Agency vs. In-House Comms: One Career, Two Different Worlds
By Bridgette Borst Ombres
People always ask me, “Which do you like best – agency or in-house?” Or, I find myself in talks with a recent graduate who will be on the fence and wants help weighing the pros and cons of each. No one wants to potentially miss anything happening on “the other side.”
As someone who has worked in the agency sector, done a fair amount of independent consulting and has also worked in corporate communications – I can say, you gain rich experience in each and both can be equally rewarding.
In my experience, below are some of the contrasts.
Breadth vs. depth of work
In the agency and consulting world, you get a wide range of experience working with different clients who make up different sizes and industries. While you may not become an expert in any one industry, this side of the business allows you to explore a breadth of PR, cultivate media relationships across a variety of beats and discover what you enjoy most. On the other hand, corporate communications offers PR pros a deep understanding of one brand and its assets. The good news? These folks become brand and industry experts. The bad news? You could get pigeon-holed in an industry that you don’t want to work in forever.
Doing what you love
Unfortunately, not all clients (and industries) are created the same. You may be extremely passionate about telling one brand’s story and fired up about advocating for a specific issue or cause, while you’re not so jazzed about another client’s work. A benefit in corporate communications is you have the opportunity to seek out an industry or issue that you’re passionate about and put all of your energy into it every day.
The “team” can look very different
One of the great advantages to working at an agency is being able to bounce ideas off of fellow creatives who understand what you do. Whether you’re testing different messaging, thinking through a crisis response or vetting a media pitch, you have a team of communications professionals you can learn from and who can offer valuable feedback. Often times, collaboration with other seasoned PR pros is harder to come by in-house. Your colleagues might be all very great at their jobs, but when it comes to marketing communications, they just don’t get it – and that can be frustrating at times. The product itself can also be less quality, not having the benefit of collaborating with other, like-minded professionals. As the old saying goes, ‘two heads are better than one!’
Getting the green-light
Waiting to get client approval on every single landing page, ad, story angle, speech, op-ed, etc. can mean deadlines getting pushed back. Based on my experience working in-house, getting sign off from legal, execs and IT is easier and much quicker.
To sum it up from my point of view – if you like specializing in something and prefer more structure, in-house communications may be the best option. On the other hand – if you dig more variety in your work, then agency is the way to go!
Bridgette Borst Ombres is a former television news reporter turned PR and marketing professional with a decade of experience working in the communications field across agency, corporate and nonprofit sectors. Bridgette is the director of marketing and communications at a tech company in Pittsburgh and also consults for a variety of businesses.
She is a member of PRSA Pittsburgh, serves on the TEDxPittsburgh committee, the co-founder of Not Your Mama’s Book Club and volunteers as a mentor at both of her alma maters.
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