Why is there a mythical quality about “agency experience?”

Now before you mentally chide me for daring to even ask the question, yours truly has three-plus years of agency experience as a technology senior vice president for A&R Edelman, the Silicon Valley office for the world’s largest independent and third largest international PR agency, Edelman Public Relations www.edelman.com.

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As I move on from this rewarding experience, I have been meeting with agency and corporate recruiters and hiring managers and it is abundantly clear that half of these meetings would not have taken place, absent my agency experience? This begs the question: What is the big deal?

Before I joined Edelman in 2006, I was the Press Secretary for California Governor George Deukmejian and the Director of Corporate Public Relations for LSI Logic www.lsi.com for a decade. My purpose here is to not blow my own horn, but to ask the question why those without agency experience are at a competitive disadvantage in the eyes of recruiters and hiring managers?

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My story is the same for literally thousands and thousands of PR professionals, who have distinguished themselves in the corporate ranks, representing politicians or toiled for trade associations. Doesn’t this experience count? It does, but too many there is something that is perceived to be missing.

One of the reasons is the PR agencies themselves, who have done an excellent job extolling their own worth and in many cases have performed brilliantly as hired guns. Keep in mind that many agencies are also fired by clients because “they didn’t understand our business model.” That is a frequent refrain.

Agency work is not for everyone. It is a great job if you suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). You have to compartmentalize. You have to multi-task. You have to serve many masters…some better than others… You have to account for every 15 minutes (nanoseconds?) of time and record it on a PeopleSoft spread sheet. There is no 24-7 service to the greater glory and good for one employer. You are the ultimate hired gun, baby.

Should a public sector, corporate, association etc. public relations professional add agency experience to his/her resume if s/he has a chance? Absolutely. The world is what it is. Agency experience has this very special quality in the eyes of key decision makers. Whether that is justified or not is immaterial. If you are asking for my opinion about taking the plunge into the agency, my response is “just do it.”

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