By: Lauryn Lubecki
Ever wondered the differences and similarities between working for an individual client versus at an agency? Here at the Martin Hall Agency, we’ve been pondering the same question as many of our account representatives are rapidly approaching graduation. In an attempt to learn more, I interviewed a few amazing pros that offered us some great insight.
Before we dive into their answers to my questions, let me introduce you to our pros. On the agency side, I spoke with Nicole Andino, a Marketing Coordinator for PAN Communications, and Merritt McNeely, Executive Vice President at Flock and Rally. To learn about the client-side, I talked with Madison Cavanaugh, a Demand Generation Specialist at OneTrust, and Hannah Cebula, a Branded Content Specialist at Audi of America.
Each of these impressive professionals were all asked direct questions involving perks to their jobs, their frustrations and what best prepared them for their roles. Read on to learn more about agency life and client-side work.
Agency vs. Client: Best parts of the job
What is the best part of your job?
Agency employees shared that what was more important to them was working for an agency that puts their employees’ mental health first and being able to work on multiple projects at a time. While client-side pros felt that the best part of their job is the relationships with coworkers that allow them to create great work for their brands.
Nicole Andino: “I’ve chosen an agency that puts people first, that is most important in searching for a job. Agencies do not need to be cutthroat, they need to care about people so I am fortunate I found one that does care about their employees well being.”
Merritt McNeely told us, “I have a very awesome job, from an agency standpoint, is the ability to work on so many different projects and clients. We do integrated marketing communications for all different types of companies. The diversity of work from the agency setting is exciting.”
Madison Cavanaugh shared, “I get to work with the same group of people day in and day out, so I get to build closer relationships with them. Being able to grow stable relationships with no delay in communication is a huge perk.”
Hannah Cebula indicated that, “I am surrounded by a team of people who want to produce beautiful work for our brand and to have fun while doing it. I work specifically in content production, so any time we’re on set for a production I feel like I have the best job in the world; and it’s so satisfying when we see the end product that our teams are able to bring to life.”
Agency vs. Client: Work Culture
Do you enjoy working for multiple accounts at once?
Both agency employees agreed that their workdays look different every day. There is always a new project to be working on.
Here’s what they expressed:
Nicole Andino explained that, “My favorite part is not having the same kind of day any day of the week. My job is always fresh and never boring. There is always something to do.”
Merritt McNeely stated, “Yes! It keeps things interesting. What makes things tough is for content creators to switch clients so quickly in creating content and switching tone and voice. Each client is different.”
Do you enjoy working for one client at a time?
Both Ms. Cavanaugh and Ms. Cebula enjoy working for an individual brand. They both stated they like being able to focus on one brand.
Madison Cavanaugh stated, “Working in-house in house, my clients are products. I sell the products and use internal branding to do it.”
Hannah Cebula shared with us, “I love it! Working for one brand at a time isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure is mine. The brand I work for keeps me busy enough that I couldn’t imagine adding another brand to the roster.”
Agency vs. Client: Prior Experience
What do you feel best prepared you for your job (other experiences in your education, internships, etc?)
Andino felt that PRSSA was helpful in making the connections she needed in the professional world. McNeely stated that hands-on real-world experiences were what she found most valuable in her development as a public relations professional. Cavanaugh worked within multiple internships at WVU while in school here, whileCebula worked in a year-long internship in Washington D.C. which ultimately led to her job now.
Nicole Andino said, “I was a part of the Public Relations Student Society of America, that was a fun way to start meeting people in the industry. Having a mentorship type of relationship with a professor in at least one course is important, too. My capstone course changed me for the better, I was insecure when I started and after getting hands-on experience I learned more than I could have asked for.”
Merritt McNeely told us, “Definitely not my education. The real-world experience I got right out of college prepared me. I was put in a leadership role immediately and had to adjust quickly. I am more likely to hire someone based on jobs or non-paid or paid internships.”
Madison Cavanaugh said, “I was a Martin Hall Agency student, and a teaching assistant for Public Relations and Advertising Writing. I did an internship at Kaiser Permanente with market research and analytics. I was also an intern for WVU Extension, where I worked on writing grants.”
Hannah Cebula explained to us, “I was lucky enough to start with my company fairly early on in my career. I graduated from WVU in 2016 and had a year-long internship with a tech association in the DC metro area working on their annual international trade show. My current employer was a member of the association, and because of that connection and my internship, they recruited me to be a content coordinator on their newly formed internal agency on their marketing team. I’ve been with them since 2017, and I’ve gotten to work in several different roles on their marketing team.”
Agency vs. Client: Frustrations
What are some frustrations you have in working for an agency?
