The differences between in-house and agency PR

Written by Hayley Paterson


difference agency and in-houseWhen it comes to PR – there’s many differences between in-house and agency. Having experienced both during her PR career, our Account Manager, Hayley Paterson, shares her experiences on how things differ in agency life and in-house.

I’ve worked in several jobs to pave the way for careers in both journalism and PR – from factory-packing jam tarts to delivering thousands of charity bags door-to-door.

Every job I’ve had has taught me something. It might’ve been that I wasn’t cut out for working in a factory (I lasted three shifts), but I have the utmost respect for those that do.

I gained a thick-skin, learned how to talk to people and had the confidence to pursue what I really wanted to do – which was write.

Whether penning fictional teen dramas as a youngster or writing football match reports for my local paper, I loved writing and the escapism it brought. I also loved finding out about, and telling, people’s stories – especially the ‘triumph over adversity’ tales. So, journalism was a bit of a no-brainer when it came to career choice.

LEARNING ABOUT PR

Working as a journalist, I soon found out about PR. I had dealt with many PRs over the years and, having gained contacts within the industry, I was interested in what it took to work in PR.

Whilst I loved journalism, and the near-decade spent in print and online, I couldn’t do much about the dreaded brown envelope as redundancy came calling. However, this proved to be the perfect opportunity to explore my fascination with PR.
Looking back, I had no idea what I was really looking for. Was it in-house or agency? I didn’t know, and – prior to researching both – I didn’t fully understand what they meant.

STARTING PR IN-HOUSE

I joined in-house PR first, working for a global organisation as its solitary press officer and taking charge of the PR relations for our four schools and the apprenticeships department. Content covered a breadth of media and output across print and social. As challenging and demanding as it was, it taught me invaluable skills which I took into my agency role with Faith PR.

However, when I joined the agency, I quickly realised how different it was to in-house. I suppose I was still a little naïve to what the differences were between the two.

With in-house, my ultimate client was my organisation and, although I had many hats for the varying schools, the key messages and call to action elements remained the same.

MOVING TO AN AGENCY

Now part of an agency, I was suddenly managing several, very different, accounts daily – all with unrelated viewpoints, messaging and output. I could be working on a school social media schedule one minute, a cleaning research campaign the next and a print positioning piece for another client.

Those first few weeks were an absolute blur. I felt like I was back in the newsroom, bleary-eyed at 7am doing calls before completing numerous pages ahead of a 10am print deadline.

I have always worked at pace having been used to deadlines, but I noticed a difference moving from in-house PR to agency – the latter was, and is, quicker. In-house, I was able to spend more time on projects and the pace was much slower.

As an in-house PR, I was on the frontline of the organisation. I had the inside knowledge and covered a lot of ground, but I often found in my previous role that I needed an agency to push out packaged content to complement my output because they had certain specialisms to do so.

It also paid to have an outsider’s point of view. The agency I project managed whilst in-house benefitted from coming at things fresh and they could be objective in their critique of the organisation – almost like a first-time customer. They also had a breadth of skills which worked well with the depth of knowledge I had about my organisation.

SPECIALISMS IN PR ROLES

There’s been more opportunity to progress up the career ladder in my agency role and enhance my skillset. I can call upon specialists within my agency for assistance whether it’s SEO, content marketing or business advice which I didn’t have whilst working in-house.

I’ve helped create proposals and pitches for new business, presented to top-level CEOs, worked on creative campaigns and learned so much which has complemented the grounding in-house gave me.

I’ve found both roles exciting and challenging for different reasons. Both have given me a real insight into the world of PR, what works and what doesn’t. It really does depend on what your brief is, how varied and fast-paced you want to work as well as which specialisms you want to fully utilise to turn your PR into gold.

Keep an eye out for another blog coming soon on how to brief an agency.

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