As college students meeting new people, we have the universally shared experience of countless interactions that go something like this:
“Hi, nice to meet you. What’s your major?”
“Oh cool! What do you want to do with that?”
Now, if you’re anything like me, you may not have a clue what you want to do with public relations. There are so many facets of PR that I love, and it’s near impossible for me to decide what would be my dream job. However, while you may need more time to figure out your dream job, you can at least get an idea of your next steps.
I had the pleasure of meeting with PRSSA National Faculty Adviser, Ken Hagihara, APR, Fellow PRSA. In addition to being the PRSSA national faculty adviser and a lecturer at California State University, Fullerton, Ken is also the founder and president of a public relations and marketing agency called Integrity Public Relations, Inc. During our conversation, I got the opportunity to ask him a handful of questions about the benefits of working for an agency compared to those of working in-house. Based on Ken’s expertise and my own research, here are a few aspects of the two forms of PR that may help you make some decisions after college.
Agencies tend to be fast-paced environments. Since agency employees have multiple clients, they are constantly managing multiple campaigns at once. Having multiple clients can be exciting because it means that employees can utilize a variety of strategies. If you chose to work at an agency, this fast-paced environment may prevent you from getting bored because you are constantly working on something different.
Additionally, one perk of working at an agency is that the environment better lends itself to quicker growth. Agency employees may start out as an intern or account coordinator, then head their own teams in a short period of time. Since employees at agencies often don’t have to wait for positions to open up before they get a promotion, it is often easier to move through the ranks at an agency than by doing in-house PR.
While working PR for a specific organization, public relations professionals get to know their client inside and out. This means that no matter what assignment they are working on, they have a deep understanding for their organization’s values, targeted audience, data analytics, and daily operations. Contrasted with the variety of clients that PR agencies represent, this stable relationship with a single organization may be what some professionals prefer.
While in-house PR professionals may not get to work with as many clients as PR agency employees do, they do get to work with a variety of people within their organization. As in-house PR professionals collaborate with other in-house teams and vendors, they get to further their knowledge of the company and the different aspects involved in creating successful products and services.
Both forms of public relations have great aspects that attract different people. Choosing whether you want to work at an agency or in-house is one of the first steps of narrowing down the list of organizations for which you may want to work. However, you don’t need to settle on just one form of PR for your whole career. I still don’t know what my dream job is, but at this point, I’m leaning towards working at an agency for a few years to gain experience with a variety of clients before settling down with a single organization. Trying out the different forms of PR is totally okay.
If you’re still uncertain of what type of PR you would enjoy most, I encourage you to apply to internships with a variety of organizations so that you can reflect upon your different experiences as you make decisions down the road. That way, next time someone asks you what you want to do with your PR degree, you have some direction of where you want your career to go.
Nicole Steele, PRSSA 2022-2023 National Vice President of Brand Engagement, is a junior at Biola University majoring in public relations with a double minor in communication studies and biblical & theological studies. She found her passion for public relations by volunteering in a branch of the Boy Scouts of America known as Venturing, where she currently serves as the founder and editor in chief of their national publication. She has also practiced PR in a variety of other positions, including as the communications intern at Benchmark and the account executive at her school’s PRSSA-affiliated, Student-run Firm. If you’re interested in writing a future Progressions article or simply want to connect with Nicole, feel free to reach out via email or LinkedIn.