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Agency vs. Corporate: Which One is Best for You?

By: Guest | September 8, 2011 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Jeanine Black.

Gini Dietrich recently wrote about the pros and cons of working for a large or a boutique agency. It made me think about the same arguments for agency vs. corporate sides.

There is green grass on both sides; deciding which side you like best is key.

I have worked at a small marketing/PR firm, as a freelance writer and consultant, and now as the only in-house marketing professional for a CPA firm with 70 employees.

I have not worked for a large agency or organization with huge in-house departments, and don’t represent their perspective here.

I do, however, strive to find some commonalities that I believe would pertain to all organizations, big or small.

Since taking the job at the CPA firm four and a half years ago—a great opportunity for me, personally—I have often wondered if I made the right choice professionally.  Has it made me “soft?” Has my creativity suffered? Will I ever be able to re-enter the agency world if I decided to try?

To say I haven’t pondered the pros and cons of each, at least daily, would be a lie. But I decided to focus on the positive aspects and allow you to draw your own conclusions.

The Agency Side

  1. Variety of clients and projects. Moving from pediatric healthcare to retail/grocery to industrial tubing in one day keeps you sharp.
  2. Fast-paced. It’s hectic, insane, and it increases your blood pressure; but when it goes right, it’s exhilarating.
  3. Opportunity to learn different disciplines. We wear a lot of hats in smaller agencies: Media relations, crisis communications, community relations, promotions, marketing communications, and more.
  4. Work with like-minded people. In essence, you are surrounded by people who think like you and understand you.
  5. Everyone understands what you do for a living. Even with four and a half years at my firm, I still have to explain to some friends and family what I do. But, at work, I’m surrounded by people who know exactly what I do.
  6. Opportunity for advancement. I know many PR/marketers who have made it to CMOs, partners, principals, and VPs of Marketing at their organizations, but the opportunity to grow with an organization and become a partner/owner, I believe, is greater on the agency side.

The Corporate Side

  1. Non-billable. There are no quotas or added pressure and competitiveness.
  2. Schedule is essentially 8-5. That doesn’t mean we don’t work more than 40 hours; there just isn’t an expectation to do so.
  3. It’s nice to be the client. For those who went from the agency to client-side, I actually think we make AWESOME clients, because we understand what the agencies are experiencing and what they are capable of doing.
  4. No day is ever the same. This is the one thing that really shocked me coming over. I thought I would be bored and unchallenged. If you look for new opportunities to be creative, you can make anything interesting and exciting—yes, even accounting!
  5. No one understands what you do. Okay, no one is an exaggeration, but many don’t. It’s frustrating, but this can actually be a positive because they depend on you and your skills that much more.

Agency vs Corporate

Essentially, both sides have their pros and cons.  For me, it was a personal, as well as a professional choice. I don’t regret it one bit. But I often wonder what it’d be like to go back, and if I’d be able to.

What is your experience with this?

Jeanine Black is the marketing coordinator for Akron-based CPA firm Bober Markey Fedorovich with more than 12 years of marketing and PR experience.  Prior to joining BMF, Jeanine worked as a freelance public relations consultant and writer. She also held positions with Fine Point PR and Wirtz Integrated Marketing, both in Akron.

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