Many PR professionals divide their careers into two phases: time spent in an agency and time spent in-house. Some start in an agency because they’re not sure what they want to specialize in; others see agency life as a rite of passage on their way to something else. But one thing is for sure: if you have ever been on the hunt for an in-house communications or PR job, you’ve probably seen the same sentence over and over: “Agency experience preferred.”
So, what secrets do they teach you at an agency?
Communications professionals need to be good at a lot of things. We need to write clearly and persuasively, embody the tenacious creativity that puts a fresh spin on our messages to break through a noisy landscape and have a sixth sense for what’s about to break into mainstream conversations. More than that, communications professionals are consultants—constantly introducing the methods behind our strategy to less communication-savvy individuals around us, getting buy-in from key decision-makers for big ideas and working with stakeholders of all kinds to help deliver the true value of their business to their audiences. To be effective communications consultants, we need to have a breadth of experience and confidence in our abilities that only comes from working with many different clients in many different scenarios.
I often joke with people deciding which direction to take their career that the difference between in-house and agency years is like the difference between people years and dog years. Put another way (with credit to Farmers Insurance), agency people know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.
For junior-level staff, the value of an agency career is the speed at which you gain experience—absorbing communications skills and strategies at the elbow of experienced mentors, learning to seamlessly juggle competing priorities and adapting to new industries and subject matters quickly. A client might only launch a product once every few years—but your client portfolio overall might see five launches in a single year, making you an expert in the area in a fraction of the time of your in-house colleagues. You learn about communications as a business function, how to get buy-in for an idea and what elements are necessary for a campaign to succeed.
If you’re in a different phase of your career, agencies allow experienced communications professionals to combine their hard-earned skills with the freedom of being an external consultant. Agency life encourages you to put aside the constraints of internal politics to ask the what-if questions that lead to big, out-of-the-box thinking, better results and new best practices. It also allows experienced professionals to mentor the next generation of PR and communications talent.
Of course, all agencies aren’t created equal. If you are considering your next career move, it’s important to work for an agency that prioritizes collaboration and transparency at all levels and that helps you advance your skills by surrounding you with individuals that want to help you learn and grow, no matter what stage of your career you are in. So far in 2022, V2 was named both a Boston Business Journal Best Place to Work and a Bulldog PR Award winner for Best PR and Communications Agency Team of the Year for the emphasis we put on growing careers, not just jobs.
Agency life is more than just a steppingstone to something else, it’s the best master class in becoming and growing as a well-rounded, strategic communications professional. Check out our open job listings on our career page or drop me a line if you’re interested in discussing your next career move.