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In-house or agency – the best career path for you

Professionals frequently ask us which is the best option for their career in corporate communications – an agency or in-house role? Both agency and in-house offer different challenges and experiences. There is no simple answer as to which is best overall, so it’s important to really understand which option will suit you personally.

Working for a PR agency

  • Exposure to a wide range of clients and industries – one of the most significant benefits of working for a PR agency is the opportunity to work with a wide range of clients and industries. You will have the chance to work on multiple client accounts simultaneously, allowing you to develop a broad range of skills and experience. You'll be able to work with a variety of different types of clients, giving you the chance to learn about and explore diverse industries.
  • Fast-paced work environment – for those who thrive on challenge and variety, an agency can be an exciting place to work. You'll be working on multiple accounts, pitching stories to journalists, drafting press releases and messaging, and managing crises. This environment will keep you on your toes, and you'll have the opportunity to work with a highly motivated team.
  • Opportunity for career growth – as you work on multiple accounts, often in a matrix structure, you will work with and learn from lots of experienced colleagues. There is a clear career path and it’s possible to get promoted regularly making you feel that you are progressing quickly. You will likely be given the opportunity to take on more of a leadership role, manage client accounts as you gain more experience as an advisor, and you'll be encouraged to pursue ongoing professional development. It is worth noting that career progression in-house may be limited by organisational structure and hierarchy.
  • More variety in your work – you'll have the opportunity to advise on multiple clients across different industries and sectors. Some of those sectors may be more conservative and reactive with their communications and others will be more open to creative proactive positioning or repositioning campaigns. This variety will keep your work interesting, up-to-date and you'll have the chance to develop a wide range of PR, digital, social and branding skills that you may not have the opportunity to develop in an in-house role.
  • Networking opportunities – as you work with multiple clients, you'll have the chance to connect with a range of industry professionals, from journalists, analysts, bankers, lawyers to other PR professionals. Additionally, many PR agencies hold networking events or attend industry conferences, providing further opportunities to meet and connect with other professionals in the field.

Working in-house

  • Deep understanding of the company and industry – you'll have the opportunity to become an expert in your company's industry, products, and services. You'll be working closely with internal stakeholders, such as C-Suite executives, heads of business units/departments, product managers, and sales teams, and you'll have access to internal resources and information that can help you develop a more comprehensive understanding of your company and its offerings. This deep understanding can be valuable in developing effective communication strategies and building relationships with external stakeholders, such as journalists and industry influencers.
  • More focus on one client – you'll be able to devote all of your attention to one client, allowing you to build deeper relationships and create more targeted and effective communication strategies. You'll also have the opportunity to work closely with internal stakeholders, giving you a greater degree of control over the messaging and positioning of your company.
  • Stronger connection to the company's values and mission – you'll be part of the organisation and have a vested interest in its success. You'll also have a greater sense of ownership over the company's reputation and communications strategies, which can be highly motivating especially if the company has a clear purpose.
  • More stability and predictable workload – working in-house can provide a more stable and predictable workload, with fewer surprises and a greater ability to plan and prioritise your work. This can be a good fit for those who prefer a more planned out approach to their work schedule and environment.
  • Opportunity to specialise – you may have the opportunity to specialise in a particular area of PR, such as media relations, digital communications, financial comms, or crisis management. This can be valuable in developing deep expertise and skills in a specific area, which can be beneficial for your career growth and advancement.
  • When to move in-house – many comms professionals start out by learning the ropes in agencies and then around Account Director level, think about moving in-house. Wanting something different and hoping for a less stressful role. There are different stresses in-house; stakeholders you can’t change (unlike agency clients) and navigating company politics can be a minefield. Progression in-house can be challenging and slower than agency life as structures are flatter which means there are big jumps in responsibility between levels in-house. Just take this into account before making the leap and work out what the progression opportunities are and what is right for you.
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