Why I’m Glad I Worked in an Agency

There—I admitted it.

If you asked me how I felt about working in an agency about this time one year ago, the answer would have been different.

Back in 2007, when I started working in a full-service healthcare communications agency, specifically in the PR group, I didn’t know what to expect.

It took a few years of different projects and clients– some of which I liked and some of which I didn’t– for me to figure out that agency life wasn’t for me.

And that’s okay.

Some people are better suited for the constant change and customer service for the clients that is necessary for the agency setting. That just wasn’t for me.

But since I’ve changed back into an in-house setting—in a completely different industry and communications focus (a medical school alumni relations department)—I’ve come to realize something: I am glad I worked in an agency for the time I did.

I realize now that I learned some valuable lessons and practices that the agency setting imparted on me:

Interpersonal Skills 

Working within an agency, you have to work with and rely on lots of people—from the account team, to the traffic manager, to the creative director and graphic designer. It’s important to develop a rapport with these people and to navigate via interpersonal skills in order to get a project done.

Because of that experience, I am more cognizant of my interpersonal skills and identify how best to work with others.

Project Management

I have gotten a reputation as “the queen of charts” in my new job because for every project I work on, I have a project management chart to go with it. It’s ironic because if there was ever one thing I cursed the clients for, it was for the never-ending stream of Excel spreadsheets we had to draft and maintain again and again.

Now, I am using many of the same templates to ensure my projects are organized and my team is informed. How’s that for humble pie?


Remember how you had to prepare for anything for your client, especially when at an on-site meeting or when traveling? Just recently, I was with a marketing colleague for a film location scout with a production crew.  In addition to sending a summary email of our locations to the team beforehand, I printed copies of the schedule for everyone and also brought copies of our interview schedules in case we had some down time for a meeting.

And you know what? All of those copies came in handy! You can never be over-prepared for anything…

Measurement, measurement, measurement

I am so glad I had clients who harangued us constantly for benchmarks to accompany our strategy proposals. I used to roll my eyes if I had to benchmark or set metrics to one more tactic because it was an ongoing process.

However, working in a role that supports a fundraising capacity, I find myself constantly looking for ways to quantify and measure alumni relations. I have become the client asking my colleagues to help me set the metrics and benchmark my strategies.

As much as I was miserable at times in my agency life, I have really come to appreciate that experience because it has done me more good than I could have expected.

The lesson in all this?

Even a job you think you hate can actually be helping you. You just might now know it yet.

What do you think? Anyone else benefit from agency experience? Or have you had a job you hated but have come to appreciate after a career change?

Image courtesy of a very clever agency with a good sense of humor. 

March 14, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Career. 7 comments.

A Little Birdy Told Me…Week of 2/27/12

Happy Friday, all! And what a special week this was with the Leap Year. Not that it holds any significance to me, but image how many people have a birthday or an anniversary on that date. It must have been pretty special to them, I imagine. So, as you wind down this week from your daily activities, here are a few articles and post of interest to share–enjoy!

A PR Student’s Perspective on PR Defined by @asdupre via @Soulati:

While those of us in the profession were swirling the past few weeks over the PR Defined issue, it never occurred to me how this would affect tomorrow’s PR professionals.

Jayme Soulati invited Syracuse PR student Ashley Dupre to share her thoughts and perspective on the discussion. And Ms. Dupre shows how even in classroom instruction, PR students struggle with how to define their profession of study. I hope we professional folks have not failed the PR pro’s of tomorrow—next time I see a post or discussion on PR Defined, I should remind everyone to “Think of the children!  Won’t somebody please think about the children?”

What Is a Successful Project? by Jolyon Hallows via The Project Management Hut:

Many of us, regardless of our title, are often consumed by projects – planning them, implementing them, and evaluating them. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself what makes a “successful” project?

The answer, according to traditional project managers, is one that comes in on time, on budget and within scope. Yet the author challenges that notion with the idea that a successful project is actually one that delivers benefit and value to the company. An interesting spin on the whole project management idea, especially as we wring our hands if our projects are overdue or over budget.

PR Deathwatch for the Photo Opp by @rgeller:

As a fairly new reader of Bob’s blog, I never caught his series on the PR Deathwatch (a tracking of those traditional PR tactics which are slowly becoming obsolete.) This week’s post caught my attention because that title is so catchy, and because it brings to light the issue that “control” over image and perception is not as tightly managed as before.

While the Romney folks tried to portray one interpretation of the event in question, it was clear on social media outlets that it was not the case. Bob’s post is a good reminder to PR folks staging photo opps that they may have to plan for what they cannot control as more and more stakeholders have the power of instant communication at their fingertips.

Circle and Cycle of Life by @TimNekritz:

Here is another great blog I am new to reading and was pleasantly surprised by this week.

Tim Nekritz usually writes smart observations of social media and higher education, but this week, he shared some personal news about what is happening in his life. I really admired that Tim took a break from the content he shares as an expert to share some content as a human being. It’s sometimes okay as bloggers to include little peeks into our lives as we build a relationship with our readers.

And who knows, there may be someone out there who is going through a similar experience that is actually helped by hearing these personal stories.

I hope you enjoyed some of these recommendations. Feel free to share any articles you read and enjoyed this week as well :)

March 2, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . public relations. 6 comments.


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