Kumbaya, PR pros- how in-house vs. agency pros can learn to get along (better...)

Aug 20, 2014
Kumbaya, PR pros- how in-house vs. agency pros can learn to get along (better...)

We know that for journalists and everyone else out there, PR types can be pretty indistinguishable from each other (sad but true).

But within the PR world, “in-house” and “agency” can be very loaded terms, with clients and firms often working together more as “frenemies” than friends.

On their most stressful days, publicists who juggle many different accounts dream about what it would be like to work for just one company. And corporate communications folks wonder what it would feel like to focus only on getting press. Even if you’ve tried both types of positions, amnesia is common. The grass often seems greener on the other side. And worst of all -- whether you work as the client or for them, you might find yourself asking: What could they possibly be doing all day?!?!

So - tape these reminders to your desk, restrain yourself from hitting that mute button, and take a minute to empathize with your other half.

We’re not stupid, lazy or disinterested.

AGENCY: It’s not that we don’t care about your business. It’s not that we can’t understand complex concepts. We’re just busy! We simply can’t spend time navigating your company blog, reading 30-slide PowerPoint decks and researching your competitors while handling the same requests from 10 other clients. If we had more hours, we probably would go above and beyond to learn the ins and outs of your company because we hate looking stupid, but giving a little more direction is sometimes necessary.

IN-HOUSE: We know we are taking a while to respond to this media opportunity you sent. We really appreciate you following up to remind us about the deadline. Unfortunately, we’re still convincing our upper management it makes sense to even move forward with it, while five more people chime in to tweak the wording of the response. Three vendors just called about tradeshow sponsorships! We’ll get back to you as soon as we can, but please understand our pain!

Time after time

AGENCY: And, the launch date just got pushed back...again. Typical. Good thing I rearranged all my other client meetings so I could devote my attention to your project.

IN-HOUSE: Help! We need more time to get everything ready!

You’re turning down WHAT?

AGENCY: We’re used to long days of rejection-- email pitches that get no response, phone calls sent straight to voicemail -- and when a journalist IS finally interested, it feels like winning the lottery. So when we present an opportunity to you that gets turned down, it feels like having to say no to a million dollars. Plus, we hear you tell us to “get more press” so often, we’re shocked when an opportunity doesn’t make the cut.

IN-HOUSE: Though we might be thrilled that Aggregatorsite.com wants to interview our CFO, he also sits right next to us and looks twice as stressed as we feel. If we hear the word “ROI” one more time, we might start having nightmares. Presenting our team members with something that will take time away from their other work can be an uphill battle that isn’t always worth the fight.

Any press is good press, right?

AGENCY: We just got you a story in the New York Times! Why are you worried about the cynical tone in the sixth paragraph? No one even reads that far down.

IN-HOUSE: Our colleagues are completely obsessed with the inaccuracies in the sixth paragraph!

Typical reaction to a particularly scathing article

IN-HOUSE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1d5Q0vXbODs

AGENCY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WM1RChZk1EU

The bottom line: our problems may be different, but our perspective is often similar. So let’s get back to making news, shall we?

Chime in! Have you worked on both sides of the PR fence? Share your experiences from the trenches.

Robin Carol is the Communications & Culture Manager for UGE. She has a lot of empathy for her former clients.

Photo: Fence via Shutterstock

About the author

UGE delivers immediate savings to businesses through cleaner electricity. TSX Venture Exchange: UGE

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