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Public relations

Public relations work covers everything from making sure the local paper is aware of a small charity's appeal, to co-ordinating a campaign to rebrand a global corporation as good for the environment and definitely not racist. So rates vary hugely. Here we list rates separately for "Project fees", "Writing and research" and "Editing and production" work. High-profile work in the first two categories can attract very much higher rates than does equivalent work for newspapers or magazines.

Public relations rates:
Public relations: advice...

Surveys of NUJ members working in public relations have found them working in government and public affairs, education, entertainment, health, industry and commerce, trade unions and political parties, not-for-profit organisations and charities.

Rates in public relations vary hugely. Here we massively simplify into "high budget" and "low budget" categories, which can be no more than guides. Note that some clients fall well above the "high budget" band. Freelances doing public relations work face the challenge of negotiating a decent rate for every job in every different set of circumstances.

Only some who work in public relations are press officers who wait to answer (or, sometimes, skilfully to defer answering) journalists' questions. The day-to-day work may involve pro-actively writing press releases, speeches or film scripts.

It could also involve producing brochures or annual reports or co-ordinating studio or location photography. It could involve "social media" work, whether responding to Tweets - which would be paid by the day - or strategising campaigns of short videos on TikTok or elsewhere, which is likely to be paid by the project.

It could include organising special events such as news conferences, conferences, or exhibitions.Public relations work of course makes extensive use of photographs - see the separate section with rates for Photography / Public relations.

This area of work commands higher prices than, for example, those charged by the reporters who receive press releases. It requires a more complex mix of skills and experience and, often, a far greater degree of responsibility than other sectors. Generally, while clients respect a journalistic background, in many cases they are looking for more, including specific PR experience and skill, knowledge and above all contacts in a particular sector.

Some clients will pay a "retainer" in return for a journalist being ready to drop everything and, for example, draft a statement responding to breaking news. We deal with these as "project fees".

Writing articles that require extensive research should be charged for by the hour, at the consultancy rate. The fee for specialist copy written by an expert should include a premium of at least 10 per cent extra.

Hidden costs

Although writing for in-house magazines may be paid per 1000 words, payment for freelance PR work is often by the day or hour, for complete jobs over weeks or months, or for a set number of stories or releases. It is vital to make a correct estimate of the amount of time needed for research and interviews.

Those who have been used to handing in one draft may find that they have to agree to and quote for several sets of revisions. This is particularly true of corporate and annual report work. Dealing with revisions may involve not just an exchange of texts but going in to meetings: cynics would say that meetings are what the kind of person who engages freelances to do PR produces - meetings are their "deliverable".

Professional indemnity insurance may be unavoidable in PR - particularly when carrying out corporate work and exhibitions. Freelances may also need to take out insurance against the entire print run of a brochure being pulped because of an error.

It may be less common for freelances to be hired as company or council spokespeople - the client would rather have someone on staff speaking for it. If it happens, see rates under Project fees.

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Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. The collection (database right) © National Union of Journalists. Comments to please. You may find the glossary helpful.

The National Union of Journalists must not, can not and would not wish to dictate rates or terms of engagement to members or to editors. The information presented here is for guidance and as an aid to equitable negotiation only.

Suggestions apply to contracts governed by UK law only. In any event, nothing here should be construed as legal advice.