And that’s what I wanted to touch on today, that question that most comms/PR/marketing people ask themselves at some point—am I an in-house or agency kind of operator?
I say, if you have the chance, be both!
Each environment helps you to hone your skills by challenging you in different ways—there is something to be learned from both. Having come from an in-house role, it’s been interesting (and a learning curve) to step into an agency and experience something new.
So, what are some of the main differences I’ve discovered?
- One client versus many – in an agency you’re handling multiple different clients at any one time, and they can be from the same or different industries. When you’re based in-house your organisation is your client.
- Operating environment – with multiple clients on the go and competing deadlines, the agency environment is dynamic and fast paced. You’re an extension of your clients’ business.
- Relationships – in both scenarios you need to be able to build productive working relationships, no questions about it. In an agency your time with a client may be limited so it’s about knowing how to build rapport quickly so that both parties work well together. In-house you’ve got a bit more time to build relationships and also the opportunity to connect with different areas of the organisation that you might not otherwise get exposed to as a consultant (e.g. legal team, finance department).
- Breadth and depth of experience – typically, if you’re in-house your work is more focused on a particular area or industry, which allows you to develop greater insight and expertise. When you’re a consultant, you’re potentially working with clients who all come from different backgrounds so their communication needs and style are completely different. This means you have to be fast on your feet and able to switch from finance to fashion in the matter of a phone call.
- Process – like doing things a certain way? Sorry, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in-house or a consultant you have to be willing to work according to your clients’ processes. Whether it’s a corporate style guide or lengthy approval process, if you can find a way to work with it and still deliver great work, your client will love you.
Every environment has its pros and cons; the trick is giving both a go and working out for yourself where you work best and where you can add the most value.
What did you discover by switching from being in-house to an agency or visa versa?