When Larry Mathias worked for a large PR agency, he handled IR for as many as 26 clients a month. Now, as director of PR with Click Commerce, he has one client - his company - but he’s doing far more than IR in handling all aspects of PR for the dollars 10 million e-commerce outfit.
When Larry Mathias worked for a large PR agency, he handled IR for
as many as 26 clients a month. Now, as director of PR with Click
Commerce, he has one client - his company - but he’s doing far more than
IR in handling all aspects of PR for the dollars 10 million e-commerce
Mathias’ situation mirrors that of others who have switched from agency
to corporate PR. If you’re thinking about making the change, keep in
mind that being inside a company is far different from being an outside
Be prepared to handle all aspects of company PR when you make the jump,
while at the same time learning everything you can about your new
Also, be ready to do more schmoozing and internal politicking. An agency
PR person often will deal only with a CEO or internal head of PR. Once
you become the internal PR person, however, you have to deal with - and
make your value evident to - a wide variety of company executives. ’You
have to constantly maintain your value level’ inside a company, says
recruiter Dennis Spring, president of New York-based Spring
Pros who have successfully made the switch say what they don’t miss
about agency work is the constant worry about finding new business,
tracking billable hours and - if they were high up in the hierarchy of
their former agencies - handling administrative work that took them away
from PR and turned them into bureaucrats.
’After almost 20 years in the agency business, I found that I was
spending less time on the craft and more on the administration of a
consulting business,’ recounts Tom Buckmaster, who was running Edelman
Public Relations’ New York operation when he decided to become a VP of
corporate communications with Honeywell.
Recruiter Spring says the major reason PR people make the switch to
agencies is that ’they want to be able to concentrate and focus.’ People
unlikely to make it on the corporate side, Spring adds, are those who
say, ’I’m just tired of the agency business.’ Many of those think that
corporate PR will be easier and less time-consuming than agency
Those who have made the switch laugh at that notion. Mathias notes he
works more now - an average 12 hours a day - than he did in his agency
life. Adds Buckmaster: ’Never believe anyone who tells you it’s easier,
more relaxed or less risky on the corporate side.’
Indeed, corporate PR presents its own challenges. Rather than worrying
about billable hours, corporate PR people need to create PR value for
their companies. When times get tough at many companies, Spring warns,
corporate executives still often say, ’What do these PR people really
do?’ Corporate PR pros who haven’t proved their worth by then could be
the first people axed when budget cuts hit.
Establishing the value of internal PR means thinking strategically and
doing a lot of work, such as arranging speaking engagements for
executives, that may not have an immediate PR payoff but will help a
company’s long-term reputation.
Richard Dukas, now handling PR with Amerindo Investment Advisors, had
worked with the company while he was with KCSA Worldwide, so when he
joined he immediately had a project to work on that he had outlined
while still at the agency. ’I really felt settled in on day one,’ he
Others who have joined companies they hadn’t worked with advise taking
time to really get to know the business. ’Your sole focus is the
Management has an expectation that you’ll give 110%,’ says Paul Raab,
director of corporate public relations with A.T. Kearney and a
Over-promising what you can do can lead to a quick exit when you move
in-house, says Jeff Ross Jacomowitz, who worked for Ruder Finn but is
now handling PR with accounting/consulting firm KPMG. Jacomowitz advises
using the first three months on a new corporate job as the time to get
to know the company and to develop a long-range PR plan. Mathias
counsels developing a 60-day plan, the sort of long-range thinking
agency pros rarely have time to do.
Kevin Ramundo, VP of corporate communications at BF Goodrich, has spent
his career on the corporate side and tends to hire PR people with
corporate experience. When agency people come job-hunting with him,
’don’t come in and show me your portfolio,’ he advises. ’I would rather
have someone come in and show me a communications plan they’ve
Mathias, who has held a variety of agency and corporate PR positions,
compares the two worlds to sprints and marathons. Agency people are
constantly running sprints, handling assignments for a variety of
clients. Corporate PR is a marathon, he says. If you’re comfortable in
that sort of race, then think about making the change.
’There definitely is a different culture,’ agrees Dukas. But - like
others who have made the change - he says, ’now that I’m here, I never
want to go back to agency life.’
DOS AND DON’TS
1. Get to know your new employer in depth. Corporate CEOs expect
in-house PR pros to be conversant with all aspects of their company.
2. Think strategically. Put together a long-range PR plan.
3. Build internal alliances. Make friends with key executives such as
the head of marketing.
4. Be prepared to handle all aspects of PR. Internal PR staffs generally
are small and must be jacks-of-all-trades.
1. Try to wow your new employer with a quick-hit PR scheme. In-house PR
doesn’t emphasize short-term results as much.
2. Expect to work shorter days. Internal PR staff can put in longer
hours, especially when first getting to know all aspects of a new
3. Spend a lot of time on HR and administrative tasks. Most major
companies have much more personnel and HR support than do many PR