It’s the age old debate within the PR and Communications industry; is it better to work in Agency vs Client Side…
With pros and cons attached to both sides, each camp is eager to defend their territory. Typically, candidates tend to move client side following many years working within agencies, spending the latter part of their careers in a more corporate setting. Conversely, others cut their teeth client side before deciding they want more variety in their client base and work.
So, what are the main differences?
PR agency culture is known to be dynamic and creative, with more of a flat structure, specifically within the small to medium sized companies. Agency employees are often thrown into the ‘deep-end’, working within a fast-paced environment and continually acquiring hands on experience with new tasks. It also provides the opportunity to work across a breadth of clients in a variety of industries on projects that call upon a wide range of skills, from learning to manage budgets, building relationships with media to day-to-day account management. Agency life often involves juggling multiple clients and projects at any given time; a balancing act to say the least. For most it is a very rewarding role, providing more frequent opportunities for promotion.
In contrast, working in PR client side allows professionals to focus on one brand and its assets, essentially becoming brand experts. It enables employees to learn the ins and outs of a company’s brand and can also open up possibilities to move from the communications department into other areas of the marketing function and beyond. The idea of having only one client can be appealing, but the reality is that there are still internal departments to please, including the likes of marketing, promotions, operations, HR etc. This brand immersion allows a client side employee the chance to get up close and personal with every facet of the company’s internal and external communications strategy, however it can be difficult to fast-track career growth on the corporate side.
Both agency and client side PR roles offer unique challenges and opportunities, and what is better for one professional may not be the right fit for another.
If you are considering getting into PR on the client side, the decision to make the move should not be taken lightly. It’s important that you enjoy the industry you will be joining, as you might not have the opportunity to move over to the next client in the way that you would within an agency environment.
A key piece of advice would be to make the move to client side later on in your career, where you can join a company at a senior level, using your breadth of experience working with different clients and have more of an impact on how things work.