Corporate vs. Agency PR
By Pia Reinhold, CGPR Account Supervisor
I spent eight years in PR at a large corporation at the beginning of my career before switching over to the agency side about 10 years ago. It was a quite an eye-opening transition, as daily work at an agency is very different from the corporate (or in-house) side…here are a few key differences:
Jack of all trades. In corporate PR, you become an expert in all of the topics important to your organization and its leadership. In my case, at a national brokerage firm, I learned about different areas of money management, and stayed updated on news and regulations that could impact the business and the brokers. In agency PR, you also must become an expert in your clients’ business—but it’s not just one business; it’s multiple industries. On a regular day, for example, you may read up on news in health, spirits, higher education, and wealth management.
Wearing many hats. When working in-house at a corporation, there is a defined structure. Your work gets routed to the appropriate executives for approval, then goes through the proofreading and compliance departments. Everything you produce must be vetted by a slew of people, and there are specific departments for each specific task, such as shipping, layout and design. At an agency, though, you do it all. You package and ship your FedEx boxes, you run errands, you buy supplies, and you serve as a media spokesperson, sign holder, traffic controller, or whatever else the client needs you to do.
The ticking clock. One of the most difficult adjustments when making the transition to agency life was tracking time. In corporate PR, nobody cared that you spent two hours reading newspapers because it was part of your job and for the greater good of the company. But in the agency world, each 15-minute increment must be accounted for each day, meaning you have to learn to compartmentalize your time so it can be billed to the appropriate client. This time-tracking practice can be challenging, but also helps you stay focused and on task.
Because you’re worth it. The need to prove your worth and the value that you, as an agency, add to your client is important. Constantly. In corporate PR, it was more relaxed; you had your job, they had theirs, and everyone co-existed in peace. In the agency world, you better be achieving, improving, thinking outside the box and checking with your clients to ensure you are meeting their goals. All. The. Time.
Need for speed. In the corporate world, things move more slowly. You have an idea, you run it through the channels, and if it gets approved, you put it to work. There are timelines and a definitive process of who does what and when it will be completed. In agency life, it’s a fast-paced environment, and pivoting on your plans daily is required. Things change, clients change their minds, news cycles change, etc. Make a to-do list, but be prepared to toss it out the window on a daily basis and start over.
The pursuit of freedom. The best part of agency life, in my opinion, is the ability and freedom to try new tactics and strategies. In the corporate world, you often stick to the status quo, but at an agency, there is more opportunity to try different angles, techniques and ideas. Yeah, the stakes are higher, but so are the rewards. Lessons are learned daily.