I started my career at a PR agency and have yet to work “in-house,” so I’m a bit biased about this topic: the top reasons it’s beneficial to start your career at a PR agency:
- Agencies are great places to learn the ropes – The agency structure is very conducive to learning and growing. Although most employees work at essentially the same job, i.e. their clients’ PR programs, there are multiple levels on each account team. With frequent performance reviews, lots of mentor options and opportunities to hone skills, talented entry-level PR pros are constantly being groomed for the next level.
- Birds of a feather stick together – Unlike working in a corporate setting where you may be the only PR person or may be one part of a small marketing team or department, in a PR agency you’re surrounded by other PR people. This means you have access to plenty of folks who’ve experienced what you’re experiencing and can either help, cheer you on, or commiserate with you about your work.
- Careers really get launched – At an agency, most folks work typically work on multiple client accounts or projects at a time. During your tenure at an agency you will typically experience working for many clients, sometimes in multiple industries. Aside from keeping things interesting, this means you have an opportunity to learn a lot more in a shorter amount of time.
- Agencies are helpful for forging a professional network – I don’t have statistics on how long most agency staff stay at their firm, but from my experience it seems as though they move around quite a bit. After working at an agency, many people transition to in-house positions, move on to other agencies or to start new firms. That means they could be transitioning to new roles as your future client, boss or employee.
- It’s a good way to learn business basics – Not only are PR agencies great places to learn the craft of public relations, they are also good opportunities to learn how to run a service business. Most agencies involve employees at every level in the work of pitching new business, planning programs against a budget and managing accounts, clients and other staff.
- You get to see the forest, not just the trees – In an agency/client relationship, you’re one step removed from your client’s business, which of course has both pros and cons. On the plus side, you can view their business and its challenges and opportunities more objectively. You also gain perspective by being able to compare it with other clients.
- Taking an agency job allows you to keep your career options open – Although some of us study public relations in college, not many of us know exactly where, or in which industry, we want to practice PR in our careers. Working in a PR agency can be a good way to continue exploring your career opportunities because you’re exposed to different types of clients, different industries and sometimes different disciplines of PR.
Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.