Advice for Those Considering Agency PR

When it comes to a career in public relations, professionals have many options – including working in-house or at an agency like SHIFT. If you’ve ever considered doing agency PR but weren’t sure, you’re in luck. SHIFT partner and resident hot dog griller Jim Joyal has some considerations to make before shipping off your résumé.

(PS: Get through the list and still think agency PR is for you? We’re hiring!)

Come as You Are

Be honest and accepting of the personality traits and habits that make up who you are. Compare these qualities and behaviors to those that are necessary to be successful in a service business like PR. In my opinion, there are certain and specific characteristics that greatly contribute to a successful career in agency PR. And there are an equal number of traits that just don’t, and won’t contribute to a success in this field.

For example, if you’re someone who is habitually late, lacks the interest or ability to attend to detail, is easily distracted or has difficulty accepting criticism, you’re probably going to find the day to day grind of agency life overwhelming, if not distasteful. Hey, this life isn’t for everyone. The personality profile necessary for a fulfilling a successful career in agency PR might be entirely different for someone who has chosen to work in our National Park system, or as a sculptor or computer programmer. The key here is to be able to undertake an honest self-assessment of who you are, how you perform and what conditions are necessary for you to be happy. 

Do Your Homework

Throughout my time (30 years) in the PR business, I’ve seen a stadium-full of bright, enthusiastic, energetic people join an agency only to find – not long after their start date, might I add –  that this life just ain’t for them. A bit of pre-employment self-inspection might have saved them from the mistake they inevitably made. My advice would be for individuals considering agency PR as a career to be honest enough with one’s self or be willing to critically evaluate one’s own personality before making the leap into this business.

Attributes of an Agency PR Person

Do you like to read? Enjoy keeping up with the world’s events? Subscribe to a daily newspaper/news site? And do you consistently – almost religiously – keep up with what’s going on in our world?  If you don’t and if you find yourself more interested in who Ben Affleck is dating versus who Benjamin Netanyahu is debating, you might want to consider a different career. Agency PR people need to:

  • Be innately curious
  • Be connected with societal happenings
  • Draw from real world events and business proceedings to fuel their creativity and improve their work product

Test the Waters

Before committing to agency life, spend some time in the trenches when and if you have the chance. Looking in from the outside, I’m fairly certain many believe working in Agency PR is two parts cocktail-partying, hob-nobbing, and press-fleshing, and one part hard work.


This stuff is hard. It’s hard because clients spend money expecting flawless execution, uncompromised performance and big league results. And as good as we are, and as hard as we try, things never go perfectly – and that’s life! Just when you’ve managed to douse one fire, another ignites. Yeah, this stuff is hard.

However, I’m proud to say that we are blessed and quite fortunate to have a staff that by and large is fueled by the challenge.  Agency PR isn’t for everyone and that’s OK.  As much as you would like to believe you can do it, it simply might not be for you. To figure out if it is, spend some time inside an agency. Do an internship if you can; shadow staffers at different levels of the agency food chain. Watch them work, take their blood pressure, gauge your own response…walk the walk as best you can before you take the dive. You might save yourself from an experience that might prove demoralizing and downright expensive.

Jim Joyal


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