Earlier this week someone asked @theiccrowd whether to further their career in internal communications in-house or agency side… I have done both, so I thought I’d expand on why I feel some time on the agency side of things is a great way to enhance your skills:

Working in an agency helped me become an expert

I was immersed in all things internal comms when I moved from an in-house role to business development within a specialist internal comms agency. I had never even heard of melcrum before then and I don’t know where I would be today without the use of twitter, forums and groups I joined to enhance the profile of the agency.

I read every trade magazine there was to keep up to date with trends and news about the industry, to ensure we were advising companies on the right path.

Had I stayed in-house I don’t think I would have got the rounded view of the profession I now have.

It helped me be a better in house pro

When agencies pitch I tell them if I have budget, I tell them who they’re up against and I’m clear what the process is. I don’t invite them in if I’m looking for ideas and I make sure we have agreed everything internally before embarking in conversations. Agencies do a lot for free to try and get the work so we should respect that and make sure we don’t take them for a ride. Respect the process and be honest – there is never a need to lie to hide things from people you are asking help you.

Telling them who they’re up against won’t harm anyone… I always wanted to know my competition and it’s a friendly industry filled with people that have known one another for years so why hide it?!

Being agency side helped my commercial influence

I know the cost of what I’m paying for now so it is easy to make sure I’m getting the most out of my budget. I understand the detail and project management side of comms more and how important it is to be confident in your numbers. Being able to talk numbers and align to business messaging is key if you want to be seen as a credible business partner in house.

So with all that, why do I love being in-house?

I am now an expert in the business I work for so I can advise them better than an agency could. I work alongside agencies when I need to as I don’t have the skills to design a magazine or launch a strategy on my own.

I love the buzz of corporate change and being in the thick of things as they move and shift, understanding business and why we do the things we do and the joy that good engaging comms can bring for those that work in the business… My highlight is still an Easter egg hunt in the office….

So, in my opinion if you want to further your career in comms try out both sides, you’ll soon establish where you want to be and you’ll learn so much from doing both.