So You Want to Work in Communications? Take My Advice and Go the Agency Route

Saying you work in communications is a bit like saying you work in government. Neither tells you a whole heck of a lot.

In the same breath, working in communications is exactly like it sounds. What do we do? Quite simply, we help our clients communicate. That means helping a company develop a brand, helping that brand find its voice, and making sure that voice reaches the audiences that matter most.

I’ve been lucky enough to get the opportunity to work in communications in a few settings – one was in the PR office of an Ivy League college, another was as an in-house PR manager for a tech startup, and my most recent opportunity is of course here at SutherlandGold, where I’ve gotten to work with dozens of our fascinating clients.

SG Clients

My agency work has taught me more about communicating to different audiences than any other role I’ve held. Every brand requires a completely fresh and unique approach. For example, the way a corporation like Apple communicates with the public is very different from the way a scrappy startup hungry for its first funding does, while the key constituents of a large state university vary tremendously from those of an online education startup. Even within the same company, the way executives and divisions communicate internally to employees versus how they speak to the outside world can be quite distinct.

But there are, of course, similarities. If there’s one truth I’ve found that transcends all, it’s that no two communications challenges are ever the same. And no matter how long you’ve been in this business, your experience doesn’t ever provide a blueprint. What experience does afford, though, is the ability to think critically and creatively, helping guide you to develop an effective, fresh approach to each new challenge. And I would argue that working at an agency gives you by far the broadest range of opportunities to think strategically and in new ways.

How so? While many aspects make agency life unique, the greatest difference is exposure - you’re exposed to new companies, new stories, and new opportunities each and every day. Here at SG, we work on several different accounts. And our clients, who play in diverse industries, are at different stages of growth and each merits a completely unique approach.

And just as importantly, you’re exposed to new ideas and diverse perspectives. When I worked in-house as the only communications person on staff, I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to bounce my ideas off a colleague or hold a brainstorm session with other creative minds. So much of being successful in communications is dependent on imagination, curiosity and creativity: pushing ideas one step further, being one step ahead of the competition and the next news cycle. And it’s hard to do that if you don’t have a diverse set of sharp minds around to challenge you with new ideas and insights.

At SG, our collaborative work environment means you’re never just drawing on your own knowledge, but rather you can easily tap the minds of a versatile team made up of smart people who each bring their own wisdom and know-how to the table. And, trust me, they’ve definitely got a range of perspectives. We’ve got everyone from former bike mechanics and policymakers to bartenders, tech reporters and chocolate experts here at SG.

Many folks in the communications world like to debate whether it’s better to work in-house or at an agency – the debate is as old as PR itself. I’m sure it will continue to rage on, just like the Apple vs. Samsung or Uber vs. Lyft arguments. But we don’t see ourselves as just another agency – we are in it with our clients (whose CEOs, CMOs, founders and executives literally have us on speed dial). We work so closely with our partners that we’re right there, part of the team. And that’s the best of both worlds.

Want to join the SG team? Check out our careers page or shoot us a note! We’d love to hear from you.

Keith Chapman | Jan 2016