Corporate v. Agency

It seems that when all of us budding professionals enter the world of PR, we are faced with this choice of what side of that world we want to enter.

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Now that I know a little bit more about this industry, I’ve noticed a few things about the discussion of the two sides. A lot of times, agency life is portrayed as fast-paced, dynamic and allows you try your hand at almost any aspect of public relations. Corporate life is sometimes seen as slower, more monotonous and lacking the same excitement as an agency.

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I am currently serving as the Communications intern at Swagelok Company in Solon, Ohio this summer. Swagelok is a major engineering and fluid systems components company with associates and customers all over the world. When I first began learning about strategic communication and what type of career I wanted, I had never strongly considered a corporate internship. I had learned and heard about the benefits of trying out different company types from speakers in PRSSA and elsewhere, but I was kind of set on working for a cool and trendy agency where I thought I’d find the best opportunities for me.

Turns out, Swagelok is one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had.

I learned from this internship that corporate sort of runs like its own mini agency. You have to know the company inside and out, who your audience is and how best to communicate internally and externally. I’ve had the chance to work on a variety of projects, including everything from writing my own Google ads and optimizing SEO content to planning a major corporate event in Cleveland. I also got to take part in our annual Communications Summit to discuss what department orthodoxies we can flip and how we can work better as a department to make the company better as a whole. A lot of times, corporate is described as learning vertically, or getting a deep understanding of one area, and agency is described as learning horizontally. For me at least, I feel like I’ve been able to learn in both directions through the things I’ve been able to be a part of.

download-1.jpgEvery company is different. The experience you have at one agency may be completely different at another one, and the same goes for corporate. Different companies have different cultures or styles, and that can be a key indicator as to whether it’s a good fit for you. I like to work in places that align with my goals, values and are places I feel I can truly learn and build on my skills. In this specific internship, I’ve also learned a lot about an industry I really did not know too well before joining the company, and that can be a bonus as well.

Also, what’s best for someone else isn’t always going to be what’s best for you. Don’t be swayed into thinking one type of path isn’t “ideal,” and don’t get convinced into thinking one is better than the other. Go and see for yourself! The beauty of this industry and the internships we take is that we can learn what we do or don’t like and adjust what we want from there. We are learning skills that we can use across virtually any type of industry, so why limit ourselves? Keeping an open mind will allow you to have a more positive experience in whatever type of company you end up in, and you will emerge a better, more developed professional than before

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Livi is a Junior Journalism-Strategic Communication major and the current Scripps PRSSA VP of Social Media. You can find her on Twitter @LiviWise

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