PR: inhouse or agency, that is the question? 

6 June 2023 | 4 min read | Careers
Lucie Willis
Lucie Willis

A whistle-stop two months ago I started my PR adventures here at Clearly. I’ve been in the public relations spiel for a many-a-year but being part of an agency is a first for me, my previous PR incarnations have all been inhouse. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to a few deep breaths before I first stepped over onto this side of the PR fence. So, naturally, a few weeks in I’ve been asking myself – how do inhouse and agency compare?

Inhouse – one brand 

In my experiences of inhouse PR (primarily in the property, legal and engineering sectors), it was a case of one firm, one brand, one tone of voice, which over time you live, breathe and intuit. This has its benefits for PR, because you can build up the relevant market knowledge and instantly know what will and won’t work (and what is likely to get buy-in from the powers that be).  

You get to know everyone and can build strong relationships over time, both internally at your firm, but also with the specific key press that cover your sector, with whom you deal every day. Often the same industry events or PR highlights occur year on year, so you build up experience and can hone your craft a little more each time.

This kind of PR work can really instill a sense of loyalty to your employer, not least because you spend a lot of your time discovering and sharing all the best things that your organisation does. Parting can be such sweet sorrow…  

Agency – creative hive mind  

So why move to an agency? Well, curiosity and a new challenge were high on my list. One of my first impressions was how perfectly Clearly is set up for PR in terms of the resources at hand. This should be unsurprising, but I have often been the only PR-focused bod in a wider marketing team, or one of very few, without much budget to spend on the kind of tools and resources that make PR, well, a little more efficient.  

Second, the hive mind of a PR agency is something to be witnessed. Collectively, we all learn from each other from our respective skillsets, backgrounds and experiences. In a team brainstorm, where we all get together to come up with ideas for a specific campaign we are working on or pitching for, this hive mind yields nuggets of PR and creative gold. Particularly if there is cake on the table.

Whereas inhouse, all the people in your team have chosen to take a job at that firm in that particular industry with usually some crossover in collective experience, at an agency the range of backgrounds is that much more varied. This works well when deciding who should work on which account, and you can really play to your strengths. 

It sounds like such a cliché, but it really is a creative environment. We even do monthly creative takeovers in our team meetings for one of the team to share a new creative perspective, concept or idea that we can all learn from or input into. There is a strong focus on collaboration, a mutual respect for each other’s expertise, and a drive to keep developing.

Our clients can only benefit from this sort of vibe, because all these energies go towards constantly evolving and improving on the work we do for them.

Personal development

I can’t speak for other agencies, but there is certainly a strong focus on personal development. Progression seems to happen at a faster pace too, which perhaps shouldn’t be surprising given the greater scope for learning if you’re working with lots of different clients across a range of sectors, becoming a jack of all trades, much like news journalists have to be. 

In fact, it reminds me of my own journalism days. In my first ’proper’ job, I started out as a junior reporter at a local paper, working towards my senior reporter exams. One aspect of this involved compiling a logbook of work to show you could write articles across a whole range of sections; news, court reporting, sports, entertainment etc.

Applying that logbook to PR, I would have struggled to compile it working inhouse. I’m not saying inhouse is limiting or boring – quite the opposite, I have had fantastic opportunities to hone my craft – but naturally the range of opportunities is not as varied.  

If were to begin my PR journey again, perhaps I would choose to start at an agency to build up that logbook of experience, before choosing my niche.