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Agency or In-house PR – Which is the Better Employer?

Two paths diverged in the snow...

If you’re starting your PR career search, you may be torn between wanting to work at a public relations agency or work in-house at a company. There are perks and drawbacks to both. Let’s dive in.

Working In-house
The nice thing about working in-house is that you get to really know a single industry. This gives you the chance to develop relationships internally with executive management and gain a deep understanding of a company, rather than flitting from field to field, the way you might at an agency.

You’ll likely work with people in different departments, like marketing, sales, finance and HR, which can expose you to a lot of types of people and roles. You may also find more opportunity to gain experience in other aspects of communications and perhaps move into a very specialized communications role, such as employee communications, or switch departments completely. In an in-house PR role, you might feel you’ve got more vested in the company, and will want to help the brand succeed through your efforts.

On the other hand, depending on the size of your department and the support your company gets from any outside agencies, you may be pigeon-holed in your job with very specific duties and may never have the opportunity to dabble in events or many of the activities given to the agency, and that won’t help you appear well-rounded on your resume. And knowing everything there is to know about laser manufacturing might not be what you want out of life, so focusing on a single industry might not be what you’re looking for.

There’s a shine that comes from working at a PR agency, and it’s one you won’t feel working in a cubicle for an engineering company or healthcare facility. If you want excitement, diversity, and a non-stop, ever-changing environment, a private company might not live up to the challenge.

Working for a PR Agency
On the opposite side of the coin is the PR agency. One benefit is that an agency is an excellent training ground, and you will learn a variety of public relations skills that will be valuable wherever you go in the future. Plus, working with multiple clients gives you experience in a variety of industries. You can figure out which ones you like best. You’ll more than likely report into separate supervisors on each account, so you’ll have the opportunity to deal with different work styles and multiple managers’ expectations.

That shine I mentioned? It’s all yours. Depending on your industry speciality and clients, you might work with celebrities, attend galas or movie premieres, and get the chance to try out new products working for an agency.

Already thinking about your next career move? You’ll meet many people within an agency environment, extending your professional network, which will come in handy in the future.

On the converse, working with so many industries could give you only superficial knowledge of each, without any real depth that can help form your PR career or be considered a specialist in a chosen industry. You’ll have to work your way through the agency structure, starting at the bottom before you’ll have a chance to manage clients and get involved in the strategic work. Expect to work long hours and have plenty of stress working at an agency. You might not be able to work on what you want all the time, depending on your clients’ needs and changes with new (or lost) business.

Some people are more cut out for working in-house for a company, while others thrive in the high pressure of an agency. Where do you fall?

Photo credit: Richard Alan

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