Where should a new PR practitioner choose to begin his/her career, in a PR department or in a PR firm? That’s a loaded question, and in our economy it would be great to get hired to work for either; however, if you have the choice, choose wisely.
First and foremost, what’s the difference here? According to agencyfinder.com “a Public Relations Firm (pr firm) is a professional services organization, generally hired to conceive, produce and manage un-paid messages to the public through the media on behalf of a client, with the intention of changing the public’s actions by influencing their opinions.” While a firm is it’s own business, a Public Relations Department (pr department) is a division within a company with “the main goal of…enhancing a company’s reputation.” Although a pr firm and a pr department may seem similar, they are indeed quite different.
Working for a public relations department can be very beneficial because you will not only discover how the pr department works, but also learn about the internal structure of the company or organization as a whole. Nowadays, CEO’s feel as if pr departments are a good investment in order to form negotiations and compromises with a key number of publics. In a pr department one usually has more resources, higher salaries, and good benefits; but, the work may be slower paced, one’s duties are more narrowly focused, and one has the “same” client all of the time–which can get boring. Another downside is that PR is often looked at as unnecessary or expendable when it comes time to cut costs; so if the economy takes a turn for the worse, the department better be able to prove it’s worth.
On the other hand, a pr firm provides a fast-paced and exciting atmosphere, the opportunity to network with other professionals (and maybe get a better job), and plenty of variety (one can work on multiple projects or with many clients at the same time). According to chapter 4 of my Public Relations Strategies and Tactics book, “The Strategic Public Relations Center at the University of Southern California (USC) reports that public and private companies spend about 25 percent of their total public relations budget on the services of public relations firms.” Although this shows that one will have steady work, a pr firm may have limited budgets and resources, intense daily pressure to meet deadlines, and one seldom sees the impact of their work.
If I were given the opportunity to work for either a pr firm or pr department as a new PR practitioner, I would choose a pr firm. Working for a pr firm would give me a variety of experiences, new skills, and networking opportunities, which I believe are vital to a budding career. In addition, I would enjoy the fast-paced environment and ability to work on many projects to reach short-term goals. Which would you choose?