For those set on a career in PR or communications, there are many forks in the road. Here’s the argument for a stint at a public relations agency, as opposed to a corporate or nonprofit gig, as a great place to start. Our bias is for a smaller, independent agency, but it’s really more about the PR firm experience and business model than anything else. Here’s why:
You’re a specialist among specialists. Within a corporation, staff learn public relations as it serves the organization, but at an agency, it’s the core business. Usually it’s the only business. That translates into a deeper commitment to training and greater mastery of the PR discipline overall.
Agencies offer upward mobility. The great thing about beginning a career at an agency is that a mixed client base, coupled with the single focus (or a concentration in similar communications practice areas) translates into greater opportunity to move up the ranks quickly. Almost any road can lead to advancement.
You’ll learn what you love. Juggling multiple clients in different industries or sectors may not be for everyone. But the chance to participate in account management for clients within different industries, from B2B technology to food and beverage PR, will help you figure out where your passion lies and focus your career for the future.
You’ll learn to produce. Or not, in which case your agency experience will be short. Almost any service business places a high premium on generating specific deliverables quickly and well. On the agency side, you earn your keep every day. It’s certainly not the only way to learn time management and other contributors to productivity, but it’s a good one.
You’ll learn salesmanship. This varies from agency to agency, but at most small-to-midsize firms, even junior staffers will have some opportunity to take part in new business presentations. Even where you don’t, merchandising the agency’s value to clients is a part of the daily life at a PR firm. And it’s terrific experience that you can apply to your own contribution and career.
And showmanship. From packaging dazzling content, to C-level boardroom presentations, this is also a skill that’s highly translatable to just about anything else you may do in life or work.
You’ll never be bored. The agency life is ideal for multitaskers. But, beware, it can ruin you for doing anything else!