What is a public relations contract?
A public relations contract is the formal written agreement between a PR freelancer/ agency and their client. A PR contract governs the business relationship and outlines expectations for all involved parties, as well as important deadlines and guidelines for the working relationship.
The contract is both an opportunity for those in the business relationship to get on the same page about the scope of the public relations work, but it also serves as an important reference if either party were to breach the agreement.
When a public relations contract is breached, the harmed party has legal recourse to terminate the contract or to try to enforce it in a court of law. Since freelancers or PR agency owners are not employees of the businesses they partner with to provide public relations services, a contract is essential for clarifying each party’s role in the relationship and the rights available to all stakeholders.
Note: We’ve reviewed thousands of public relations contract templates, and we know what needs to be included to make it watertight! Start editing your PR contract template here for free.
What to include in the public relations contract
A public relations agreement should always specify the terms of the working arrangement, the fees to be paid, and how disputes or other such problems will be handled. Specificity is important in the event that you need to refer back to the contract in the future. The biggest pitfall in many contract disputes are unclear terms that are construed differently by each party.
Scope of Work
The scope of work portion of the agreement includes the basis of the relationship, whether it’s a one-time project or an ongoing retainer situation with potential customers. The scope of the work covers:
- The name of the freelancer or PR agency and the names of the clients/their company
- The volume of work, whether that’s hours per week/month or milestones
- The costs for services, including how any additional work not scoped in the contract will be requested and/or paid for by the client
- What the freelancer is responsible for
- Explanations of key terms like “awareness”, “visibility”, or “media coverage”
- Explanations of anything that is limited, like the amount of time the consultant will spend on calls with the client each month
Clients seek out help with public relations to improve the visibility of their business and domain authority in their area of expertise. The scope of work section of the PR agreement, though, clearly explains what this looks like in the day to day.
Common PR services include event coverage, general social media PR needs, and pitching and media placements. Most templates will cover this, but it’s always important to confirm whether the freelance public relations contract template you’ve chosen contains this part before you settle for it. In case your pre agreement template doesn’t have this, you can opt for another template or simply fix it in the one you have.
Spoiler alert: Bonsai’s public relations contract template does include this.
How the client will assist with the business relationship
If the client is responsible for providing the consultant with requested details, such as contact for previous agents, branding guidelines, pitches, or access to third parties, make sure this is specified in the contract.
The reason to include this is to avoid situations in which the client perceives you to have failed to comply with the arrangement over the course of working together. If this is because you were not provided the information needed to execute on your responsibilities, you can call the client’s attention to these issues as outlined in the contract. A PR consultant needs this in writing signed by the client so that the client understands the role they play in the overall success.
Specific deadlines and dates
If the working arrangement is for a limited time or requires completion of milestones by set-in-stone dates, that information should be listed in your public relations contract template. For example, if a PR freelancer provides a book launch service, the date of the book launch should be explained in the contract, as well as any other key dates in accordance with a publisher’s own deadlines or the client’s wishes.
If a client is signing a contract in advance to hold their spot, the PR contract should list the date on which the contract will be active.
As a freelancer, you must analyze the tasks you’re required to carry out and let the client know how long it will take you to complete them. Don’t be too ambitious when filling out this section in your freelance public relations contract template. Remember, to maintain a good relationship with your client you must be able to deliver on time. Therefore, only set milestones that both you and your team can achieve. If it helps, include bands of time such as “within the first month” or “in 1-2 months” to allow some room for unforeseen issues.
Payment terms are some of the most important aspects of any contracts signed with a company or other party. It’s in good business form to capture these details upfront. Without clearly explaining your own payment terms and getting the client to agree in writing, some clients will default to their existing company payment terms, such as paying at the conclusion of a project or paying by check within 90 days.
When it comes to payment terms, consider including verbiage such as:
- If you require payment through ACH or credit
- If payment is required upfront, through a series of milestones, or spread throughout the project
- The deadline the client has from receiving your invoice to submitting payment, such as 14 days
Responsibility for third party obligations
If certain aspects of the public relations campaign will be handled by the client or another third party, the freelancer should call this out in the public relations contract template. For example, a graphic designer working for the firm might have final authority on the creation of a media kit the PR consultant will use to pitch the company’s founder.
The PR consultant might include a contract statement about expected turnaround time for review of these materials. The primary purpose of doing this is to get all parties on the same page about the working arrangement and to give the freelancer some freedom from worry about being held up by any third parties who have not fulfilled their responsibilities.
