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Mad Skills February 3, 2010

Posted by Lynn Christiansen Esquer in Marketing and PR.
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1 comment so far

In marketing, is it better to have agency experience or corporate experience?

I was forced to examine this today when I received feedback from a corporate hiring manager who had concerns about my agency-only experience. Frankly, the feedback took me aback somewhat; the conventional wisdom is that agency marketers can transition with relative ease into corporate marketing, but it doesn’t always translate well the other way around.

After reading a few blogs and soliciting feedback from other marketers, I have to conclude that the conventional logic still holds water: An agency background is usually valuable to both sides of the fence.

In an agency, marketing and PR professionals quickly learn the essential skills of their trade: versatility, fast and succinct writing, breaking complex concepts down into digestible bites, strategy, good pitching, team management, and expertise in a variety of technologies and techniques as they scramble to address various clients’ needs. Because agencies are the industry workhorses who for the most part labor behind the scenes of a company, they are held liable for any missteps but work to make their client marketers shine. The work is hard, deadline-driven and often done with limited access to the real client-side decision makers.

Agencies will rarely consider those with corporate-only experience for this reason. Some — though certainly not all! — are simply glorified liaisons between the executive team and their agencies. The best corporate marketers partner heavily with their agencies. And almost all rely heavily on their agencies to strategize, message and implement their programs. Call a corporate marketer and they’re likely to be in a meeting, albeit an important meeting. Call an agency marketer? They’re scrambling to hit a deadline to produce something — a marketing plan, a budget, a set of messaging, a piece of collateral, a media hit — the corporate marketer will present in that meeting.

This may be a bit harsh, but at every agency in which I’ve worked, corporate candidates have been almost uniformly passed over in favor of those with agency experience; and when they haven’t, they have had difficulty within the fast-paced, results-oriented agency setting.

I’d take it a step further and say that every public relations and marketing professional should include some agency experience in his or her career. There’s nowhere else where you can work with a variety of companies and industries, learn so quickly the skills needed to do the job… and get such unmatched experience.

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