PR life decisions: Where do you want to be?

A couple of summers ago, I interned at a small agency in Dallas where I got the chance to meet some great people and work with some interesting clients. However, it was also through this agency that I realized I hated didn’t really care for agencies. In-house was much more my cup of tea.

But after chatting this week with Teri Daley, a once thriving agency whiz turned Chief Everything Officer of her own PR agency, 1° PR, I realized my strong aversion to agency life may have been premature. So for all of the soon-to-be graduates like me, this is my take on the pros and cons of each.

AGENCIES

Teri has a pretty impressive portfolio from her agency days. She last worked at both Ketchum and Edelman before starting up her own PR agency last year. There was plenty to be said about working for an agency.

Some of the PROS included:

  • Diversity in the clients with whom you work.
  • The pay is generally pretty good.
  • You become extremely efficient with your time management skills.
  • Agencies generally invest in their employees and focus on building leaders and developing a strong business understanding.
  • Dealing with multiple clients strengthens your customer service skills.
  • You really get to know your clients and view them as your “partner”
  • Everything is very fast paced, which is great if you are A.D.D.

On the other hand, agency life has plenty of CONS as well:

  • On a daily basis you have to juggle multiple clients.
  • You have tremendously long work hours. If you’re walking out the door at 5:30 and your client calls, you better cancel your plans and settle back in.
  • Your experience is limited because you generally play a specific role for the company.
  • You have to deal with the occasional “Beavis” client (as Teri kindly puts it).
  • Having to bill clients and manage work logs is not fun.
  • Everything is very fast paced, which is not so great if you don’t have A.D.D.

IN-HOUSE

Another option for PR practitioners is to find a position within the communications department for an organization. The kind of experience you have working in-house can vary greatly depending on the size and structure of the organization.

Some of the PROS to consider for these kinds of positions include:

  • Because you’re dealing with one client, you get to be more involved on developing the overall strategy of the brand.
  • You get to become fluent in the language of your brand, as it is your one and only PR baby.
  • You don’t have to deal with outside client billing
  • If you like the idea of knowing what you’re going to do each day, working in-house is probably a good fit for you.

But also take into consideration some of the CONS:

  • You don’t get to change client the way you can in an agency, so there is limited exposure to anything outside of your brand.
  • If you aren’t passionate about your organization, work life will get really dull really fast.
  • You’ll get to dig a bit deeper for each project and really nurture your ideas.
  • Because you’re working with the same client day-in and day-out, work can become monotonous.

These are just a few of the things we discussed with Teri this past week, and it definitely made me re-think my rash judgment of agency life. Dare I say I may even prefer agencies now? I think there is a lot out there for public relations practitioners. PR is not just writing press releases and dealing with the media. The art of PR is slowly shedding its bad reputation of “spin” and moving into a more respected and essential part of business. My next step will just be deciding whether the fast-paced agency life or more intimate in-house atmosphere is a better fit for me professionally. Where’s the “EASY” button when you need it?

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