The Road to Agency Life

Before I graduated from college, I sent my resume to almost every PR agency in the city of Boston and didn’t get so much as a “Thanks for applying” e-mail from those agencies. I wish that was an exaggeration. I was defeated, but knew that if a career in PR was meant to be, I would find my way into the industry somehow. Fast-forward seven years and I’ve been fortunate to have built a career in PR with all in-house PR experience, but most recently capped off with a role on the agency side at SHIFT Communications.

In the short time I’ve been with SHIFT, I’ve gotten a better understanding of what happens in an agency and busted a lot of my own misconceptions I had about what an agency does. For what its worth, I blame an unpleasant, short-lived experience being the in-house PR person managing an external agency as the reason why I had such misconceptions.

Access to PR Pros

On the in-house side, you’re typically alone on a remote public relations island. If you are fortunate to have team members, its likely they do not have the same level of experience as you, nor focus on the same area. At an agency, I have ten people to turn to who are in the exact same position as me, just with different clients. I can bounce ideas off them, learn how to handle situations with clients and ask for advice.

Proving Your Worth

There is no fighting to prove the value of PR to any of my new co-workers. In-house PR, especially at a start-up, is a constant battle to get resources and budget. PR is one of those things that people know is important to have, but they don’t necessarily understand why it’s important or what makes it important. With that comes more education around WHY things should be done versus GETTING them done. While PR can be data-driven when you have the right tools, resources or support, sometimes an in-house role doesn’t allow you to dive deep into the analytics while also conducting stellar media relations.

Cross-Industry Knowledge

Becoming an expert in many different industries is a large plus of a role at an agency. While an in-house role allows you to fully dedicate yourself to the ins and outs of your brand and work cross-functionally with many different departments, a role at an agency allows you to flex your brain muscles in another way. In an agency setting, you’re not focused on one company or even one industry. You can familiarize yourself, or become an expert, across many companies and industries. Let me tell you, in the five months I’ve been on the agency side, that takes skill. Being able to jump from the cybersecurity industry, to the travel industry, to a niche software industry back to the cybersecurity industry requires amazing time management skills, an ability to soak knowledge up instantly and creative media relations chops.

As we’ve heard many times before, a PR program is not one size fits all – heck it’s not even one size fits most. A role in an agency allows you to learn about what is going on in the world through the lens of your clients.

New, Exciting Clients

The adrenaline rush I’ve gotten from the new client pitches I’ve participated in thus far has been exhilarating – the idea of working on a new client, starting a new program and making an immediate impact is something that an in-house role doesn’t typically offer. Sure, there is adrenaline in different situations – whether a news announcement, or a strong pitch being accepted, or an in-person interview going well – but the competitive adrenaline of scouring to put together the best possible plan for a new client, spending hours researching and getting the final approval with a win is unlike any other experience.

While my career path has been a bit untraditional – I’ve been told most people leave agencies for in-house roles, not vice versa – it’s been rewarding to say the least. A career in an agency or in-house will be a personal choice for someone, but for me, joining the team at SHIFT Communications has been a positive experience. The best piece of advice I have is don’t let the misconceptions you may have from prior experience be the reason you don’t try out new things.

Kerin Norton
Account Manager

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Posted on May 30, 2017 in Agency Life

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  • Kayla Siefker

    This is great article and really timely for me, as I’m seeking new PR opportunities. I was at a hi-tech company handling PR and AR for 16 1/2 years and was laid off due budgets and the company getting itself ready to be bought. For 11 of those years, I handled PR & AR all by myself (no team) and after a few acquisitions, I acquired a PR agency and two other external PR resources. It was awesome to actually have a team of folks to brainstorm with and bounce ideas off of. As I didn’t simply manage my PR agency, but worked hand in hand with them as the team I never had — it was awesome! So, since I’ve been laid off, I have been considering working at PR agencies as well and have spoken to few — I really liked working on a team. As my 16+ years in hi-tech PR & AR has tweaked alot of interest from PR agencies (and corporate companies too) But, your article has answered some the questions I have been contemplating, especially around going from in-house to a PR agency. some of my friends/colleagues thought that might me an issue for me since I’m so use to leading, but I have always had the desire to be apart of team. So, your article has inspired me look at agencies again. Thanks a bunch! 🙂

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