Where Do You Learn the “Nuts & Bolts” of PR?

For graduating seniors, this is the crucial time that we should be researching, applying and interviewing for jobs.  So I decided it was time to have the “where is this going” conversation at my internship after doing in house PR for the past four or five months in the hospitality industry.  My conversation with my boss and the most recent post on the PR Practitioner blog really got me thinking about the kinds of real world experience I had.

I decided a while ago that I wasn’t quite cut out for the agency life and thought that I would be more comfortable and confident in my work if I did in- house PR for a company.  My rationale was that if I knew the client, (my employer) inside and out, then my job would be easier than juggling multiple clients, some of whom I may never wrap my head around what exactly they do.  It wasn’t until my boss gave me a word of advice that she would prefer that (semi) entry level PR professionals have at least one year of agency that I started to re-think my rationale.  She explained to me that she believed agency experience  is where you really learn the “nuts and bolts” of the industry.

The PR Practitioner’s most recent post seems to agree with my employer.  Having been on both sides of the business, he seems to think that young professionals seem more attractive and can further their careers by having both Corporate/Client and Agency PR experience on your resume.  So what do you think?  Do you think in order to be successful in the public relations industry you have to have agency and in- house experience, even if you just want to do work on one side?

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11 Responses to Where Do You Learn the “Nuts & Bolts” of PR?

  1. hhoma says:

    This is a topic that I have been thinking about recently. I, too, know that I want to do corporate PR over agency PR, and I’ve been wondering if I should still try to get an internship with an agency just to have the experience. I’ve been told how completely different the two are, and I am positive that I wouldn’t enjoy working with an agency as much as I would with a company. So why go through with an internship that I assume I won’t enjoy and that I know I won’t want to pursue? It doesn’t seem like a good idea, but then again, if that type of experience is what potential employers want to see, it probably IS a good idea. I suppose having both agency and in-house experience is the best route for everyone, as it shows that they can work in different environments and have had a well-rounded PR learning experience.

    • crandell says:

      Having not done an agency internship myself and assuming I don’t want that route may be knocking something before we’ve tried it. I think there is a big difference between doing an internship at an agency and working after graduation at an agency. I believe the work load and type of tasks would be completely different and prepare you in a completely different way. Yet, should we really do things on the sole reason that we think they are the right thing to do and they will further our careers? Shouldn’t we focus on getting experience in the exact industry or in-house/corporation that we want to work in after graduation?

  2. tburns says:

    I think that you get out of any internship what you put into it. Therefore, with that said, I do not think that agency experience is a necessity. You could put a lot of work into an in-house PR job to show off your skills and expertise just as you could at an agency.

    I say this, because, as I go through my campaigns class, I am realizing that my personality is not cut out to work in an agency-related field. Though I do not plan to pursue PR, I do plan to pursue law which often has similar set-ups in the way professionals represent clients. I think that when you are happier and well-suited to the position you hold, you put more effort into what you are doing and can accomplish amazing things. If you prefer in-house work and know you will enjoy it more, more often than not, you will accomplish greater things. Just translate your successes and achievements to your resume and in your interview, and your chances at employment should still be high.

  3. jalbaz says:

    I believe that it is important to have agency experience for a few reasons. One is because in an agency you often learn how to juggle more than one client at once, and more projects at once. This can give you experience in multi-tasking and allow you to be very versatile. Second is because at an in-house pr job you only have one client and you know the ins and outs of that client, so you’re not really expanding your self as much as you could be, and you’re not learning how to juggle between new and old clients and learning about each client. Third, for an agency you can also constantly expanding your networking by meeting new people and looking for potential new clients in other areas. All of this and more, helps pr practitioners to be more versatile, more experienced, and more well-rounded for an agency.

    • crandell says:

      I agree with your points that agency experience could give you a good work ethic and skills that could be applied to the public relations industry, yet I also believe that agency work takes a certain kind of individual. Not everyone will take away the benefits that you pointed out if their heart and attitude is not in the right place.

  4. alevy says:

    I also have not have experience working in either an agency or in house PR environment, and I don’t really have interest in pursuing my PR career route at an agency, however I do still think it is wise to gain experience in order to enhance your knowledge and have a better background of different aspects of PR. I think employers look at the diversity of your prior experience when hiring for entry level positions, so if you have a wide range of internships, I feel that you have a greater chance to be prepared for any future job. Also, working in a professional environment helps better prepare you for the “real world” and learn skills that must be applied to the professional work place (EX: organization, priority, etc..). In addition, I agree with the previous posts that not everyone may be cut out to work for an agency, but interning or working for an agency (at least once) allows you to learn the fundamentals of clientele and teaches you to multi-task as well as network with other companies to find the career path that is right for you. Personally, I believe it comes down to who you know and with more experience and beneficial internships, the people you form relationships with can hopefully help you in the job market.

  5. a_hundza says:

    I have been struggling with this as well. I have only ever worked in-house jobs through college, thinking that was what I wanted to do after I graduated. However, here I am in April and I’m being told I should have spent time at an agency. Would have been nice advice my freshman year!!

    I always though working in an agency I wouldn’t learn anything; I’d be the gopher in a chaotic atmosphere. Thankfully, I’ve met some wonderful people who have done agency work that have made me feel better about it. I think as long as you find an agency that is dedicated to teaching you the in’s and out’s you’ll be in the right place, but if you just go for any agency you might end up being the gopher who learns nothing. Hit and miss I suppose! Let’s all cross our fingers!

  6. acarlin says:

    I definitely think it helps to have both in-house and agency experience. While I know that I want to get into in-house, I would be open to taking a job with an agency if the terms were right. Employers also like to see that you are able to juggle several clients, because this shows that you can multi-task, which is a pertinent quality for any PR professional.

    It’s definitely two completely different sides of PR. In in-house, you really do get to know your client thoroughly, since they are the only one you are working for. But agency work would always keep things interesting and you wouldn’t be doing the same exact thing everyday. I think it just depends on the person.

  7. rniu says:

    Thank you for your post! I am 100% sure that I’ve been thinking about this topic for awhile. The question I ask myself is, would I rather work as in-house PR practitioner or in an agency? I have come up with the exact same reasoning you had. If working in-house, I’d be able to focus on one client, really understand one client culture, and do exactly what is necessary for that one client. As was recommended, agency-style PR will allow us to learn the basics of PR, even though I don’t care to develop my career in one.

    Though working in-house PR for a company would be my dream, I could see it being limited. Since I would be focused on one client and one main theme, it could be more of chance of to lack creativity and seem a little boring. I feel that companies should have a significant creative team to eliminate this possibility. This post made me realize the importance of agency internships! Look what I’ll be doing this summer… P.S. Does anyone know of any entry-level PR jobs?

  8. cmcelroy says:

    I can definitely see the combination of in-house and agency work being a plus, but I don’t think it is an absolute necessity. Ultimately, if you put in the time and the effort and get multiple internship experiences, you are going to come out of it with a comprehensive understanding of the industry. I don’t see anything wrong with going down the agency route in order to get a leg up, but if it is something that you are absolutely set against doing, I don’t think it is a necessity. A guest speaker in one of my classes told us to never underestimate the power of the interview, and I think this is a perfect example of that. Maybe on paper it might seem like you need both experiences to understand the industry, but if you develop a proficiency through in-house work, then there is no reason why you can’t convince an employer of that in the interview setting.

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