What I learnt from my time in-house

Written by Tom Harvey

I recently joined Mantis following a short stint working in-house for a (GP) household name UK healthtech firm. This was a new experience for me. Prior to joining, I’d spent all of my career working at tech PR agencies. Moving from a multi-client environment to owning responsibilities for the comms strategy for one organisation presented a whole new range of challenges.

Having the opportunity to experience PR from the ‘other side’ taught me a lot about our industry and what it’s like being a client (we worked with an agency), as well as providing me with valuable lessons that I have taken with me back into agency life:

  1. I’m more patient and supportive with clients

As I’m sure many who work in agencies have experienced, you can sometimes find yourself frustrated that your clients have not met deadlines when you’ve organised media opportunities or feel you are constantly chasing them from content or approval.

When I was in-house, our PR agency had exactly the same experience when they worked with me. They would secure opportunities that I would miss the deadline for or would be unable to provide content/ a spokesperson. This wasn’t for lack of trying on my part. In most cases I was hunting down spokespeople, comments and approvals but was unable to provide them as my colleagues were unavailable. I try to be much more understanding with points of contact when an opportunity is missed as I know how hard it can be to get what’s needed.

In house tip for working with an agency – be honest if you think as a team you can’t make a media opp work, and call it early. Every time agencies set up a media opportunity they can’t then fulfil, the journalist loses respect for all parties involved.

2. PR agencies are truly valuable assets

Having spent over six years working in agencies, when I took on the in-house role I thought it would be easy to implement the skills and practices I had learnt during that time and wouldn’t be reliant on our PR agency to place media opportunities and raise awareness of the company.

I soon learnt this was extremely naive and that harnessing the knowledge and tools our PR agency had at their disposal was vital. Being able to work with an external team of PR professionals who had access to databases, are constantly in contact with journalists and were always on top of the media agenda was a life-saver and only grew my appreciation for the work that agencies do.

In house tip for working with an agency – if you’ve got an agency like Mantis where you have a fixed team but plenty of other specialists within the business, don’t be afraid to ask for strategic input or another perspective from them. Use all the varied experience they have.

3. Consider what motivates you before changing sides

When I first moved in-house, I thought that the prospect of dedicating my time and energy to focussing on one organisation sounded like it was just what I wanted. However, as time went by I realised that I missed working with a diverse range of clients and on multiple campaigns.

What I learnt here and my advice to anyone thinking of swapping agency life for in-house or vice versa is to think carefully about what aspects of PR you enjoy before doing so.

Agency tip here – If you are thinking of changing careers, either way, get in touch. Many of our clients would be great mentors or sounding boards on this, and our Mantis team has very varied experience. It’s good to talk!

I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to work in-house. From increasing my appreciation for the role of technology PR agencies to understanding what I value as a comms professional, the lessons I learnt during that time will stay with me for the rest of my career and will, hopefully, enhance the work I provide for my clients now and in the future.

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