Double Life: Corporate vs Agency PR

Double Life: Corporate vs Agency PR

“Pretty soon you’ll be seen as an ‘agency guy’,” said the recruiter.  A chill ran down my spine as I envisioned myself a 50-year-old account executive.  A decade into my career, I had worked at some of New York’s best agencies on every kind of account: CPG, service brands, celebrities, crisis comms – you name it.

Many agency folks consider a corporate post as the “Holy Grail” – and one day, that opportunity arrived for me; overseeing 12 Swiss watch brands in North America.  My resignation letter to the agency owner made her cry.  And thus, I began “Corporate Life.” Here’s what I found:

Corporate gigs:

  • Mean you are a voice in the boardroom capable of shaping/steering communications programs, budgets and expectations
  • Are successful when you treat all the brands in your portfolio as “clients” – service-oriented but somewhat distant so you don’t get swallowed in the Group Think
  • Can be political and can require as much internal PR as external brand-based comms

Agency life:

  • Is a well-spring of creative energy and even “heretical” thinking
  • Can be on guard for budget cuts
  • Puts you closer to the action instead of the boardroom

Each of these “grass-is-greener” experiences offers insight about how and why brands choose the programs they support. Ultimately, in my experience, the best marketing communications people have experience on both sides of the table.

It must be said that my corporate experience was not the traditional Corporate America.  It was Corporate Switzerland.  Tantamount to working at the UN (and I speak with experience!)
Fast-forward to today, I now run my own consulting practice.  In other words, I am a nearly 50-year-old account guy.  And I am loving every minute of it.