What I’ve Learned Moving from Agency to In-House

By Christie Dooley

About a year ago, I experienced that moment in just about every agency-person’s career when you stop and think, “maybe it’s time?” Time, that is, to go in-house.

Having worked at PR agencies since I quit the TV news industry just one year post-college, I worked my way from intern to leading a very large newsroom-like team that serviced multiple brands at a time. While I was certainly challenged, I was ready for a major change. After a few months of interviews, I accepted the role of Communications Lead at ParkWhiz, a parking reservation app. I knew it would be different, but I had no idea how different it would be.

I anticipated a huge culture shock. Going from a team of 10+ people, supporting up to 15 brands at a time, to working by myself on one brand at a start-up, I knew it would be an adjustment. I would be responsible for everything from monitoring to tracking to pitching and writing. While excited, I was nervous I might feel overwhelmed as a one-woman-PR-show.

What actually happened…. was a major culture shock! But in a very different way than I thought. Being a one-woman-PR-show reconnected me with the reasons why I chose to pursue a career in PR to begin with. I remembered that I love to write. I devour news and content like candy. While I feel a little lonely sometimes and wish I had a team of people surrounding me, I relish the independence. Most importantly, I have realized how important my agency years were in preparing for me for the in-house experience.

5 Reasons Why Agencies are the BEST Training Ground

  1. You learn the fundamentals – quickly. At an agency, you learn on the job. Tips, tricks and advice are passed down from person to person, and your colleagues are your teachers. You learn to trust your instinct. Gaining confidence and mastering the fundamentals are critical to any in-house position, especially when you are solely responsible for success.
  2. Agencies are essentially a time management boot camp. Prioritizing clients and agency needs can be challenging. Agencies force you to understand the most important or urgent need, and to move quickly
  3. You learn who you are and who you want to be. By exploring different brands, industries, leaders and – in my case – specialties, you learn what you’re passionate about and what interests you. Soak it all up.
  4. You can take risks in a safe environment. The course of my career changed the moment I told a senior leader at my agency that I wanted a job that didn’t technically exist. Good agencies will allow you the freedom and flexibility to pursue interests and create your own path… but be prepared to work hard!
  5. You collect a trust bank. Many years ago, Al Golin coined the term “trust bank” to describe what made some brands successful and others not. The same theory can be applied to the smart, hard-working people you meet and collect relationships with at agencies. PR is a small industry. Stock your trust bank full of friends, colleagues and mentors, and keep the bank full to the brim.

  Christie Dooley is a PR pro with an expertise in social media, innovation and strategy. She built and led Golin Chicago’s “Food Bridge,” servicing clients such as ConAgra and Unilever, and she earned her MBA in International Business and Marketing from DePaul. Based in Chicago, she is the Communications Lead at ParkWhiz.

2 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned Moving from Agency to In-House

  1. This is all so true and very relevant to anyone starting at an agency or leaving agency life. Great post and I am glad to have you in my trust bank!

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