What’s a PR professional relationship really look like?

I got a text message a couple of weeks ago from a friend out of state. She’s a business owner who operates a company providing STEM education to preschoolers. Hot business! She wants to grow it. Trouble is, she cannot find the right public relations company in her city. Her text to me said she was shopping around for a professional partner and asked for details on what to expect in a relationship. That’s not an easy text reply, so a phone call to her provided the following conversation to help her search (good information for any business leader):

First my friend asked what should show up on a PR professionals invoice? She assumed it’s similar to the legal profession. Yes, that’s true, but all PR professionals have different styles. Her prior PR professional was invoicing in 15 minute increments and that made her uncomfortable every time she called. She’d also been invoice for missing a phone call due to a family emergency (she did call 20 minutes late). She didn’t know that would show up on the invoice. I told her she needed to speak up to ensure a sound relationship. Ask questions. It’s the only way a relationship works.

So what does a relationship look like on an invoice? Our company has relationships with customers who pay for service by the hour, by the project or by retainer.

  • Hourly services typically are ad hoc and can create a hair-raising experience when the client gets the invoice. A few clients still request this arrangement. That ok. We believe in giving the customer what they want.
  • Projects are scoped and very focused on the task requested.
  • Retained clients have a plan and we act as an extension of the client’s team. We have focused goals and provide regular status reports with details on progress reports.

Every client has different needs and goals, so these options are just that-options. I told my friend to ask about how someone would invoice her explaining as the customer she has the right to know.

Speaking of invoices, ask your potential public relations professional how they invoice. If you have an ongoing relationship, invoices should be issued with regularity and there should be no surprises. An agreement should outline frequency of invoices. The invoice should state what you’re being billed for in time increments. For example, two hours of time to research and write a news release.

Planning ahead is key, I told my friend. She has critical ongoing communications and projects she is asking someone to manage—branding, website development/design, newsletters and social media, to name a few. A plan does not need to be reams of paper. It needs to be a blueprint that allows her and the pr professional to manage the work in partnership.

She asked, where do I find a good pr professional who is honest and ethical? I did a quick internet search and found her local PRSA website. The Public Relations Society of America board for her city has several independent public relations professionals listed. Small business owner’s do well with sole practitioners, so the match seemed to make good sense.

My friend let me know late last week that she’s met with someone who seems to be a good fit. The possible new pr professional partner is drafting a plan to derive a summary of the relationship. This will serve as her blueprint for work and invoicing and the overall relationship.

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