Traditional PR

September 14, 2017

Public Relations Agency vs. In-House: What’s the Difference?

After explaining what public relations was in this post, it occurred to me that I should DEF dive more in-depth in regards to the profession of PR. Because like I mentioned in that post, this career definitely ebbs and flows depending on a ton of factors (like what industry you’re in, if you’re working solo or on a team, etc.)

The main question that always comes up is the difference between “In-house” public relations and “Agency” public relations.

In-house public relations refers to when you (as an employee) are hired by a large (or whatever, sometimes small based on budget) company that has decided to use a single PR person or a small team of PR people to handle the public image of the brand internally, without contracting with freelancers/ outside help. It’s kind of like hiring for any other position within a company. For example, let’s say you’re an accountant. You’re hired by X company to be in their accounting department. Same process for public relations. You’re hired by Becca Cosmetics to be a Public Relations Coordinator.

Feel me?

Meanwhile Agency public relations is when you (as an employee) are hired by a company that is dedicated solely to the practice of public relations for multiple brands. Usually, you have to balance promoting/handling the image of upwards of three, four, even FIVE different brands at once.

Nightmare fuel, right?

Well, truthfully some PR people out there actually prefer agency life. You’re constantly on the go-go-go doing something for one of your brands, be it a press event, or pitching a new product, or whatever. It’s a great way to get a ton of experience at once and learn time management.

From the brand perspective, choosing to keep your public relations team in-house versus using an agency has both it’s positives and negatives. Agencies are usually cheap in comparison to paying out a salary, and you as the company don’t have to see the grunt work that goes into public relations (like press mailers, gotta have space to pack out all of those boxes somewhere!!)


Because agencies deal with multiple companies at a time, your brand runs the risk of being put on the back-burner if you aren’t considered a “priority.” If you contract with an agency that deals with multimillion dollar companies and you’re a startup barely squeaking by…you can best believe that the agency is going to focus on the multimillion dollar companies they rep because those companies are keeping the agency in business through the hefty retainer fees versus the paltry amount a startup might be paying in comparison.

That doesn’t always happen, but it’s something to definitely keep in mind if you’re weighing out which option is best for you as a brand owner.

If you were to ask me which I prefer as an employee? I think it depends on where you are in your career. Why?

Listen, agency life can be a grind. It’s a lot of work mixed with a lot of play. Because you’re juggling multiple accounts, you learn how to alter your voice to fit the image of the multiple brands you represent. That skill is invaluable. Also- your media relationships are going to be a lot stronger because your multiple brands have different needs at different times. That means not a single day will go by where you don’t have to reach out to media for one thing or another. Invaluable when you’re just starting your career.

I think once you’ve had that experience, you’ll be way better off in an in-house position where you can really hone your focus and use those established relationships to place your products. In-house life tends to have slightly better work/life balance and your public relations strategy is much more streamlined because surprise!! You only have one brand image to manage.

If you were to ask me which I prefer as an employer? Again it depends on where you are in your company’s lifespan. Why?

If you’re a startup and you’ve got a small budget to work with, I’d really consider hiring an internal PR person. That person would be key in helping to shape your brand in a meaningful way, right in the most critical point in your company’s growth. As your company expands, the PR person can then choose to hire people beneath him/her and grow a team OR hire a PR team to manage and outsource some resources.

I tend to think that’s the best way to maintain the integrity of your brand while maximizing your spend.

DO YOUR RESEARCH and make sure you hire someone who truly understands your brand voice…you can’t go wrong if you’ve got PR on your side 🙂

Got any questions?

Hit me in the comments!

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