Yvette Pistorio

Corporate to Agency Life: Differences Between the Two

By: Yvette Pistorio | April 10, 2013 | 
92

Corporate to Agency Life: Differences Between the TwoI come to you to talk about the differences between corporate to agency life because I’ve done both.

I worked on the corporate side for the first five years of my career.

Only recently (about seven months ago) did I join an agency.

Moving from corporate to agency life really showed me how different they are – and it’s not just billable hours, managing multiple accounts, being responsive at all times of the day and night, and client reports.

The pace, culture, day-to-day duties and tasks, income, purpose – really, everything is different.

Corporate Life

On the corporate side, things happen a lot more slowly. I forget where I read it, but the best analogy was when someone said it’s like being stuck at a red light. You’re waiting for the light to turn green; wait for it…wait for it…alright, maybe there is a mechanical issue with the light.

It takes longer to champion your cause, negotiate for resources, and see your projects through to completion. On the flip side, you have the opportunity to truly come up with an idea, follow through on your recommendations, and finish the project.

The good thing about a corporate setting: You have a much deeper understanding of the business, its culture, and the job role. It provides longevity and stability, but it lacks variety. There tends to be more conflicting objectives, not just between departments, but sometimes in your own team. And you have to become an expert at political maneuverings, which I found just annoying.

Agency Life

If you like a fun, fast-paced environment, collaboration, and continuous learning, agency life might be the right fit. Tasks and decisions come quickly. Actually, everything moves at a much faster pace.

There is continuous learning which is fun, but not easy. You get to work with a variety of clients and sectors, and you get to see a breadth of strategies. It requires you to know a lot about, well, a lot. Your clients expect you to bring your A-game every day, so there is a lot of note-taking and studying. You have to stay ahead of current news, trends, and technology. After all, your clients shouldn’t tell you what to do; you’re the expert.

An agency also affords you the opportunity to try your hand at different specializations. What that does, especially early on in your career, is give you the ability to find what you do and don’t like. An agency can also be filled with more experienced and wiser professionals who can help teach and mentor you.

On the downside, you aren’t privy to internal client discussions and sometimes are told about new initiatives much too late. You also most likely work longer hours, including nights and weekends.

Corporate to Agency Life

I can’t say I prefer one more than the other, because they are so completely different. Both have their benefits and drawbacks. Neither side is cushier than the other, but I will say life at an agency has kept me on my toes and I’m never bored…ever.

Do you prefer agency or corporate work? Why?

About Yvette Pistorio


Yvette Pistorio is the shared media manager for Arment Dietrich. She is a lover of pop culture, cupcakes, and HGTV, and enjoys a good laugh. There are a gazillion ways you can find her online.

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92 Comments on "Corporate to Agency Life: Differences Between the Two"

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margieclayman
margieclayman
3 years 1 month ago

Thanks for the insights, Yvette. I’ve been an agency woman my whole professional career (coming up on 10 years now) but I have a lot of insight into how things work at the corporate level. Your description of agency life is spot on. It’s a facet of agencies that a lot of people on the outside don’t seem to grasp!

yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

margieclayman 😀 I didn’t know what to expect at an agency. I knew it would be a lot more work, but didn’t realized how fast-paced it would be and how much work. It’s great though and I’ve learned so much in such a short time.

HowieG
HowieG
3 years 1 month ago
Great post Yvette! The biggest difference I see is that a Brand/Corp business has a goal of maximizing the return on investment for money spent on agency work. Agencies on the other hand have a goal of maximizing their billable hours regardless of the ROI. This holds true in other areas of the corporate world. But if Brand X spends $50 million a year on agency work would an Agency ever be honest and tell the client ‘You spent $50 mil a year, you can get the same bang for $25 mil a year’…which means reducing billings, laying off workers… Read more »
yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

HowieG Thanks Howie! I agree too. At an agency you definitely want to maximize the billable hours as best as you can. Great point.

jasonkonopinski
3 years 1 month ago

Give me agency or give me death.

yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

jasonkonopinski Oh boy…

jasonkonopinski
3 years 1 month ago

yvettepistorio A typical response. 😉

John_Trader1
John_Trader1
3 years 1 month ago

Haven’t worked on the agency side but I hear it’s a wild ride compared to what can often be described as the more serene corporate setting. I can tell you that your enthusiasm for working in an agency is quite palpable and makes me want to try it! However, sometimes I feel that because of the fact that I work for a smaller, private, global company the pace equals that of an agency lifestyle with the absence of multiple clients.
I am now living the agency life vicariously through you YP.

