A couple of months ago, I decided to leave my role as a PR and Media Manager for a regional charity to accept a new challenging position as an Account Executive at Genesis PR.
Having had a couple of months to settle into my new role, I now find myself in a position to reflect upon the differences between working in-house and working for an integrated PR and digital agency such as Genesis.
Firstly, the most obvious change is that you will likely be working on a handful of clients as opposed to a singular organisation. If you are used to multi-tasking and managing a number of different projects, then this change will be easier to cope with.
I found the prospect of working on three or four accounts very interesting, particularly as they were across a range of different sectors. This allowed me to gain insight and knowledge in a variety of business sectors and industries.
This will not be the case within all agencies as some specialise in a particular sector, and some use a ‘one client to one employee’ approach.
It can be seen as a challenge to go from dedicating five days a week on one client to breaking your time up more carefully to successfully manage the priorities of several clients. The more organised you are, the easier this will be. Stepping in to an agency has definitely taught me how to make the most out of my time at work through managing weekly priorities.
Comparing this to my in-house experience, and from my network of PR professionals, I would say that productivity levels tend to be lower when working in-house. This is not to say that in-house PR representatives do not spend time effectively, but it is much easier to get distracted by the day-to-day running of the business. Within a PR agency, client agendas are worked out far in advance, so there is less day-to-day interference.
Prior to agency life, I had the misconception that I would not feel part of my client’s team. I take this back. Having worked closely with my clients I’ve built up a good understanding of their strategic objectives, and the team’s role in helping these objectives come to life. I’m able to liaise with different members of their organisation and celebrate their individual successes as a business.
When working in-house it can be easy to become accustomed to a certain way of thinking, e.g. ‘we should do this because it’s what we have always done it’ or ‘this is just the way that we work’. Looking from the outside-in allows fresh thinking to find creative PR solutions with honest eyes.
But first, you must take time to build trust and a relationship with your client – this is an integral part of agency life. Communication is key. Make the most out of your monthly meetings and conference calls. Creativity and new ideas are great, but they must be in line with your client’s objectives. It is often more challenging to implement new ideas from the outside-in.
Which brings me to my final point. The biggest change I have found with working in an agency is going from an environment where I was the only PR professional, to being surrounded by a number of experts in the field.
Although some might imagine this to be competitive, I see it more as a collaboration. I work with a number of PR professionals who have all come from different backgrounds. Through shared learning, I find myself taking advice from others, learning new skills, and finding new opportunities for the clients I work with. This is just as useful for the clients, who instead of having one in-house expert, have two or three PR professionals working on their account.
So, the big question. Am I happy with my new-found work-life within a PR agency?
Agency life is fast-paced and not for the lazy or unorganised worker. It certainly comes with its challenges, but there is a great opportunity for career development and personal growth within such a collaborative environment. With a wide range of projects and clients, no day is truly the same. If you enjoy multi-tasking, have a thirst for new knowledge and a creative way of thinking; then maybe it could be for you too?