You just graduated college, PR degree in hand. Soon enough, student loans will tell you it’s time to choose:
Do you go in-house, or do you go agency?
This is the most important decision you’ll ever make. Okay, maybe not the most important, but let’s make some sense of this age-old PR debate with three key factors to consider.
Cred-Check: I’m one of the odd few who started my PR career in-house and then transitioned to agency early enough to get the other half of the entry-level experience. All within the B2B/B2C technology realm.
Factor #1: Job Description – The Needle vs. The Net
The biggest difference you’ll notice right off the bat between in-house and agency is your day-to-day roles and responsibilities.
Agency PR takes the needle-like approach. Everything you do is centered on driving media coverage, from media lists to awards and speaking submissions to social media. You are the nuts and bolts of your agency’s PR engine, keeping everything connected.
If agency PR is the needle, then in-house PR is the net. You wear a few additional hats in addition to media relations, ranging from internal communications to community relations. When it comes to the logistics behind all the PR programs, you are the backbone for your in-house team.
Factor #2: Knowledge is Power – Breadth vs. Depth
In-house quickly teaches you that your knowledge of your company, product and services needs to be 10 miles wide. Leave it to the department experts to have knowledge that runs 10 miles deep, and make friends with them. You are the jack-of-all trades, the Swiss Army Knife, the Google search. You might not have all the answers, but you’ll know who does and where to find them.
However, when it comes to everything PR, you ARE the 10-mile experts. On the agency side, your client relies on you to support – and sometimes lead – their PR efforts. This requires a deep, working knowledge of your client’s technology. A unique challenge stems from this, as your subject-matter experts don’t sit across the office from you as they do for your in-house counterparts. Therefore, you’ll find opportunities to do your own digging, using your resourcefulness to stay in the know.
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Factor #3: Your Work Family –Mixing Bowl vs. “Cookie Cutter”
As part of an in-house PR team, you have your managers and VPs that will mentor you as you become a PR professional. However, as mentioned before, you interact with coworkers from different departments daily. These coworkers each bring different backgrounds, skillsets, perspectives and priorities to the table. You’ll quickly learn to talk their talk and walk their walk, while broadening their horizons as well with the value you bring as a PR practitioner.
At an agency, your day-to-day will be largely spent with your fellow PR folks. While this may seem like an echo chamber at first, no two teammates will have the same background nor the same skillset. An agency office often becomes a sounding board of PR minds bouncing ideas off each other. Your team will understand the value of your successes and the pain of your struggles, and they’ll walk with you in your growth as a PR professional.
So, What’s It Going to Be?
Honestly, there’s no right or wrong answer. “Boo! Cop out!” I know, right? It might typically be easier to start at an agency to learn foundation PR skills and then transition to in-house for experience working in a tech company. But the pace of the PR world is such that you can start with one without fear of missing out on the other. It’s more important to at least start somewhere. However, most importantly, be sure to experience both sides at some point in your career. At the end of the day, in-house and agency PR are two pieces of the same pie, so all the things that get you excited about PR can be found from either path.
Still undecided? Shameless plug – start at an agency, like 10Fold! Join us here. 🙂
By Webbo Chen
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