RobBiesenbach
3 years 1 month ago
Someone said it here yesterday on the subject of brain/barnstorming: at an agency you’re surrounded by like-minded creatives. I always found that a huge advantage. The atmosphere was more electric in the agency than at my clients’ offices. Also, I would recommend everyone learn to record their time as if they’re billing a client. It gives you a very good perspective on what your priorities are versus what they should be. When you’re on the agency side, you know how much time a press release, for instance, should take. If you spend two or three times that amount, you know… Read more »
yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

RobBiesenbach Agreed on the like minded creatives. I agree the atmosphere is more electric even though Arment Dietrich is virtual. I collaborate a lot more than I did in a corporate setting.
Love the recommendation too! I never realized how long it took me to write a news release or blog post until I had to bill time for it. And you’re right, that’s how things get endlessly reviewed and rehashed. 
And oh the justifying…can be so frustrating!

KateFinley
3 years 1 month ago

Definitely agency life for me. I love the variety in clients, projects and challenges. Being a part of an agency, in my experience, has forced me to think more critically and be more resourceful. I also thrive in a fast-paced, full-plate environment and can’t stand all that gosh darned red tape. Also, based on my experience, I have been privy to internal client conversations at agencies for the most part so not sure if I completely agree with your point there … however, I could have just been lucky!

yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

KateFinley I completely agree…that and ginidietrich have taught me to think more critically and be more resourceful. 
Sometimes you are privy to internal conversations, sometimes you aren’t. I think it depends on the client and how open they want to be with you.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

I have been on both sides too and agree with your description. I have never worked for a company that didn’t have its own chaos and red tape to deal with. The only question was whether there were managers who were interested, active and available to help move things along.
The one thing that really drove me crazy corporate side was what happened when someone would go on vacation or take maternity leave. It often felt like things would stop because no one would fill in for that missing person.

yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes Oh, good point…whether there were managers who were interested, active and available to help move things along. That’s so true!  And the vacation thing drove me crazy too. It’s not like the department is going to fall apart of someone is out of the office for a week. When I went on my honeymoon a few years ago, I was out for 2 1/2 weeks and it was like everything was going to fall apart, but obviously it didn’t.

rachaelseda
3 years 1 month ago

Yvette – I completely agree with you! I made the transition shortly after you did and it is  nice to actually feel like you’re getting things done, which takes much longer in house. And you’re right I’m never bored!

yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

rachaelseda Definitely never get bored, that’s for sure! I can cross things off my to-do list without getting approval first which is nice and makes me feel productive.

Shonali
3 years 1 month ago
I’m glad you’re settling into your agency life, but I suspect, as your career advances, you will find that political maneuverings exist regardless of which “sphere” you’re in… I’m not saying that’ll happen at your current place of employment, but it’s very much there.  I’ve been both in-house and on the agency side, as you know, and I think most “agency people” can settle into an in-house gig, but there aren’t that many who can make it work the other way around. Because agency life IS difficult, especially as you get further up the ladder. There are a lot of… Read more »
yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

Shonali Hahaha!! Yes, it’s too slow, please speed it up! Hahaha! Too funny.
I’m sure there are office politics everywhere and maybe I don’t see them because I work at a small agency. 
Phew, I’m glad I was able to setting into the agency side!! It’s been a struggle, but I think I’m finally figuring it out.

