Ask Trevor: How do I take the leap from agency to client-side?

Agony uncle and University of Westminster's visiting professor of PR Trevor Morris gives it to you straight.

Trevor Morris: PRWeek's agony uncle
Trevor Morris: PRWeek's agony uncle

I have been working at a PR consultancy for nearly three years since I got my MA in comms. I would have preferred to start client-side. How do I go about applying for client-side positions now when I have only quality experience from a consultancy? What level should I look to join at?

Going in-house used to be considered passing over to the dark side in the same way a journalist going into PR was seen as a gamekeeper turned poacher. But things have changed. Today PR can hardly hold back the rush of hacks wanting to join the industry and earn some decent money. Similarly, in-house roles are now often better paid and have higher status than consultancy jobs. This is a happy reflection of the greater importance PR is given by organisations now.

But I'm afraid it is nigh on impossible to tell you what level to apply for. Job title inflation within consultancies means that after three years, you probably have director in your title, or vice-president if you are American.

You are unlikely to get such an elevated title in-house, though there are plenty of comms directors who have never been near a board of directors.

The best indicator of the real level of a job is usually the salary. Salaries tend to see less inflation than job titles.

Do what you do for your clients and focus on what you have that your customer, the potential employer, may want. For example, your breadth of PR experience. Having lots of clients means a broader range of experience. Indeed, you can always play the "I've sown my wild oats and now I want a serious relationship" card. They might even believe you.

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