continued, “If you are looking to work at an agency, it is important for you to be able to juggle multiple projects at one time and not lose sight of the overall goals. Successful time management is vital at agencies.”

Many professionals believe that agency work is best for those who are just entering the field because it offers the opportunity to work in many different areas of PR. Those who work in agencies are required to do a little bit of everything — from writing news releases to organizing special events — which provides excellent initial experience.

“Communications agencies expose students and recent graduates just entering the profession to an incredible array of client industries, new trends and technologies and a wealth of talent and leadership that can’t be found anywhere else,” Rachel Ufer, senior vice president of business development and external relations at Ogilvy Public Relations, said. “Agencies often provide on-the-ground training that furthers development as part of an account team. It is truly a remarkable environment and one I absolutely recommend exploring further.”

*In-house PR*

For those who have more concentrated interests, working for the PR department of a specific organization is often the better choice. Because all of the time is spent on the same client, professionals get to implement more in-depth strategies that are generally for the long run.

In-house PR work also tends to focus more on overall strategy and less on gathering initial research because its professionals already know everything there is to know about the organization and its needs.

“Advantages of working in-house primarily centre on the fact that you control the show; it is your communication strategy and you are ultimately responsible for its implementation,” Craig Pearce, owner and operator of Craig Pearce Strategic Communication, said. “This means that you get the opportunity to look at the full remit of organisational operations and apply public relations in its broadest and most strategic remit, which normally results in a high degree of job satisfaction. Working within the organisation also allows you to speedily adapt tactical implementation of the strategy as you often determine stakeholder and colleague feedback very quickly.”

Professionals with a passion for a certain field or those who have had time to hone in on particular skills are best suited for in-house PR. With such a focused area of practice, it is often more repetitive than that of an agency.

“If you decide to work in-house at an organization, make sure you have a personal interest in the area the company is in or at least enjoy working in that industry,” Nisita wrote in her blog. “You will only have one client if you work in-house so you should have a passion for what they do and what they offer.”

Of course, the exact same rules don’t apply to every department or agency. Size and style of practice are always factors to keep in mind. Researching the organization and its culture is the best way to determine if it is a fit. In addition, knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses is the key to finding the right PR job, whether it is with a start-up agency or a long-standing corporation.

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