Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Gambling Problem

A recent UnSpun post describes the struggles of working in a PR agency. I have to agree with UnSpun that agency life is not easy, but he fails to address what I feel are the main drawbacks to working in an agency as opposed to an in-house position.

Working in an agency, I feel removed from the stakes of the client's reputation. My personal reputation and my company's reputation are on the line with every one of our campaigns, but when it comes down to it, I'm playing poker with some one else's chips. I want to win the pot for my client, so I could gain more clients and grow the business. However, I always know that if I get beat, it's not my chips. I will do my job with due diligence and provide my contractual obligations, but after that what's my motivation? Motivation may be hard in an in-house position too, but agency practitioners are one more step removed.

This is kind of an elephant in the room. The agency I'm working at is a little different because we only work with socially responsible causes: nonprofits, education advocacy groups, public policy, etc. This motivates me because I believe in the social change these groups are trying to enact, but I have some clients that I could not care less about. How do you get yourself or your employees to play poker with Microsoft's or ExxonMobil's chips? (Besides a fat paycheck, of course)


Kelli Matthews said...

Very interesting perspective, Nigel. I think that it's very accurate. Especially when you're in a junior position, you don't have the luxury of having any sort of self-determination about which clients to take on. I've enjoyed my consulting/agency work because I DO get to be picky. It's my agency.

The experience you get in an agency is definitely unique to that environment. And often, I think, it's a personality fit.

Realizing now that agency work may not be the best fit for you could be one of the best things to come out of your internship. I know I had an internship that did that for me as an undergrad. It helps you hone your interests and articulate what is going to satisfy you professionally.

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