Agency vs. In-House Public Relations [National Conference Session Recap]

Conference attendees pose for a photo amidst a day of sessions and networking. | Courtesy of PRSSA National.
Conference attendees pose for a photo amidst a day of sessions and networking. | Courtesy of PRSSA National.

Session: Choosing Your Path: Agency or In-House PR

Presenters: Brandi Boatner, Digital Experience Manager at IBM; Ryan McShane, Account Supervisor at Taylor

Recap: Brandi Boatner, a digital experience manager at IBM, and Ryan McShane, an account supervisor at Taylor, led a “he said, she said” professional development session entitled “Choosing Your Path: Agency or In-House PR.”

Interestingly enough, Boatner and McShane served together on the 2007–2008 PRSSA National Committee. Boatner held the vice president of member services position, while McShane was the FORUM editor-in-chief. However, the two parted ways when they entered the professional world. Boatner entered the world of corporate public relations by landing a job at a Fortune 50 company in New York City. McShane chose a divergent path, moving to Charlotte, North Carolina to work at a small agency.

The pair outlined the three factors new professionals should consider when choosing a path in public relations: location, personality and — of course — agency or corporate.

McShane said the three benefits of agency public relations are a diversity of clients, a diversity of work experience and a diversity of colleagues.

“Choosing agency is a lot like being a freshman in college,” McShane said. “You get to dabble in a lot of different areas.”

On the other hand, Boatner shared three things she did when she decided to work in corporate public relations: she researched how the business generated revenue, identified companies that had global awareness and found companies that had high consumer brand loyalties.

Overall, both speakers came to an agreement on one main idea, which Boatner stated near the end of the session.

“Don’t look for a company or agency where you think you’ll fit in,” Boatner said. “Look for a company or agency you think would fit you.”


  • Consider three things when choosing your path in public relations: location, personality and agency vs. corporate environments.
  • Keep your options open but be specific about what you would like to do.
  • Don’t limit yourself as being only an agency person or only a corporate person.
  • Your work vs. personal life balance is important when considering location and industry.
  • When choosing your career path, remember that the best decisions are made when you are honest with yourself about who you are and what you want to do.


Emma Finkbeiner is a junior at Northern Michigan University studying public relations and journalism. She is the president of NMU’s PRSSA Chapter and the news editor at The North Wind student newspaper. Follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

 *Editor’s note* An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Boatner and McShane served on the 2008–2009 PRSSA National Committee together. We apologize for this mistake.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *