The Detox: 5 Stages of Transitioning From Agency Life to In-House PR

This is a guest post by Tyson Olcott, public relations manager at CLEARLINK.

detox2This is a guest post by Tyson Olcott, public relations manager for CLEARLINK, a digital marketing and sales company. 

Like many communications professionals with a degree hot off the press, I began my career at an advertising agency as a public relations coordinator.

Life at your first agency is fun, fast-paced and full of challenges. But, I will be honest–it’s not for everyone, and it’s not as glamorous as Mad Men has chalked it up to be. It takes a special type of person to be able to survive in that cut-throat world.

Which is why many (including myself) decide to seek greener pastures. I chose to leave agency life because I began to lose my passion for public relations and wanted to find a way to renew it. I might even go as far as to compare my transition from agency life to in-house public relations to a detox, or a cleanse. Along those lines, I give you the five stages of agency detox for PR professionals.


The Five Stage Agency Cleanse:

1. Shock and Denial
When you begin a new job in-house, it will take some time to adjust to this new world (and believe me, it is a new world). Not unlike a cleanse, the adjustment to a new way of life can be a shock and quite an adjustment. Cutting yourself off from the fast-paced energy of agency life is tough.

My tip for you is to take each day as it comes. You have to remember that you’re in a completely different world and should handle it as such. Your worth as an employee doesn’t have to be evaluated by whether you’re putting in 80-hour weeks—enjoy your free time and use your less-stressful workdays to let your creative juices flow, rather than putting out fires.

2. Pain and Guilt
Leaving agency life and entering into the world of in-house public relations can be tough. If you’ve ever gone through a juice cleanse or become a vegetarian cold turkey, you know what I’m talking about—it’s painful.

Those first 30 days, your brain still craves the rush of agency life. You arrive at your new in-house job every day on edge, ready to take on whatever comes at you with the same ferocity that you did before. It can be painful to slow down, but by the end of those 30 days you begin to adjust and find your own rhythm.

Once you reach that point, it’s time to find ways to merge both worlds and discover what makes you happy. Instead of simply taking whatever is thrown at you on a given day, you can be the person who drives initiatives, comes up with ideas and finds holes to fill within your organization’s PR strategy.

3. Anger
After stages one and two, there comes a side effect: frustration. Everyone takes things at their own pace, and I’m no stranger to that. The main difference between agency life and in-house work are the deadlines. This can be frustrating when you have tight deadlines to hit, and but it’s difficult to get everyone on board with you. But this can also be a breath of fresh air when you need it the most, giving you a chance to really enhance your skills and focus on your work.

Now is your chance to take things slow, focusing on your skills and work, and beginning to find your own pace. This is your opportunity to shine and challenge yourself. If you’re finding that deadlines are viewed differently, be the one to change that. Own the project from start to finish and add to your skillset.

4. Expression
During this point in my detox, I found myself going through an expansionary period, rather than a period of depression, like some do when detoxing. As you’re reading this and possibly thinking about making the transition for yourself, I suggest finding ways to express yourself outside of work and to continue working on your skillsets.

When I made the transition, I found that I had more time to do what I enjoyed after work. I was able to reconnect with people I was otherwise “too busy” to connect with before. When you’re no longer chained to your phone or email, there’s a lot of freedom to explore new skills or hobbies.

If you’re making the transition from agency life to in-house PR, you’ll find that you have more time on your hands to think proactively instead of reactively. In agency life, I always felt like I was playing catch-up with my clients, never being able to think strategically. Since I’ve made the switch, I’ve found that I can focus and hone my skillsets and provide my company with strategic insight.

Here’s the point where you have to switch your programmed agency brain and begin to think proactively. Build upon your strengths and focus on your weaknesses. If you know your writing can be a weakness, work on it! You now have the time to do so. Challenge yourself to find areas where you lack confidence and push yourself to work on them.

5. Reflection
At this point in my transition, I began to reflect and find ways to merge both worlds. I don’t look back at my time in agency life and think “I’m glad to be done with that.” I look back and see all the great lessons agency life has taught me and how I will carry those lessons with me throughout my career.

Take what you loved from agency life and find ways to incorporate that to your new job. One piece that I brought with me to in-house public relations was the idea of agendas, recaps and how to appropriately run meetings. I found that I was able to help my team become more efficient by implementing some of the operating procedures I learned in agency life.

The Aftermath:

Some people thrive off agency life and will be there until retirement. Others will bounce in and out from agency to in-house, getting the thrill that agency life provides and slowing down when their lives require it. But like with any detox, cleanse, or breakup, there comes a point where you begin to wake up and see things clearly for the first time and you learn what you will take with you in the future.

Whether you’re thinking about making the switch, you’re currently in that transition period, or you’re at a loss about what to do next, I challenge you to try both and find what works for you. Change can be a tool to help you find your sweet spot. But always remember to never lose sight of your passions.

Have you experienced the agency life detox? I’d love to hear your stories, so comment below and tell me about your experience.


Tyson Olcott, public relations manager at CLEARLINK, a digital marketing and sales company. Tyson transitioned from media relations for national fast-casual dining and entertainment clientele to the digital marketing and sales world in Salt Lake City. You can find Tyson on LinkedIn or Twitter.