Why I Like the PR Agency Life

By Amanda Guisbond, @agbond

I was speaking with a soon-to-be graduate student last week about getting into Public Relations and applying for an agency job. I became physically sad to hear her say that she had been “afraid” of applying to agencies until several folks suggested she attempt it for the sake of “getting agency experience” on her resume. This is a girl getting her master’s in PR. What hope is there for those communications/marketing/journalism majors if the PR grads are already set up to think agency life is waterboard torture with a little media pitching mixed in?

As we in the profession know well, PR often gets a bad rap. What’s worse, PR agencies are stereotyped as factory-line machines that work people to the bone. Well, as someone who’s now worked in two different PR agencies, I want to put a stop to it. I like the agency life – and here’s why:

1) You get to try a little bit of everything – As far as I can tell, the marketing specialist at X brand writes press releases and talks strategy about the same X brand all day. In an agency,  I have the opportunity to work with and represent multiple brands – some big, some small, some just starting out, some very savvy about communications and some still learning. That makes for a diverse to-do list everyday – and it means that I’m constantly learning about my own job as well as my clients.

This also means that in just 3 years, I’ve had experience not only with different clients/industries, but skill sets – including competitive PR, product and company launches, crisis communications, social media management, etc.

2) You get to be creative – One of my favorite things, especially at SHIFT, is our brainstorm chats. It’s when people from different teams get together and discuss new, creative ways to promote one particular client or prospect, or a new initiative/campaign. This is just one of the many ways we get creative in an agency setting, but I think it’s a pretty good example of how agency life forces you to think outside-the-box and lean on your co-workers for inspiration.

3) You have so many resources – Again, if you’re working in the marketing department at X brand, you’re working with and learning from your marketing team. In an agency, you have access to your teammates, your office mates, people in other offices, and everyone in between. EVERYONE there is a PR pro, whether at entry-level or a 20+ year veteran. Most mid-size to large agencies hold internal training programs just so all employees can leverage the array of experience and knowledge available to them. I can’t say enough about how much I’ve learned from other people I work with, and probably how many mistakes I’ve avoided as a result.

4) There’s a clear career path – To one person, clear role definitions and measurable results that lead to promotion might seem “machine-like” – to me, PR agency life provides a clear, reliable career path that recognizes accomplishment, experience and passion.

5) But you can still divert from the script – Not every agency is awesome, maybe I’ve been lucky. But the right agency and the right people will work with you, not against you. If you’re not the stereotypical Type-A personality that many PR folks can be, that’s OK in an agency. From what I’ve seen, all kinds of personalities can do awesome PR – from the more analytical and detail-oriented pros to the assertive, action-oriented types. In life, you’re going to work with people who think and act just like you, and those who couldn’t be more different. In an agency, you get them all. I find this to be comforting and something I can learn from daily.

So, that’s my stream-of-consciousness on why agency life is GREAT, not EGADS. What are some things you like about working in an agency? Please pile on in the comments!

15 Responses to “Why I Like the PR Agency Life”

  1. 1 Katie December 7, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Thanks for the thoughts, Amanda – SHIFT is the second agency team I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of as well and I couldn’t agree more!

    You make a great point about the resources we have available to us as part of an agency, and one of the things I love most about this advantage is that it goes both ways; I’m able to serve as a better resource to media because of the wide range of clients our agency represents. If I’m on the phone with a reporter and they’re working on a feature for which the client I was calling in regards to may not be a fit this time around, four times out of five I’m sitting next to or across from someone who has some information or a source that does fit the bill, and part of our job is making that connection too. Being able to represent many voices and interests, not just one, even by proximity, helps make our media outreach a win-win for everyone involved, and that’s something I often felt I missed out on when working in-house.

    • 2 Amanda Guisbond December 7, 2010 at 5:10 pm

      Such a great point I hadn’t considered! You’re totally right, this happens all the time, and it’s awesome when we can help out reporters and strengthen those relationships agency-wide. Thanks, Katie!

  2. 3 Mansee December 7, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Found this post through Twitter and I just wanted to tell you how much I love/appreciate it. I have had two internships with different agencies and LOVED them both. I honestly feel like I was able to learn more because everybody there was focused on the PR aspect of the job, and they all seemed to genuinely love being there. I’m graduating in a few days (!) and I’m so glad I was able to experience those agency internships.

  3. 5 Cathy December 7, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I’ve been doing Agency PR for 15+ years and haven’t once wished I was in-house. The diversity, camaraderie and on-the-fly learning experiences specific to PR simply cannot be matched in a corporate position.

  4. 6 Kimberly December 8, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Agency life can definitely be a struggle, but you point out some of the great benefits. To each their own!

  5. 8 Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA December 9, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Amanda ~ You make all the good points that I try over andover again to impress on my PR students at Curry College. No…agency life isn’t for everyone…me included. But it absolutely works for others, and the experience gained even through a short relationship is invaluable. In my own brief spell in an agency, I learned very clearly what my strengths as a communicator were, and where I still needed some “polishing.” Wouldn’t trade that learning…and that experience…for anything! Thanks for some great insights that I can now share with my troops!

    • 9 Amanda Guisbond December 9, 2010 at 9:57 pm

      Definitely – like every job/industry, it’s all about the right fit. Thanks for your kind words as well!

  6. 10 Jen Zingsheim December 9, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Good list, and I’ll add what I loved: working around so many brilliant people. I worked at Fleishman-Hillard, and I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever been so surrounded by so many people who were off-the-charts amazing at what they did.

    Yes, you learn by doing, but there were so many role models there. I still count many of them as friends today, and seeing them manage multiple complex clients taught me a great deal.


    • 11 Amanda Guisbond December 9, 2010 at 10:00 pm

      It’s great when you can call your peers role models. I agree that anyone who can successfully manage multiple clients on a daily basis can also inspire others!

  7. 12 Kristin Gallucci December 9, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    This is a great post. Thanks for reminding me that the grass isn’t always greener!

  8. 13 Sarah Tomoser December 10, 2010 at 1:49 am

    Thank you for this post Amanda. I will be graduating in 2011 and have had internships in various areas of PR. I recently decided to focus my job search for agency positions. This post increased my excitement to jump in!

  9. 14 Signe Znotina December 10, 2010 at 11:11 am


    this is great. I’ve tried to answer myself why do I like the PR Agency Life so many times, and here it comes – all the answers in your post. 😉 Also for me it is important to get that good feeling after a well done job 😉 And – to get inspiration from things I do. Yes.

    P.S. I work in PR field since August, 2006.

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