Heather Thompson

Agency Life to Corporate: The Red Pill or the Blue Pill

By: Heather Thompson | February 3, 2014 | 
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Agency Life to Corporate: The Red Pill or the Blue PillBy Heather Thompson

If you don’t understand the difference between the two pills, allow me to elaborate.

During one of the opening scenes in The Matrix, Neo is given a choice to ignore reality, or embrace the real world outside of a computerized surrounding.

This choice comes courtesy of an offer from Morpheus: “You can take the red pill or the blue pill.”

Relax, I’m not peddling multi-colored pharmaceuticals. Not yet, anyway.

I’m talking about the differences between working for a PR agency and in communications inside a corporation.

No, working for one over the other is not like ignoring reality. Each is entirely different from the other. Both experiences are eyeopening and rewarding.

You know, both are fruit, but one is an apple and one is an orange.

Or maybe a blueberry, to stick with my metaphor.

Diving into the Agency World

In 2011, I had the privilege of being hired as an intern, and later a full-time employee, at a PR agency in Atlanta.

I’ve worked for clients such as the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola at East Lake Golf Club, captured story opportunities in USA Today for Olympic gold medalist Angel McCoughtry, and bought Cam Newton’s mama a pair of shoes during one of his appearances at a Belk department store, because she broke a strap on her sandals.

Some of the best times and stories I have are from working at an agency, but it can wear you out when you’re running at 120 miles an hour all the time.

The hours are intense, the deadlines keep coming, and it is the definition of fast-paced.

Luckily, I usually carried a Snickers!

Making the Shift to Corporate Communications

But in 2013, I had the opportunity to apply for a job as an in-house PR person at a global company and thought, “What the heck?”

When I got the job I was genuinely shocked, but it was clear all the experience and knowledge I gained in my first two and a half years at the agency were what landed me the position.

Since I started at Siemens Industry, Inc., I have traveled to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. for business.

That wasn’t anything I got at the agency, because at an agency, someone has to foot the bill, and it’s hardly ever the client.

In comparison, the work just isn’t as physically demanding. So, I don’t have to run all over Atlanta looking for a pastry box that will hold four cupcakes! (But, then again, I won’t be running all over Atlanta looking for a pastry box that will hold only four cupcakes.)

I’ve had the opportunity to put together media events for CEOs from our various divisions, cultivate my internal communications skills, and learn how to navigate my way through the jungle of big company processes.

What I’ve learned, and continue to learn at Siemens, is what I wouldn’t have learned at the agency simply because the two are very different animals.

I think the natural progression of a career is to try all things before you settle into what you like, and when you get bored, try something else. (I wouldn’t suggest this as a guide for relationships, by the way.)

The opportunities I had at the agency are what got me to a place where I could confidently send out my resume saying, “I am who you should hire, and here’s why.”

It certainly had nothing to do with the fact that I am a pushy, bulldog kind of worker that usually gets answers pretty quickly, but I digress.

Do Both if You Can

Experiencing both sides of the coin will only benefit your career. After all, limiting your knowledge to only the things within arm’s reach means you may never experience the terrifying roller coaster ride that is trying something new.

So, the red pill or the blue pill?

About Heather Thompson


Heather Thompson is a communications specialist at Siemens Industry, Inc., specializing in external and internal communications as well as social media. She can mostly be found sitting comfortably at her desk staring down two computer screens, two smartphones, and a tablet.