RobBiesenbach
3 years 1 month ago

yvettepistorio Shonali Well, shoot, if we can’t engage in generalizations and stereotypes, this isn’t going to be any fun!
And, yes, when I worked in-house for an elected official, things never moved faster — very high stakes. So you never know …

yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

RobBiesenbach yvettepistorio Shonali Right?! haha!!

biggreenpen
3 years 1 month ago
This is a bit of a tangent but …. that’s often the case with me :-).  I recently met an individual who is a staff member for a statewide official (in the context of this post that would make him more “corporate”). When I asked him about Twitter he said, “well, I don’t am not really “into” Twitter, I just RT my boss’s twitter account.” I would think that mindset might be easier for an agency person to fall into (not a good agency person, but an agency person b/c of being less invested). It always makes me said when… Read more »
yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago
biggreenpen You know, I wasn’t the biggest Twitter fan when I first started using it. I didn’t get it, but after a few years I saw how it can help brands. Plus I’ve built so many relationships through Twitter both personally and for companies I managed social networks for. The more I use it the more I like it. 🙂 But I feel your pain. Luckily we have great clients. One in particular doesn’t like Twitter, but she still took the time to get to know the platform and now she’s crafting tweets and sending me things to share so it’s… Read more »
SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 1 month ago

CattJames Thank you for sharing Jim 🙂

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 1 month ago

CPRSNational Thanks for sharing 🙂

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 1 month ago

tarynwismer Thanks for sharing Taryn 🙂

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 1 month ago

ArgylePR Thanks for sharing!!

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 1 month ago

rachaelseda 😀

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 1 month ago

SavannahJessie Do it, it’s been a lot of fun! Thanks for sharing Savannah 🙂

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 1 month ago

RobBiesenbach Lol!! You sound like jasonkonopinski

RobBiesenbach
RobBiesenbach
3 years 1 month ago

SpinSucks jasonkonopinski Ha! I knew I heard that somewhere! I will call it an homage, not a rip-off!

MeliaGambee6437
MeliaGambee6437
3 years 1 month ago

RobBiesenbach Sexy Women With Tiny Waists and Huge Breasts http://t.co/jX9YXPsVUP

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 1 month ago

John_Trader1 😀 Thank you!!!

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 1 month ago

giesencreative Thanks for sharing Jack!

giesencreative
giesencreative
3 years 1 month ago

SpinSucks Great post! I’ve only worked on the in-house side so far, so it’s great to see the pros/cons laid out so clearly.

Steve Kirstein
Steve Kirstein
3 years 1 month ago
You make several good points. As someone who has also navigated “both sides”, it’s my observation that most of these issues depend totally on the organization for which you work, rather than an agency or client model. There are slow, bureaucratic corporations but also very nimble, fast-moving ones – certain people thrive in one or the other – I prefer the latter. I also believe that the corporate longevity and stability, as you describe it, is a thing of the past. As for agencies – agree with some of the other commenters that the politics can be equally onerous/dysfunctional. Your… Read more »
yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

Steve Kirstein My pleasure Steve! And I agree it depends on the organization. I have a mere six years of experience, so the post is based solely on that. I too wish the “your clients shouldn’t tell you what to do; you’re the expert” was the norm too. It’s the norm at Arment Dietrich!

Steve Kirstein
Steve Kirstein
3 years 1 month ago

yvettepistorio Steve Kirstein “It’s the norm at Arment Dietrich!” nice – A: Always B: Be C: Closing! 😉

yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

Steve Kirstein Always…Sometimes when I ask a question, @ginidietrich will say to me: “You’re the expert, you tell me.” Lol! But it’s good practice and makes the clients happy.

Kirk Hazlett
Kirk Hazlett
3 years 1 month ago

I’ve always been a corporate guy myself. Like being a part of the “Mother Ship” and being able to develop a solid understanding of all that goes into the development and presentation of our products or services. Agency life didn’t do that for me.

sydcon_mktg
3 years 1 month ago
Great points. If often takes our new developers some adjusting as well.  The biggest adjustments are working with what the client wants and billable hours versus doing extras they think will be better. Getting used to doing what the client asked and was quoted takes time. The other is multi-tasking, most programmers want to start on one thing and see it thru prior to moving onto the next. We do not have that luxury here, its switching gears all day every day!! In the end, once they adjust I think (hope) they prefer the challenge of never knowing what their… Read more »
yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

sydcon_mktg Yes, constantly switching gears! One hour I’m writing about the manufacturing industry, and the next it’s leadership or breastfeeding. I enjoy the variety. It keeps me on my toes and I get to learn about a bunch of different industries.

