PR Agency Life 101: Management at the agency

The PR agency world can be a confusing one, especially for someone looking in from the outside. Let’s take a look at the basic organization of a PR agency and what the different people do. We’ll continue off of yesterday’s post by looking at what happens when you make the transition from PR practitioner to manager of practitioners.

PR Agency Structure.mindnode

Once you’ve demonstrated your PR chops from intern all the way up to Senior Account Executive, the next logical step for many practitioners is to be asked to manage other, more junior practitioners as an Account Manager (AM). AMs continue their excellent track record of earning media for their clients, but also take on the day to day management of a team. AMs mentor, coach, and ultimately are responsible for their team’s productivity. AMs are also the first level of management that clients will work with if a client relationship isn’t going well.

If an AM proves adept at managing a team and making it successful, what better way to test their mettle than to promote them to Senior Account Manager (SAM) and give them two or more teams? SAMs work with more teams or work with more valuable, more challenging clients to ensure that the client relationship is maintained and grown. SAMs also do more strategic public relations with their teams and clients, helping create overall strategies and plans above and beyond the tactical execution of day to day PR.

Got what it takes to manage and maintain multiple teams, multiple clients, and a diverse playbook of PR strategies? Your next stop in the career ladder is Account Director (AD). ADs spend their time working on strategies, plans, and complex client relationships. They coach, they teach, they train, they juggle multiple teams and dozens of clients, and they take on significant roles in the earning of new business as they demonstrate their ability to not only manage what they have, but grow their client bases. ADs also begin to manage revenue-based projects directly, working to provide maximum service to clients in exchange for maximum value to the agency.

If an AD demonstrates superior skills in growing new business and managing a significant client portfolio, they reach the top of the management chain as a Vice President. VPs have a full P&L – a profit/loss responsibility, as if their team was its own agency. VPs hire, run their business as if it were their own, and spend a significant amount of time building the brand of the agency and growing new business. They also provide senior-level counsel and guidance to clients, helping them navigate the most difficult PR challenges, and typically have a focused area of domain expertise such as healthcare, B2B tech, etc.

In the next post in this series, we’ll look at non-traditional roles in the agency.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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