I had the pleasure of sitting down with the School of Communication’s Professor Quigley on Wednesday afternoon to discuss what any Public Relations major could expect their first time working in a corporate PR environment. He went on to explain that in order to understand what to expect, one had to be familiar with the two possible environments PR contains:
1. Agency PR: Professor Quigley began the conversation by stating that the trend among PR professionals is to begin in Agency PR and transfer to In-House to continue their careers (this is not always the case, however). He describes working in an agency utilizing the metaphor “an inch deep by a while wide”. That is to say that one must know how to spread themselves over a wide variety of topics in order to deal with multiple clients. With this in mind, the head of an PR agency is going to expect the interviewee to be:
- Well-Rounded: though one might believe that having a strong knowledge in a specific area will work to their advantage, an agency environment requires one to either know a lot about different subjects, or be prepared to learn about them. Research is a skill that goes a long way in the industry.
- Able to Handle Change and Ambiguity: When one asks anyone who’s worked in an agency, they’ll always get the same answer: “There is no typical day.” So one must be prepared to handle a variety of clients on any given day, and be able to juggle.
2. In-House PR: In contrast with agency PR, the metaphor is inverted: “a mile deep, and inch wide”. You are expected to go in-depth, learning, researching, and studying the company’s image and brand. Understanding the brand involves understanding its history and mission. Working within In-House PR suggests that you have prior interest or knowledge about the industry in which you are entering. This is why, in order to work in this portion of the industry, you must be:
- Well versed: Show up to the interview with prior knowledge of the company. “Do your homework,” as Professor Quigley suggests. This is important because you will be working with this company’s image, brand, and goals to formulate their PR approach, and how they come across to the world.
- Invested: Agency provides variety, but In-House provides a structure to your day. This does not imply monotony, however. Know that you are going to be working with this company from the deepest core to the most superficial details in order to better promote and advocate for it. The more passion you feel for the company, the better understanding you’ll have to help it go the distance.
Whether you go into agency or in-house public relations, you will be expected to have a perfect balance of industry and public relations – immerse yourself in your trade, and everything else will fall into place. Odds are, the company will be more than willing to give you an opportunity to learn about them. Study up until you are up to speed, but know Public Relations like the back of your hand, and it will all work out.
Thank you to Professor Quigley for all his advice and help.