KirkHazlett
3 years 1 month ago

I completely agree with the description of corporate PR benefits…I’ve always been more comfortable in a corporate setting because I’ve been able to be a part of the “Mother Ship” and can more fully provide advice and counsel based on my in-depth knowledge of “how the sausage is made.” Agency life didn’t do that for me. Great post!

yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

KirkHazlett Thanks Kirk! I was way low on the totem pole in the corporate setting so most of the time I had to get approval from a number of people and things got pushed aside which is unfortunate. I have enjoyed both so far, it just depends on what you like more.

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight
3 years 1 month ago

KirkHazlett And gotta love the corporate side – without the corporate side there would be no agency side 🙂

KirkHazlett
3 years 1 month ago

PattiRoseKnight KirkHazlett yvettepistorio Very true on that one, Patti, although Yvette and the gang might claim that *we* need *them* ore! 😉

VZWandrea
VZWandrea
3 years 1 month ago

eveypistorio SpinSucks Interesting post! Agree w/ Steve: You’ll find diff agencies or corp cultures over time. Important to try both.

yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

@VZWandrea Agreed and I’m glad (and fortunate) I’ve been able to try both.

eveypistorio
eveypistorio
3 years 1 month ago

iarlabyrne Thanks so much for sharing!

iarlabyrne
iarlabyrne
3 years 1 month ago

eveypistorio my pleasure, Yvette!

eveypistorio
eveypistorio
3 years 1 month ago

NickWilcox2 Hey Nick! Hope all is well 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

eveypistorio
eveypistorio
3 years 1 month ago

ValettePiper Lol!! Thanks for sharing Valette 🙂

eveypistorio
eveypistorio
3 years 1 month ago

DavidaPride Thanks for sharing David 🙂

eveypistorio
eveypistorio
3 years 1 month ago

VictoriaGestner Thanks Victoria! Glad you enjoyed 🙂

eveypistorio
eveypistorio
3 years 1 month ago

giesencreative Thanks for sharing Jack 🙂

eveypistorio
eveypistorio
3 years 1 month ago

John_Trader1 Thank youuuuuuuuuuuu!!! 😀

TomPick
TomPick
3 years 1 month ago

Insightful post Yvette, thanks for sharing. Having also worked on both sides,  I love the flexibility and variety of agency life, but it can be hard always being the outsider.

yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

TomPick Thanks so much Tom! I love the flexibility and variety too. Keeps me on my toes.

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight
3 years 1 month ago

yvettepistorio TomPick not to mention we really work our butts off – there is no such thing as 9 – 5 on the agency side.

TomPick
TomPick
3 years 1 month ago

PattiRoseKnight  yvettepistorio True Patti, but it seems that 9-5 is becoming quite rare on the corporate side as well. You’d have to work for the (rapidly shrinking) US Postal Service to get those hours these days. 🙂

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight
3 years 1 month ago

TomPick PattiRoseKnight yvettepistorio I will plead the 5th – my ex husband works for the post office but will say – yep you are right about that

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 1 month ago

JoelleTweeted Thanks for sharing Joelle!

JoelleTweeted
JoelleTweeted
3 years 1 month ago

SpinSucks Why yes, of course. Much love to the team and hi ginidietrich!

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 1 month ago

bowden2bowden Thanks for sharing Randy!

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 1 month ago

belllindsay So is it weird if I thank people for sharing my content on both my twitter handles?! Just curious…

belllindsay
belllindsay
3 years 1 month ago

SpinSucks I don’t think so….

