Agency and in-house environments have much to offer

Agency or in-house? This is a common fork in the road for careers in communications and Sarah Leembruggen, MD and owner of PR recruitment specialist and executive search business The Works, says both environments have much to offer.

There has always been an interesting dynamic between the demand for PR and comms professionals who want to work in agencies and those who prefer to be a member of, or running, in-house comms teams. Of course, many people have always been keen to experience life on both sides of the ‘divide’, and broaden their perspectives, but I’ve definitely noticed a shift in the last 12 months, with an increase in demand from people who are ‘agency-side’ wanting to explore in-house opportunities.

In fact, most potential candidates I’ve spoken to recently will often only consider an in-house move, which has only reinforced the need for employers to retain, as well as attract, the very best talent.

We hear that this increasing desire to move in-house stems from a perception that there is more respect, generally, for in-house teams, increased opportunities to learn and develop, shorter and more manageable hours and the chance to be at the heart of strategy development. Many are attracted by the opportunity of working for a single brand or business and a clear focus.

But I think this is only one side of the argument and, possibly, a simplistic view. Agencies, as employers, have a lot to offer. If PR is a key focus for the agency, the more an organisation values PR and, therefore, the more effective you can be. The key is how much value your role holds and this is often reflected in the budget and attitude of your stakeholders. For in-house comms professionals, working out internal politics, and how to manage your internal stakeholders, can be a challenge as well as a limiting factor on prospects of promotion.

I’ve also seen a few in-house to agency moves take place. This works for people who might want to work at a faster pace and have a desire to freshen up their skills. They also like the idea of being a ‘profit centre’ rather than a ‘cost centre’.

The market for corporate and internal comms roles and candidates has been particularly busy and, in the current market, I would suggest anyone considering a move from an agency to an in-house role, or vice-versa, considers all the implications as well as the wider perspective they might gain from seeing all sides of the PR and comms story.