Betty or Veronica? Bo or Luke? Marianne or Ginger? These are the eternal questions that we ponder at various times in our lives – mulling over our answers for clues to the meaning of life and seeking to better understand others through analyzing their answers.

OK…maybe that’s just me. Hopefully, most people are mulling deeper thoughts unrelated to TV characters.

In PR, the age-old question is agency or in-house? Like wizard wands that share twin cores, communications professionals are united regardless of what environment we work in often operating in a parallel universe or living vastly different lives.

I was reminded of this when I ran into a PR friend at yoga last week. We stopped and chatted after class and she raved about her new corporate communications position – typically steady, consistent, peaceful. In the PR world, her job is Marianne – very attractive in a safe, deep, dependable way.

Then she asked about my work – typically variable, mercurial, fickle. Agency life (including it’s little sister, consulting) is like a party that lasts all night – thrilling, but exhausting. In the PR world, agency life is Ginger: very attractive in an ardent, sexy, risque way that makes you think the relationship can’t last.

We laughed (she laughed, I may have grimaced) at the differences.

When you work for a corporation, you get an office, a title, and maybe an assistant. Then you get to settle in and begin to nest. You have one client and you are on salary. Your pace of life changes and not only can you stop to smell the roses (remember: happy people make better employees) you are able to think more deeply and broadly about your company. You begin to live in your industry and your roots deepen. You can settle into a predictable schedule that allows you to execute effectively on a daily basis, but also frees your mind so you can focus on new ideas and the future. The problem is that too much consistency and safety can create boring, predictable communications people. Corporate PR has to be careful to keep it’s Marianne mojo from getting old and frumpy.

When you work for an agency (or as a consultant) you have to hustle. All that seems to matter is bringing in new clients and meeting hourly billable goals. You are juggling multiple accounts and have to be an expert in three (or thirteen) different industries at the same time. You have to get into a topic quickly, figure out who you need to know, make some connections, and then move on. Your energy, excitement and fear spark your creativity and running on all of that angst makes you crackle with creativity. But it’s hard to run that hot all the time and you have to be careful that your Ginger mojo doesn’t move from wild to wacked-out.

I always saw myself as a Marianne. I love the pace of corporate life. I was never comfortable being sexy or flashy. I was born to nest and I thrive in stable, predictable environments. But life, as it often does, had other plans for me. Personally and professionally, I have changed from a Marianne to a Ginger. I was consistent and predictable, but am now wild and wacky. I am probably running too hot, but am crackling with excitement. I’ve ditched my turtleneck habit and started wearing tight jeans, as my mall-mom persona has faded away and my inner hot-mama has been revealed. It’s the same with work. I’ve traded weekly staff meetings for learning to run my own business. I have a title, but I’m the only full-time employee. There is no salary and I don’t have time to nest, but I always get to take lunch whenever I want to.

I think a tiny part of me, I mean Marianne, will always want to be Ginger – even though the results were disastrous on TV.  But I think that Ginger will always secretly wish she could wipe off that red lipstick and flop around in ripped jeans. For PR folks, some of us will always have multiple personalities – part of us drawn by the excitement of agency life, while part of us yearns for the safety of corporate positions. I guess that’s why some become consultants. We are trying to nurture both personalities.

So, which would you pick: Marianne or Ginger? In-house or Agency? Pepsi or Coke?

Me? I’ll take a bit of all of them, please. Thanks for visiting. ~ Jules

9 thoughts on “Agency or In-House? The Marianne & Ginger of PR

  1. First, your dad sounds like one of the cool dads who neighborhood kids wanted to hang out with, so there’s that.

    Second, this is one of the best posts you’ve ever written. EVER. This is a great distillation of the difference between corporate and freelance communications. Great job.

  2. First, Thank you Jules & WRP! While I think that you (Jules)have been blessed with Designer Genes on both sides of the family, I gotta say that you are taking it to the next level! I get the feeling that you are busting loose from the Collective Unconscious, as Jung would put it!

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