Come to the dark side

With many of us in this class graduating within the year, I’m guessing that a great many hours have been spent pondering what we will do with our lives after school. I think one of the first things we set out to decide is if we will work for an agency or in-house for an organization. It has proven a difficult task to get unbiased answers from public relations professionals on this topic, however, PRSA has an interesting blog up, which does not delve too deeply into the issue, but does give a nice overview of the two options.

Although my experience has been through relatively short internships, I have worked in both agency and in-house settings. The two are vastly different environments, and I think that most people immediately know which one they fit into better.

Setting personal preference aside then, is there a difference in the quality of product put out by public relations agencies and in-house public relations people? There are some great arguments on a PR-Squared blog for the benefits of agencies and among them are their large resources and media contacts. Those who work in-house make their case as well, one blog I found put it plainly, with the general point being that they are able to be on the pulse of activity in the organization.

Are these two sectors different but equal, or is there one that is superior? I feel that mainstream thought is that agencies are better, because they are more glamorous, but what real evidence is there? I feel that I have been continuously leaning toward the side of in-house work, based on it’s unmatched ability to know the organization’s needs, its people, and its structure. In my experience an agency must spend hours and hours to get a relatively shallow understanding of an organization every time they get a new client. Which side will you choose?

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7 Responses to Come to the dark side

  1. cate415 says:

    There are definite pros and cons to both types of public relations. I have had internship experience in only pr agencies, therefore can only offer a one-sided viewpoint of the issue but regardless, feel that either one would be a very rewarding job. I liked the agency vibe because the agency as a whole seemed like a family, with everyone understanding the true meaning and point of pr. On the other hand, it was difficult to get to know and understand each new client as they came in on a personal level, therefore this is an advantage to in-house pr. I would definitely like to experience in house pr before I make my final decision as to which I prefer more.

  2. jedhallam says:

    Thanks for mentioning my post – it was the centre of quite a lot of chatter when I posted it originally and there were a few reaction posts.

    At the time of writing I was in my first role, in-house. Right now I’m in my second role, at an agency. So I think I’ve seen both sides pretty well…

    In-house is absolutely brilliant as a first job. It’s pretty much like working at an agency but you’re given one client to focus everything on and hone your skills with. I learnt so much in my first few months (that I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to do at a regular agency) that it prepared me well for agency life.

    The major downfalls with in-house are that you’re quite isolated, once you’ve cracked your first client (I.E. your company) you’ll quickly get bored (unless it’s for a huge MNC) and in terms of growth it can stunt things (you don’t get to work with a mass of clients ranging from Cotton Wool Buds to Jaguar – neither of which are a Wolfstar client, I hasten to add).

    My advice to PRO’s starting out would be to either find a small agency where you’ll be allowed to try everything or find an interesting in-house role where you can practice before making the leap to agency life.


  3. erikanp2004 says:

    I am the opposite of Cate415; I have only had experience as an in-house PR intern. i really like it and after college I plan to stay with in-house PR for awhile. But I really appreciate Cate415’s perspective on PR agencies. The one great difficulty in an in-house PR job is that no one around you understands PR practices. It would be nice to be in an agency with a group of people who know what you know. I may have to give an agency another look.

  4. letsgoblogging says:

    I have worked as an in-house intern as well as at an agency. I can see the pros and cons of both environments, but I favor the agency atmosphere slightly more than in-house.
    While I was an in-house intern, I was working for a very large company, so I really never felt connected with the brand or the people I was working with. Agencies tend to be more engaging and fast-paced and I like the feeling of always having to be ready to handle anything that comes my way. Also, at an agency, since you have a wide variety of clients, you get to meet many more diverse people and become familiar with a variety of industries you may have never been exposed to before.

  5. ccharvey says:

    This is a great topic! When I first started getting internship experiences it was always on my mind. While interning at a PR agency I even asked my supervisor why agencies have such a negative stigma associated with them.

    While I agree that agencies are good to get different experiences and the atmosphere is always changing, I think that I have gained more quality experiences in the in-house internships I have had. Maybe in the future I will want to go back to an agency, but for now, I enjoy the opportunities that in-house PR provides. I think it all depends on where you intern and what experiences you have. What may be right for one person isn’t necessarily right for everyone.

  6. mekelly1 says:

    I don’t think that either is better overall, but in-house and agency PR both have their own strong attributes. While working with the clients in class I have found that each time we talk with them we are finding out new insights into their company that if we had been in-house from the beginning we would have known about. I am personally leaning toward in-house when I graduate and begin to look for jobs.

  7. mara2009 says:

    I am also leaning toward in-house. In-house allows you to learn about the company in a way that an agency does not. I think in-house is also a good way to get your feet wet in the PR industry. Agencies, on the other hand, seem to be better suited for people who always need change and have acquired many skills. They’re both good, but since I want to work for NGOs in the human rights area, I’ll probably be sticking with in-house.

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