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From in-house to agency

Charlotte Knott

Account Director

How I swapped the glitz of in-house luxury fashion PR for the world of agency PR and working with some of the world's most creative minds

If movies and TV are to be believed, luxury fashion PR is all gloss, glitz and rubbing shoulders with celebs on the daily: something many would assume would be hard to give up. But after more than a decade working in that world, four years ago I made the leap from in-house PR to agency. It turns out the reality of agency life is just as exciting; and that the skills you need to be great in-house translate seamlessly to agency life.

Power in numbers

Even for large brands, in-house PR teams often only consist of around six to ten people – sometimes, in my experience, they can be even smaller. That means there’s a lot fewer people to explore ideas with with and learn from. Our current team sits at around 20 people, which means a lot more brains to collaborate with!

Small teams, in my experience, can also mean less opportunity for progression. There are fewer ‘layers’ in-house compared to agency, and this often doesn’t reflect the vast amount of experience you gain year in, year out. The nuances and differences between say, an account executive and a senior account executive often go unnoticed in-house, where you might be the equivalent of a ‘press officer’ for a number of years, despite the fact your knowledge has increased substantially within that time.

The juggle

One thing that has always set me in good stead is being used to the juggle – yes, in-house you might only have one ‘client’ per se, but managing the needs and goals of many internal teams and stakeholders means keeping many people happy simultaneously. You have to be flexible and adaptable, just as you do when keeping the plates spinning working with a number of different clients in agency life.

Empathy is imperative

The experiences I had working with external agencies when I was in-house proved invaluable to my move agency-side. Over the years I worked with seven different agencies as the client – regional, crisis comms, influencer and international – and was often the person signing off the invoice.

I often think back now to what I’d find acceptable as the client – what I’d consider value for money, and how I’d like my agency team to be spending their hours. It might seem obvious that attention to detail is a given in the comms industry, but you’d be surprised at how many PR reports I clicked open to find typos, incorrect figures, and wrong house fonts. These might seem like basic things, or so small as to be insignificant, but they make all the difference: sloppy errors don’t fly with clients that may have just pitched to Google or Meta earlier that day.

Mixing it up

You just won’t find the sheer variety in both sector and experience that agency clients offer anywhere else. I've never learned so much in such a short space of time as I have working with experts in design and brand strategy. Their work covers everything from booze to broadcasters, art galleries to charities, tech giants to food brands.

I often leave client calls absolutely mind blown at the work they’ve just briefed me on. One day you’ll be talking about the redemption arc of Barbie, and the next, the tricky relationship between AI and tactility in design.

Sure, fashion has its glamorous side. But by being completely integrated into our clients’ work in brand design, we get a front row seat into how some of the sharpest and most creative minds are tackling the biggest challenges facing us today: design isn’t just what we see, it’s what we do, and how we do it – it shapes every interaction we have with the world. And right now, that feels every bit as thrilling as a glitzy red carpet bash.

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