I once had a mentor say, “The secret to happiness is having a job that you like and a good mattress. Why? Because two-thirds of your life is spent at work or in bed.” He had a point, but how do you know if you will love your job before you take it? At some point most PR professionals face the choice between pursuing a position at an agency or at a brand. It can be a tough call to make because both options offer a unique set of opportunities to advance your career. Of course, we can’t tell you what would be your best move, but we can offer some insight into the benefits of each path.
An agency might be great for you If …
You’re Just Getting Started
We aren’t saying that agency work is only for the young, but it is very demanding and the pay is often less than what is offered by brands. There’s no better way to get a great deal of experience doing all sorts of PR activities quickly, so many people are willing to accept the trade off. It is an easier call to make when you don’t have a mortgage and kids.
You Love Variety
Because agencies work with many clients and the client list is always changing, agency work involves a lot of variability. You’ll get to learn something about a number of different businesses and work with many different people.
You’re Great at Project Management
Keeping a number of balls in the air for a bunch of different clients is a challenged for agencies. If you know how to track activities, stick to a schedule and herd cats, there’s an agency somewhere that needs you.
On the other hand, a brand might be perfect for you if …
You’re Broadly Interested in Business
PR agencies focus on the services that they deliver and are less connected to the other aspects of the client's business. If you are interested in understanding how all the pieces of an organization fit together and how PR can support other functions like sales and product marketing, a brand is likely a good fit for you.
You’re a Great Negotiator
Business resources are finite. Whatever budget is allocated to PR is not allocated to another business function. Brand PR professionals need to be skilled at understanding the public relations needs of the business in relationship to everything else and providing the business justification for the investment.
You Enjoy Building Brand Identity
Agencies can certainly help with the artifacts of brand identity, but the true essence of the brand, it’s personality, if you will, must come from within. Brand PR pros are responsible for creating and protecting the brand’s voice and its way of interfacing with the world. If this is your passion, an in-house position should be your top choice.
When it comes to the choice between working at an agency or a brand, there is no right or wrong. Both offer the opportunity to learn and grow and form relationships that will span your career. What matters most is that you find a position that gets you excited and helps you reach your full potential.