PR TECHNIQUE AGENCY VS CORPORATE: Making the leap from agency to in-house department - PR pros frequently migrate from agencies to PR departments in corporations or other organizations. John Frank explores the adjustments that need to be made when making

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 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

outfit.



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

PR consultant.



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

employer.



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

Associates.



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

work.



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

says.



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

corporation.



Management has an expectation that you’ll give 110%,’ says Paul Raab,

director of corporate public relations with A.T. Kearney and a

Golin/Harris alum.



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

done.’



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



DO



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.





DON’T



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

employer’s business.



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

agencies



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