Transitioning From In-House to a PR Agency

April 1, 2019

Within the world of public relations, there are many common career transitions that communications professionals may seek: sector to sector, agency to in-house and in-house to agency.

According to IBISWorld in January 2019: “Over the past five years, the revenue of PR firms in the U.S. has grown by 4.8 percent to reach $17 billion in 2019. In the same time frame, the number of businesses has grown by 2.7 percent and the number of employees has grown by 2.3 percent.”

With growth statistics as remarkable as these, it’s no wonder that an opportunity within a PR firm can be so attractive.

An agency is a superb place to innovate and take strides professionally. When pursuing a career change from your in-house role to an agency position, consider the following:


How familiar are you with the businesses and sectors of the clients who you will be tasked to service?

Let’s say you work as the communications director for a respected, mid-sized nonprofit. When applying for a VP role at a PR firm supporting nonprofit clients, keep in mind the tremendous value that you bring to the table. You are intimately familiar with the inner workings of a nonprofit and their long-term objectives, and the challenges they face in the media, internal communications scenarios and more. Your direct knowledge of the industry from the inside can provide you with the opportunity to provide immediate, effective contributions to your new agency team.


Which of your skills are directly transferable?

Perhaps you are interviewing for a mid-level role with a PR agency that specializes in the legal sector, and you currently work with the in-house communications team at a national law firm. You already understand how to distill complex legal jargon into coherent, digestible bites in your writing. You have arranged attorney interviews with reporters, managed the award submission process and even worked alongside your firm’s agency partners. Your direct law firm experience allows you to use your existing skills straightaway, and you may be able to provide counsel to your clients sooner, as well.  


Do you have existing media or influencer relationships that are relevant to the role?

Imagine that, in your last internship before graduation, you were the PR intern for a global entertainment company. You were given a lot of opportunities to learn, and your manager had tasked you with pitching stories to local and national publications. Now, you’re applying for an entry-level position with a PR agency that handles the publicity for films and TV shows. Even though this role would be your first full-time job, you already have valuable contacts and experience that could prove to be beneficial to the team you’re coming in to support.

Once you’ve landed that coveted PR agency position, brace yourself for culture shock! You have gone from supporting one business to working on a vast portfolio of clients who might not even be in the same industry.

You will learn new tools and platforms, while swinging from one project to another, and shifting gears on tone, message and audience. You will broaden the PR skills in your arsenal, learn from some of the best in the industry, and go deep in strategy and execution. You will foster intimate relationships with your clients. You will continuously develop and maintain media and influencer relationships.

A PR agency role is hard work, but it is thrilling — and the skills that you develop and the connections that you make will last a lifetime.

Christina Stokes

Christina Stokes is the vice president and director of talent acquisition at Rubenstein. She is passionate about refining and enhancing employee engagement, company culture, and diversity and inclusion efforts. Twitter: @NewYorkRoses.


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