On the heels of PRSSA National Conference 2009, one particular seminar stood out the most to me. “Crusin’ with PR—Corporate vs. Agency” provided beneficial insight to future public relations practitioners. As students often ponder what fields of PR interests them, corporate and agency often pop up.
Tim Wheatcroft, general manager of Allison & Partners’ San Diego office, represented the agency side of the argument, whereas Rana Kay, public relations manager at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego, works on the corporate side. Both presented valid arguments, some of which I’ll share with you.
- Exposure to wide variety of clients
- More access to new and upcoming tools and resources
- More opportunity for training
- Opportunity to learn quickly
- Surrounded by other PR people
- Media sees you as a barrier—often a love/hate relationship
- Multiple bosses you answer to—your boss and client
- Salaries not as high, especially in popular sectors
- The larger the agency the less exposure to senior management
New PR professionals often worry they cannot juggle multiple clients at once, the lower salaries and longer hours may also scare beginners away. Most beginners let the intimidation scare them away from what could be an incredible opportunity. An agency will afford you the opportunity to try your hand at many different specializations. Especially early on in your career, you should try different PR fields before you can say what you like and don’t like. An agency will also be filled with older, wiser PR professionals who can help teach and mentor you. Tim and Rana both agreed that starting off at an agency is invaluable because it better prepares you for corporate PR.
Here are some pros and cons for working at a corporation:
- Higher salaries
- Access to senior executive early in career
- Ability to specialize in area you enjoy
- Interact with the marketing department
- Easier to forge relationships with the media
- Chance to learn from PR agencies
- Your boss most likely won’t be a PR specialist
- Less exposure to new techniques
- Can be too niche
- Limited advancement opportunity
- Less time on traditional PR activities
If you’re someone who already has a clear train of thought of what you want to do, corporate PR may be more your forte. At a corporation you get to work closely with other departments, such asmarketing department, which may particularly interest PR majors who have a business minor. Another major pro for working at a corporation is the long-term benefits. Graduates may not be thinking about their 401k quite yet but need to keep it in mind for the future.
Obviously, there’s not a “one size fits all” in PR, as people thrive in different environments. It’s important to note that agency and corporate PR share overlapping themes. As Rana and Tim said, neither side is cushier than the other.
Do you think it’s better to start off at an agency or a corporation? Why? Have you found any noticeable differences between working at an agency and corporation?