My views on this topic are based on my years of recruiting experience in the PR industry and many conversations with people who have made the move from agency to client side. The decision to make a move from agency to client side depends on where you are in your career and what you are looking for in your next position. Working on the agency side allows you to work on a range of brands in different industries, you learn to manage budgets, build relationships with media and day-to-day account management. You tend to juggle multiple clients and projects and work at a fast pace. Account projects may expand and contract based on client needs, budgets, or changes in circumastances such as an unexpected crisis. Creativity is always encouraged — and rewarded. The industry is constantly staying on top of trends – social media, digital, innovation and integration – so work can be very cutting edge. Some would say that no two days are the same, it can be chaotic, deadline driven, and there can be a lack of life balance. But for most people it is a very rewarding ride.
On the client side you get to learn the ins and outs of your company’s brand and you dive a little deeper with all facets of products, brands and the company overall. It also opens up possibilities to move from the communications department to other areas of the marketing function and beyond. Some people like the idea of having only one client, but the reality is that you still will have multiple clients except they will all be internal clients such as marketing, promotions, operations, HR, the C-Suite and others. This brand immersion allows you to get up close and personal with every face of the company’s internal and external communications strategy. Some people also like the idea of moving in-house so they can be the client and boss around the agency. That can be enticing, but remember you will need to be the strategic lead and provide clear direction and appropriate insight to your agency because the better they look, the better you look. The decision to make the move should not be a superficial one. You should love the industry you’re joining since you don’t have the opportunity to move over to the next client like you would at an agency. You should also know that you can manage in a political environment and have the desire to play the role of communications counselor to the C-Suite and can stand up and handle live interviews with the media if that becomes necessary. All very exciting aspects of the job, but not for everyone coming from the agency world.
As far as timing, I feel that people making the transition from agency life should wait until they get to the Sr. Director or VP level so they can immediately go in at a more senior level on the client side and not be held back by reporting to someone who’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Going in as a Director or VP avoids the situation where you might get stuck in a junior slot with little upward mobility.
Good luck… and fasten your seat belt… the communications industry is an exciting ride!