Question: "I started off in agency five years ago but drifted in-house. How can I adapt my CV and cover letter to convince agencies to give me a chance?"
The most important thing to demonstrate in both your CV and cover letter are examples of your successes. If you can provide examples of PR campaigns and strategies with tangible evidence of results you will make a powerful case for being invited to interview regardless of whether the last few years of your career have been spent in-house.
As you have already worked in both agency and in-house settings, you bring a combination of experience that you should try to use to your advantage. It means you understand about the buzz and energy that comes from working in an agency. You have that account management expertise of working across a portfolio of different clients, in all probability from multiple industry sectors.
Combined with the above, you have gained a deeper understanding of brands and built close relationships with diverse stakeholders within an organisation. You’ve most likely managed agency relationships and can therefore see perspectives from these different angles. You understand the publicity and reputational pressures from within. Working both in-house and agency side has no doubt given you a good understanding of working with budgets, financial planning and of ROI.
Nurture your relationships with recruiters. It is much easier on their part to just put forward candidates with recent agency experience, so telephone agencies and strike up positive and friendly conversations with recruiters. Getting them to buy in to your commitment to get back into agency life will give them confidence in putting forward your CV for their client’s attention.