The Great Debate: Agency vs. Corporate PR

Which is better?

Where do I start?

Is there actually a difference?

These are often the questions that many PR practitioners ask themselves when they are planning their strategic attack on job opportunities. But just like it took you time to find and wear in your favorite pair of jeans, it will take time to find the right fit of job for you in the PR world.

The Basics:

  • Corporate PR: Unlike agency PR, practitioners only have one client: their employers. Their work is focused solely around the company they work for, so a strong personal interest in the company is required because they will be your only client. With this, you will have the same people to answer to as bosses and leaders for every project. While it may take a little more time to negotiate new projects or campaigns, as an in-house rep, you will be able to come up with a truly organic idea and see it through from start to finish. Working in a corporate setting offers a deeper understanding of your business as a whole and it provides stability, but lacks variety.


  • Agency PR: Practitioners have many different types of clients to tend to in terms of priorities, strategy, schedules, and personalities, often at the same time creating more diversity in skills and public relations techniques. In a PR agency, you have many “bosses” to answer to, from supervisors to project leaders, the CEO of your agency and also reps on your clients side that all need to be kept happy. Depending on the size and success of the agency, your career and benefits like health insurance could depend on the amount of clients you sign. However, you are often given a larger budget to work with and many team members to complete tasks. As an expert of all things PR, you are expected to stay ahead of current trends, technology and news.

Still stuck? Okay-

External Agency Pros:

  • Variety: You will be able to bring insight in from interactions with all of your different clients and discover your true passion points within PR. Learning to work with many different types of clients will create a well-rounded professional. The workweek will be ever changing and will keep you on your toes.
  • Time Management: Working in an agency will quickly teach you how to prioritize tasks, manage multiple clients at once, and learn as you go in a fast paced, sink or swim situation.
  • Creating a Network: Your colleagues in an agency will come from every background of PR and be masters in their field. Working with them will create diverse and knowledgeable connections in the PR field.

External Agency Cons:

  • Internal Ops: You are not as familiar as someone in-house would be about your specific client. You do not have a history of all internal client discussions or initiatives.
  • Forget the 9-5: Because of the long list of clients you will be juggling, working 9-5, five days a week is most likely not an option. You will probably be working longer hours and on the weekends, and vacation time might be harder to secure. You might also experience lower salaries, depending on the agency.

Corporate Pros:

  • Expertise: Working for one company gives you knowledge of the ins and outs of that company and therefore, you are an expert of what exactly your company needs to progress. You are able to focus on one brand and its assets and weaknesses and dive deep into its internal workings by interacting with different departments within the company to have it functioning at top notch.
  • Tangible Results: When you work in-house, you are able to really see the impact your work has on your business very clearly over time because you are involved with the day-to-day happenings, unlike an agency.
  • Employee Benefits: Because you don’t have as many bosses to answer to, you will be able to have access to seniorexecutives earlier in your career than agency professionals. Working from within the company makes it easier to forge relationships with the media. You may also be presented with more flexible work hours, health benefits, and possibly higher salaries.

Corporate Cons:

  • Limiting Experiences: Most likely, your boss will not be a PR guru and because of that, you will have less exposure to new PR techniques, experiences, and advancements.
  • Constant Consistency: Things happen a lot more slowly. It will take more time to create, negotiate, and execute your plan of action. In-house work can get very repetitive and the work environment tends to be more traditional and conservative, depending on the organization.

Don’t Rush It

Before deciding which course is best for you, weigh all of your options. If you are unsure about which side of PR is your favorite, maybe target an agency so you are able to experience many different aspects of the field. But if you know you work better in an organized environment where you don’t have to juggle tasks at the same time, head towards the corporate path.

Most importantly, be patient. Yvette Pistorio, the shared media manager for Arment Dietrich says, “I can’t say I prefer one more than the other, because they are so completely different. Both have their benefits and drawbacks.”

So think hard, aspiring PRers! Which type would be the best fit for you?



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