Andino stated that working with many different types of personalities can be daunting at times. McNeely explained that sometimes a lack of preparation on the client’s end can be challenging to overcome. Both Cavanaugh and Cebula explained frustrations that all related back to the overall communication in working for one brand. Marketing teams are large for bigger brands and therefore connecting with everyone can be challenging.
Nicole Andino explained, “Working with all different types of people. You have to be direct, stay professional, and work with many different types of individuals. Knowing how to communicate your needs to your clients but know your boundaries at the same time.”
Merritt McNeely expressed to us, “The client’s lack of preparation always constitutes an emergency on our side. It does not always put us in the most fair position because the end goal is obviously to please clients.”
Madison Cavanaugh explained, “After graduating I worked on a really small team where I was one of three people. I dabbled in many areas of marketing because of how small the team was, then I moved to the company I’m at now, where there are 60 people on the marketing team. Because there are so many people working on the same product or for the same client, communication is hard. Overall, lack of communication on a larger team is a frustration.”
Hannah Cebula said, “My frustrations don’t come from working on one brand, but rather the complexities that come with working for an international brand, and I wouldn’t necessarily call them frustrations. There is an added layer of checks and balances that have to happen when working for an international brand – our global headquarters sets the global strategy, and we have to adapt the strategy to be successful in the US market. Ensuring that everything we do works in tandem with the global strategy, as well as our own market-specific strategy, can get very stressful. But that’s the reason I love working for my brand – I still have a fast-paced, ever-changing environment to work in while not having to split my attention between multiple brands.”
Do you feel overwhelmed in working for multiple clients at one time?
Both agency employees felt that working on multiple accounts at once is stressful and overwhelming.
Nicole Andino said to us, “At times yes. There are boundaries and balances that you need to learn how to manage in order to not be overwhelmed.”
Merritt McNeely explained, “Oh yes, absolutely. Oftentimes it was because of the unknowns. When I worked on multiple clients, it was the most complex clients in our agency. What makes it most difficult is when someone has an emergency. Agreeing to a rush job with a client is difficult.”
What do you think are common misconceptions about working for an agency?
Andino felt that new graduates looking for an agency to work for occasionally feel they may not have a voice in their agency. McNeely stated that clients commonly think an agency has one template to follow in regards to producing consumer engaging content and that agencies typically take an individual approach toward every client they are working with.
Nicole Andino shared with us, “Definitely that for recent graduates looking for jobs is that you do not have a voice. You should not have the mindset that you have to work your way up to receive respect.”
Merritt McNeely indicated, “That we charge a ton of money to crank out templatized work to clients where we give a product that is not customized. A lot of agencies are that way, but we do pretty customized work.”
Do you believe a benefit of working for one client is how deep you can dive into your work?
Both client professionals agreed that a great part of their job is that they can dive into their work deeply and have an in-depth understanding of their company.
Madison Cavanaugh indicated, “Definitely because you can focus solely on that client or on that product. It gives the opportunity to give more of a whole approach to things.”
Hannah Cebula shared with us, “Absolutely. I work in the automotive industry, and I’ve gained so much knowledge about an industry I knew nothing about when I started. All my focus is on this brand and how we can succeed in every project we work on. Automotive is one of the most complex industries to work in – at least from a marketing standpoint – so it’s a necessity that I keep my focus on our brand and our goals in order to ensure we reach them.”
Do you feel in working for one client you are hyper-focused on digital marketing?
Cavanaugh stated that all she does is digital marketing so she does feel hyper-focused on it. Cebula said that she does not feel hyper-focused on digital content because she does not always approach a new idea with the preconceived notion she will have to use digital marketing.
Madison Cavanaugh stated, “All we do is digital marketing, so yes. COVID-19 changed the way we market things, so especially after the pandemic, everything became digital.”
Hannah Cebula explained to us, “Thankfully, no. My focus is on brand and retail creative advertising, so part of my job is finding the right channels to push out the creative content. A lot of times that is through digital tactics – and I’m looping social media under digital with that – but sometimes the best channels for our creative are regional TV buys or email campaigns. Digital marketing plays a very important role in the marketing mix, but I never approach a project thinking that it must live through digital marketing. If that’s what makes sense for the project, then we’ll use it.”
Overall, all pros have very similar answers to each question. Agency employees seemed to value how their agency treats them and how varying their work day life is. The hands-on experiences that they are able to have access to provide them with better connections within their professional lives.
Individual client employees agree that the best part of their job is producing work that is helpful and beneficial to their brand in a creative and artistic way. Both agreed that being able to study their company in depth has aided in their ability to create content that increases sales.
Interviewing agency and individual client employees gave me a clearer understanding of the similarities and differences in the world of public relations, and I hope after reading this, you feel the same way too!