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The great debate: Agency vs. in-house PR

Dec 14, 2016

As recent public relations grads and new professionals are beginning their career, many of us come across the same question: should I work at an agency or in-house? The truth is, there’s pros and cons to both sides of the argument -- and there’s never really a correct answer.

If you’re wondering which way to go, I’ve shared some insight from my experiences working in both worlds -- as an assistant strategist at Piper & Gold, and as a social media specialist for ArtPrize Eight.


Variety. Working at an agency is an endless learning opportunity. With so much variety -- from clients to industries -- it’s a great place to get your foot in the door and learn what you like and what you don’t. Each client has different needs and different goals, so you’re exposed to a variety of public relations tactics, all while developing an extensive skill set.

People to celebrate (or sympathize) with. Agencies are full of PR pros with diverse backgrounds and experiences, so there’s never really a shortage on fresh perspectives. Your co-workers also serve as a great resource when an issue arises and you need advice -- they’ve probably dealt with a similar issue before. There’s also something to be said about being surrounded by people who fully understand your work and are there to celebrate with you when things go right, and sympathize when things go wrong.

Fast-pace. Ask just about any agency PR pro and they’ll tell you that the workflow moves quickly. With projects and priorities constantly changing, it’s important to be able to juggle multiple tasks at one time and not lose sight of the overall strategy. The work can be demanding, but if you’re willing to put in the time and dedication, you’ll go far.


Becoming the brand. My favorite thing about working in-house was being able to eat, sleep and breathe the brand, and become an expert source within the organization for -- in my case -- social media. An in-house role allows you to dive deep into the organization and naturally become more aligned with its goals, strategy, messages and audiences. Sure, you’ll probably have a niche focus, but you’ll also have a greater depth of experience within that niche.

The same, but different. During my time in-house, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the organization largely functioned like a creative agency -- with the communications team working to share each department’s messages, from development to events, as if they were a client. Although, there’s a good chance that anyone outside of your team may have no idea what it is you do all day.

It doesn’t have to be boring. A lot of people think that crossing over to in-house PR work will lead to a boring career, but I beg to differ. I was lucky enough to find many parallels between my time in-house and my agency experience, including a vibrant work culture, creative atmosphere and tons of energy. If you’re considering in-house, make sure you have a personal interest in that industry.

When it comes down to it, both agency and in-house work offer their own unique opportunities and challenges. The debate often comes down to personality, working style and career goals -- but if you’re still deciding which way to go, test the waters in both worlds to find out which side suits you best.

Jackie McLane, Assistant Strategist

Tags: PR agency, in-house PR, building the brand