SavvyCopywriter
SavvyCopywriter
3 years 1 month ago

Great post! I actually switched from Corporate life to Agency life because I thrive in a more fast paced environment. Sometimes this has its drawbacks, but for the most part, I love it. And I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t change where I’m at for the world. Thanks for sharing this!

yvettepistorio
3 years 1 month ago

SavvyCopywriter Thank you!! Everything has it’s drawbacks and politics, but I’m enjoying Agency life so far.

bradmarley
3 years 1 month ago

This pretty much sums it up. I’ve never really worked on the corporate side, but it seems like a lot of hurry up and wait.
However, in my current role, I serve only one client, so it feels a lot like working on the corporate side.

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight
3 years 1 month ago

bradmarley Hurry up and wait is what we called the LA freeway LOL!

belllindsay
belllindsay
3 years 1 month ago

bradmarley Funny. In TV land ‘hurry up and wait’ was our catch-phrase. For everything!

eveypistorio
eveypistorio
3 years 1 month ago

charlesmeadows Thanks for sharing Charles 🙂

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight
3 years 1 month ago

Agency life is all I know but I have been known to say at time I feel like the jack of all trade but the master of nothing LOL!

annethewriter
3 years 1 month ago
This is an age old discussion that never gets tired as the industry morphs and new people enter. I ‘practiced’ PR for 17 years before going freelance and only 4 of those years were on the agency side. My first PR job right out of university was with Burson-Marsteller and I always say I got my training in the trenches! As everyone is saying, there are always pros and cons to both but I personally preferred the corporate side vs. agency side. I found that the pace didn’t depend on corporate vs. agency but the leadership of the organization. When… Read more »
eveypistorio
eveypistorio
3 years 1 month ago

KamillaBerdin Thanks for sharing Kamilla 🙂

eveypistorio
eveypistorio
3 years 1 month ago

nateriggs Thanks so much Nate 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post.

nateriggs
nateriggs
3 years 1 month ago

eveypistorio : )

wagnerwrites
wagnerwrites
3 years 1 month ago

thejoannadm Thanks for the RT!

trackback

[…] simple and thorough description about the differences of working corporate and agency PR. What else would you add? (via Spin […]

thomasknorpp
thomasknorpp
3 years 1 month ago

IliyanaStareva SpinSucks naaaaa. In house all the way. 🙂

IliyanaStareva
IliyanaStareva
3 years 1 month ago

thomasknorpp Why? What are your reasons?

thomasknorpp
thomasknorpp
3 years 1 month ago

IliyanaStareva things move fast, bigger impact, true ownership over what you do, exciting to work within and influence big companies.

dbvickery
3 years 1 month ago
Great points, Yvette. I went from small, government lab…to large, multinational company…to large telecom…to large consulting company…to principal in a company.  Those large companies drove me nuts in regards to the speed of change; however, you had great job/salary stability and a safety net if you were a top performer. Move to consulting, and there is no safety net or salary stability. If you are a top performer, and willing to move anywhere, you will always have work…but it can definitely be stressful. And then becoming a principal of a software company just magnifies both the stresses and the rewards.… Read more »
eveypistorio
eveypistorio
3 years 1 month ago

chrismccale Thanks so much Christina 🙂

C2HM3
C2HM3
3 years 1 month ago

eveypistorio chrismccale LOL NP Been on both sides! They both have lots of lessons to learn!

eveypistorio
eveypistorio
3 years 29 days ago

C2HM3 chrismccale Agreed 🙂

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[…] By: Yvette Pistorio- This post can be found here […]

tonyro333
tonyro333
1 year 9 months ago

The majority of my work has been on the corporate side, and I basically give it a big heartfelt “meh”! Maybe I’m jaded or spoiled, but I just find corporate life about as exciting as watching cement harden. I really prefer the culture, approach & attitude of an agency. Unfortunately in this era of belt-tightening, recruiters and (I fear…) agency CDs/ACDs take one look at my CV and immediately pigeonhole me for a lack of variety. It’s quite frustrating. I’m open to suggestions here!

ginidietrich
1 year 9 months ago

tonyro333 Do you have any agency experience?

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