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The PR Road Less Traveled: In-House to Agency Life

The PR Road Less Traveled In-House to Agency Life

Note:  The following is a guest post by Laura Spaventa Lewis who recently transitioned from working an in-house gig in PR to working for a firm.  By my observation, few PR pros are able to make a switch like this as agencies often note “PR firm experience preferred” in job postings. Laura and I once worked together.  

When I graduated college in 2009, I had planned on working for a PR agency. Little did I know, the economy had other plans for me. Fortunately, I was introduced to Peter Shankman, the founder of Help A Reporter Out (HARO), and became one of the original editors of the newsletter.

Once Vocus acquired HARO, I found my way to the company’s in-house PR team. However, I still had an itch to work for an agency, which led to my current role at LaunchSquad, a PR firm specializing in servicing startups with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Boston. I recognize my PR career has been a little backwards (I’ve never been good at following ‘the norm’) and I have a few tips for PR professionals who are looking to make a similar transition.

PR pros need social media

I’ll be blunt – PR has changed dramatically the past couple of years and will only continue to evolve. Smart public relations agencies are paying close attention to these changes and are looking for individuals who will help meet clients’ expanding needs. In my case, it was my background in social media and content marketing. You will open many agency doors for yourself if you are able to differentiate yourself from a typical agency candidate.

Social media is a tool that you not only should be using, but NEED to be using in your job hunt. One of my clients, Jobvite, the leading social recruiting platform used by the fastest growing companies, such as Twitter, Zappos, and Starbucks, found that 94% of recruiters already or plan to use social media for recruiting purposes in its 2013 State of Social Recruiting study.

Yes, you read that correctly – 94%. If you are not utilizing social media in your job hunt, you are doing yourself a severe disservice. I noticed a recruiter specializing in placing PR candidates had looked at my LinkedIn profile one day and I reached out to her. She ended up introducing me to my current company and proved to be a critical component in helping me land my job at LaunchSquad. Thousands of candidates applied to LaunchSquad last year and I’d be silly to think having a recruiter on my side didn’t help. Social media helped facilitate that critical connection.

In-house to agency transition tips

Time management is important in PR, no matter if you’re in-house or in an agency. However, in agency life, time management is an absolute necessity. I struggled with juggling more than one client at a time when I first joined LaunchSquad – and found that writing to-do lists and ranking items in order of importance helped tremendously. My lists helped me “spread the love” amongst my clients, conquer items in a timely manner, and stay organized.

As with any new job, you need to brace yourself for change when transitioning to agency life. I felt like a lost puppy my first few weeks at LaunchSquad, which was extremely frustrating for me. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Absorb anything and everything—you’ll be better for it.

Agency life is also a bit more formal than in-house PR, especially in terms of communicating with clients. Be prepared to explain campaigns and media coverage in more detail, so clients can understand the why and the how behind all of your PR efforts. Remember, the more details you can give your clients, the better.

I’ve had some bumps and bruises over the course of my six month transition to agency life, but overall I love it and don’t regret making the change at all. I get bored easily and having multiple clients keeps me on my toes. Not to mention, I am very fortunate to have ended up at an agency like LaunchSquad that is cutting edge, has fascinating clients who are changing the world, and truly values its employees.

For those that have made the transition from in-house to an agency, what tips might you offer?

* * *
Many thanks to Laura for her contribution; no doubt in my mind LaunchSquad is lucky to have her.  Connect with her on Twitter @Lspaventa.

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Photo credit:  Flickr, Joost Markerink, Transition (CC BY 2.0)

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