Four common PR agency myths

Originally published in PRSSA FORUM

I have had many opportunities this year to work with PRSSA members from across the country as part of my industry service. During mentor sessions, students often describe their job hunting progress and feelings toward different areas of public relations. It is evident that many myths are still looming across campuses, and I’m here to teach from my experience.

MYTH: An agency is always the best career starter
I have several arguments why most students should start their careers with an agency. Agencies allow young professionals to discover their talents, broaden their knowledge and develop relationships across the industry. That said, several of my friends and colleagues have started their careers in-house and have achieved great success in doing so. At the end of the day, agency public relations should be on your radar, but evaluate each job opportunity independently to find the right fit for you and your growth.

MYTH: Any agency will do
Again, I’ll concede that having agency experience on your resume will help you gain future employment. As an internship director, it’s comforting to find candidates with prior agency internships under their belts, because it shows these folks likely have experienced (and survived) the fast-paced environment that faced them. Pace aside, many agencies do not observe ethics and best practices, and some of those flaws may follow you in the form of bad habits or a “what not to do” case study. Don’t be that case study.

MYTH: Agencies are short-term jobs
This is a myth that I often hear when working with students and young professionals. It’s true that agency turnover is generally more volatile than in-house. Because of some of the things I mentioned above, agency practitioners often find opportunities that allow them to specialize in particular fields of interest. However, many practitioners are cut out for a long-term career in agency public relations. Senior management often rewards this loyalty, as it sends a positive message to clients and the rest of the staff. A long-term agency path also allows you to maintain the fast-paced environment and diversified workload that many practitioners need to remain professionally hungry.

MYTH: Serving multiple clients will broaden my skills
Benefits of working on multiple client accounts include learning different sectors and honing time management skills. Conversely, young professionals who are staffed across too many accounts are unable to completely immerse themselves into their clients’ businesses and needs. In addition, working with too many clients will likely limit growth opportunities. Imagine being staffed across 4-5 clients. After monitoring for coverage, clipping placements and building media lists, you’d likely need to repeat the same process for your next client to keep up with your workload. Many agencies lose great young talent, because they limited their professional development. However, other agencies recognize the importance of challenging their staff on a daily basis – limiting their accounts plays a big part of that vision.

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