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!