How to Thrive Beyond Agencies: the Best Tips from 4 In-house Communications Experts

On April 26, four communications professionals from CBS News, Dow Jones, The Huffington Post, and Univision joined FindSpark’s Find & Follow Your Passion event to speak at the panel titled: The Inside Job: Career Beyond Agencies, and shared their best tips on acing at in-house communications positions.

Understand the Key Difference

“In-house has a full picture about the company. It’s knowledgable about the company, understands the management, and acts according to expectations and visions of different departments.” – Colleen Schwartz, Director of Communications, Dow Jones

In-house vs. Agencies? They seem to do similar work but function as different entities, what are the essentials to ace it in an in-house work environment? Moderator Paola Hernandez, Corporate Communications Manager at Univision, brought up the pressing question shared by many young creatives.

Jessica Hanks, now a director of communications at The Huffington Post, compared and contrasted her experience in both worlds and concluded the difference largely lies in their approaches. Agencies execute what clients have set their minds to do and try their best to achieve the desired results; in-house, on the other hand, usually involves a long-term planning and cultivating partnerships with different departments.

Build the “Communications” Personalities

“In-house works closely with PR and reporters. It’s essential to be able to deal with reporters of all kinds of personalities.” – Weesie Vieira, Publicist, CBS News

What personalities matter in a communications career? Weesie, Publicist at CBS News, says it’s important to show that you are reliable enough to be put on the phone with clients. And as you stay in the industry, you are able to forge and nurture relationships with other players whose work is closely associated with yours, such as PR, journalist, etc.

In addition, being able to manage expectations, seek creative paths to reach out, and oversee projects from beginning to end are the pieces involved in an in-house communications professional’s day-to-day life.

Develop the Essential Skills 

“In-house nowadays is very hungry for social media knowledge” – Jessica Hanks, Director of Communications, The Huffington Post

A bulk of the four panelists’ daily responsibilities involve pitching. Developing the research skills for pitches, knowing who you are pitching to, and being able to put a pitch together would bring enormous value to the team you work for.

In addition, social media skills are very much needed nowadays. Your knowledge for social media should go beyond just knowing their features and functions, but to demonstrate a thorough understanding of how to create engaging content, build social media communities,and establish a positive image for your organization.

The Frequently Asked Interview Questions 

Colleen believes a reading is essential in a communications job. Knowing what’s happening that day and how real-time messages should be delivered is the founding stone of everything else. She always asks:

“What’s your morning reading routine?”

“Where would you break WSJ news?”

Weesie emphasizes motivation and personality. Her interview questions tend to gear towards understanding the situations the candidate was in at her previous roles and how she handled them.

Jessica likes to learn the candidate’s interest in HuffPost, so she always asks:

“What’s interesting you’ve read recently on HuffPost?”

Additionally, always do your research beforehand to try to understand the environment, structure, and missions of the organization you’re interviewing with. Hone your questions over the course of the interview to figure out what’s expected from the role, what kind of support this role needs to provide, and the vision of the department.

What questions were you asked if you’ve been interviewed for an in-house communications position? Share with us in the comments.


About the Author

Ariel is an Online Marketing Associate at USAWeb and a proud alumna of NYU. Follow her on twitter @arielmsun and visit her website at

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