Most people begin their PR careers in an agency, often starting out as what is known as a junior account executive, and for me it was no different. In the world of PR, this title means you oversee putting together call agendas and action reports, tracking for media coverage, chasing up editorial deadlines, keeping on top of competitor activity and compiling monthly reports for clients. This is one of the most challenging roles, because you are responsible for managing several different accounts and activities, with – at the time – the least amount of PR experience in the team.
The career path
Once your foot is firmly in the door and, if you are hardworking, determined and driven, it is fairly easy to work your way up through the levels to account executive – otherwise known as media seller – senior account executive, account manager and then account director. With this structure set in place for most agencies, it is easy for PR professionals to move from company to company, picking up where they left off, often with the promise of a promotion.
The in-house experience
While most people are content in an agency role, it is not uncommon to be curious about what it would be like to work for a company in-house. So, when I was headhunted by a client and offered a working from home position, in-house, for a hugely successful company, I thought it was a no-brainer. It was my turn to see if the grass really was greener. I had already built strong relationships with a number of people at the company and I knew the target media inside out. I was also in a good position as I had built up four years of agency experience, meaning there was probably no better time for me to try something new.
Due to the extremely fast pace and juggling of many different accounts in an agency, there tends to be a preconception that you will be twiddling your thumbs if you move in-house. What people seem to forget is that while you are only focusing on one company, you are now in charge of everything. You are the junior account executive, the media seller, account manager and director. You will also be reporting directly to senior folks at the company you work for so there is no room for idle mistakes which would have previously been picked up on and corrected by other members of your agency team. Having said that, there really is nothing more satisfying and rewarding than building an entire PR campaign from scratch and seeing it through to completion.
After working in-house at Amazon Web Services, for two and a half years, I decided it was time to move back to the lively culture of an agency. Here at XL things work differently to other agencies. Each member of the team is referred to as a consultant and is responsible for all tasks on their given accounts. This means, no matter what your previous position or job title was, you are now a PR consultant and you are in charge of all activity on your allocated clients’ accounts. Thus, giving you the best of both worlds, and if you have not done it before, a taste of in-house without taking the leap.