After having worked in PR for 16 years, both in-house and ‘in-agency’, I believe working in-house is clearly where one can make a more significant difference to an organisation and its stakeholders, as well as being a more rewarding environment in which to work: you write the strategy, pull the strings and don’t have the hideous ogre of new business to deal with.
But what do you think?
The advantages of in-house PR roles
1. You get to devise the overarching communication strategy and strategic approach. And if you don’t actually write it, you are closest to this particular coal face and, in theory, you get to contribute to and/or participate in its implementation in the most active way possible – rather than being at arm’s length with limited control.
2. You run the communication show. Consultants/agencies report to you. They are more often your arms and legs than a significant contributor to the central planks of your communication strategy.
3. When running the communication ‘show’, you are more likely to be able to prompt an organisation to implement two-way symmetrical communication, facilitating an organisation operating in a manner more in-line with its stakeholders’ needs and wants. This also leads to a more equitable society, which has a multiplicity of personal and professional rewards.
4. You get to immerse yourself more deeply in the widest possible range of issues and experiences relevant to an organisation, giving you the broadest possible perspective on the organisation. This helps you develop the best possible solutions to communication challenges and respond in a speedy way to them.
5. The fact that you consistently work on one client – your organisation – means that the impact of your work is likely to have a greater and more transparent impact than if you worked occasionally on this client.
6. If access to power is important, when working in-house you are more likely to have interactions with organisational leadership. This can make you feel good about yourself, but it can also mean your ideas are heard more easily by senior stakeholders, potentially giving you opportunities you may not have otherwise had. Mainly, however, it’s an ego thing!
7. As the work you do on your ‘client’, and the results your work delivers, is more visible, that should generate more job satisfaction than skipping across a range of clients.
8. It is a more stable environment to work in than agencies. Your job is less likely to be downsized. Agencies are more downturn-sensitive, which in business quickly equates to a redundancy. If agency billable hours are reduced then there is less money to pay the bills, so even if your performance is excellent, you may need to hit the road.
9. Professional development (e.g. university courses, short courses, conference attendance) is better funded in-house. You only need to look where most PR conference attendees come from. In-house totally dominates (although, and this is both hilarious and tells you something, it is agencies that often dominate the speaker line ups!). Non-agency organisations also tend to provide other support such as study leave to a much higher degree than agencies.
10. As working in-house is generally not as intense a vocational experience as working in an agency, you are given time to evolve your skill set and grow into your job. Billable hours is not normally a feature of working in-house, so ‘the work’ (i.e. public relations work) is far and away the focus. Whereas when working in an agency billable hours (i.e. profit) rules all other aspects and it can be troubling to have to balance the professional communication responsibilities with business efficacy responsibilities.
11. You don’t have to spend time on new business. That. In itself. Is. A. WIN. There will be some who find the process of scoping and securing new business for an agency rewarding. Most do not. I did a Masters of Communication, for instance, to help with my ability to practice public relations. I didn’t do a Masters of Sales. I find the process enervating and boring.
12. The strong focus on new business in an agency can generate a culture of fear. Not enough billable hours = my job is at threat = stress and uncertainty. In-house does not have this issue anywhere near as much.
13. Unless this is part of your specific role, you do not have to spend as much time on media relations as you typically do in an agency role. Media relations is rewarding, it often delivers ROI and helps achieve organisational objectives, but it is not the be-all and end all. PR is not media relations. Whilst extensive creativity, intelligence and tenacity is required to work effectively in media relations, so does it have a strong ‘sales’ (even telesales) dimension and it also becomes tiresome putting up with the scepticism and negativity of many journalists.
14. Organisations tend to have deeper support systems and processes in place for managing employees. This is purely a small business vs large business dichotomy, but is very relevant to PR. This means that performance reviews, counselling, support, leave provisions etc tend to be much more employee-centric when working in-house.
But what do you think?
Next week I’ll explore why working in PR agencies is an awesome, galvanising and rewarding experience.
What have I missed? What else is great about working in-house in PR? Is it better than working in an agency? And even though I will list my thoughts on the advantages of agency life next week, feel free to beat me to the punch and give me your list – I’ll include your thoughts (well, if I think they’re on the money!) in my post.