Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
July 19, 2010

Myth or Reality?: “Agency Experience Preferred”

At the PRSA 2010 International Conference, the New Professionals Section will sponsor a panel discussion titled Myth or Reality?: “Agency Experience Preferred.” During this workshop, senior practitioners will discuss what employers are really asking for when they require agency experience. As the New Professionals Section chair-elect and panel moderator, I asked each of our presenters: Why do you think there is a perception in the PR industry that agency experience is best?

Heather R. Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, has nearly 10 years’ experience in public relations, and worked at both big and small agencies and in in-house environments.

“If you’re considering a career in PR, most universities push you toward gaining agency experience — so the perception starts early. They also instill the idea that you can’t go from non-agency to agency later in your career, which is just ridiculous.” — Heather R. Huhman

Lara Kretler, vice president and social media lead at Fahlgren Mortine, is passionate about public relations and strategic use of the social Web. A career PR pro with agency and corporate experience spanning 19 years and two states, Lara enjoys being an enthusiastic colleague, coach and mentor to young professionals.

“One of the best things about agency experience is that it develops well-rounded, diverse, seasoned PR professionals able to handle any challenge that comes their way. Many desirable job postings state ‘agency experience required’ for this very reason. That said, even without agency experience it is possible to demonstrate a wide range of skills and knowledge in order to convince hiring managers that you’d be a perfect fit for the job of your dreams. At this session, we’ll share our insights into how to do just that.” — Lara Kretler

Sarah Siewert is early in her career, currently transitioning from the nonprofit sector to a position with KemperLesnik, a public relations, events and sports marketing firm. Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn and on Twitter @siewert.

Join Sarah along with other members of the PRSA New Professionals Section at the PRSA 2010 International Conference: Powering PRogress, October 16–19 in Washington, D.C.!

  • Kristina

    I believe that agency experience is helpful because the environment is so fast-paced. You can work long hours, and there is a lot of pressure to meet deadlines, but nowhere else do you learn more about adapting to pressure, trusting your instincts and working with a team to get something done. Some of the best PR students who graduated in my class worked or interned in an agency. Now, do I think that you need to work at an agency to be a great PR professional? Absolutely not! But I would love to work at an agency if I ever got the chance, especially while I’m still young and can handle the long hours!

  • ssiewert

    Hi Kristina,

    Thanks for your feedback! I definitely agree that an agency is a great environment to learn how to think quickly, and work with a team.

    However, I will say I have had the same experiences in the nonprofit sector but with a more focused topic and communication message.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to every PR niche, and we hope to discuss these during the panel while also providing tips to make all of your skills marketable to any employer.


    Sarah Siewert

  • Sherrie Bakshi

    Hi Sarah,
    It is very true that as a student, you are encouraged to pursue opportunities within the agency world, and I agree with you, you can also gain the similar experience working in the nonprofit sector. So, it works both ways. I transitioned from the nonprofit sector to an agency environment back to the nonprofit sector, and guess, what I have returned back to the agency world. The “agency experience” preference among many hiring managers is that they know you are able to juggle many different projects simultaneously. You are able to think on your feet and have a strong understanding in different industries. So, for those of you looking into working for an agency, the goal is not only to be an expert in PR, but an expert in the industries that the agency works in, i.e., travel and tourism, government, nonprofit, etc.