Other protective clauses for public relations services contracts
Protecting yourself in a PR contract is important for any PR consultant. Your public relations contract, therefore, should include elements such as:
- A termination clause allowing you to end the contract and working relationship with reasonable notice
- A late payment clause that gives you the right to withhold services or charge a late fee if the client does not pay within a clearly specified period
- A clause giving you approval to share examples of your work or the client’s name in your marketing and publicity for your own pr business
- A clause waiving a guarantee or specific outcomes such as stating that the freelancer does not promise a certain amount of website traffic or placement in specific publications
How to write a public relations contract
A winning proposal for a PR project is the baseline for the contract all customers will sign if the proposal is accepted. It’s key to have an existing public relations contract template that covers all of the basics while also allowing some room for customization based on the needs of each client.
Writing a public relations contract from scratch is overwhelming and leaves a lot of room for error, but starting with a template speeds up the process.
Find out exactly what the client wants
Use your discovery call with the client to determine what is most important to them. This includes if they seek specific outcomes like a certain number of media interviews, coverage or a specific timeframe for public relations services.
Most companies seek the same broad goals when outsourcing to a public relations services freelancer like a positive image in the press and media interviews. However, the more you can discuss potential outcomes and goals with the client, the better the chances of a happy client. To get the specifics, ask questions like:
- What is the size of the market and who are your competitors?
- Who is the audience you want to reach?
- What does success look like to you?
Ask questions relating to project scope during the call so that you can document them in your notes and reference them again in account proposals and contracts. These include:
- What have you achieved so far with public relations?
- What would be the most important 1-2 communication priorities for your business in terms of visibility in the next few months?
- What would be your dream media placement?
- How do you measure success with PR efforts?
Your conversation during the discovery call might alert you to the importance of setting expectations with a business client.
If the client seeks to obtain media interviews with national television programs but currently has little to no visibility at your contract effective date, you might not want to guarantee you can achieve that milestone immediately. If you do provide guarantees, your contract should specify the terms of the guarantee as explicitly as possible.
For example, you might include in your statement of work a section like this:
“Freelancer will write two press releases per month for the client, guaranteeing that at least one of them is picked up by a national newswire. If the newswire does not pick up the press release, Client will be refunded 10% of their retainer expense.”
You can outline this in your PR contract as well.
Highlight what sets you apart
Once you know what the client wants, explain the ‘how’ of the working relationship in the contract to showcase what sets you apart. This might be a proprietary process or access to your personal database of contacts or simply the systems and software you use behind the scenes to help accomplish the goals laid out in the scope of work.
As a freelancer or agency owner in the trade of public relations, there are many ways to set yourself apart from the competition. This is known as your unique value proposition. If you’re stuck on what makes you stand out, look back at past testimonials from other businesses you have worked with or ask previous clients for testimonials.
Here are a few other ways you can make a real impact on your potential clients in your public relations contract and proposals:
- Excellent communication abilities, such as guaranteed fast response times
- Willingness to think outside the box
- Familiarity with emerging new media trends
- Sliding scale fees based on results
- Monthly or weekly reports shared with the client
- Particular expertise in an industry
Ideally, you will already have told the client about these unique differentiators in your proposal, but it helps to highlight them again in your contract. Seeing all the benefits or ease of working with you can increase the chances they will sign the contract.
Creating a public relations contract is simple with Bonsai
If your client requests any chances to your public relations contract template, read through the entire agreement carefully if they inserted the text themselves. You need to understand what you’re signing and agreeing to at the start of the relationship so that everyone knows what is expected of everyone else.
Creating your own public relations contract template with Bonsai is easy and has multiple benefits:
- Our tool guides you through the creation process, providing you with editable inputs to build your PR contract template with ease
- A contract template created by you is much more likely to favor your interests than one a client’s legal team has drafted for you to sign
- You immediately claim credibility and professionalism with your public relations services by having a branded contract ready to go after your proposal is accepted
- You can remove elements not relevant to your services from a template public relations agreement and customize others
- You don’t need to hire an attorney to draft the entire agreement since a contract template will include all the most important written elements pre-loaded for you
Note: If you’re ready to start editing your PR contract template for free, just sign up here and you’ll have your watertight document ready in minutes.
Public relations contract FAQs
Should I put a deadline on my contract proposal?
Creating a public relations contract template after going through a sales call is a lot of work, especially when the agency or freelancer hasn’t gotten paid yet. As a way to give yourself freedom to change your pricing in the future and to encourage the client to take action, you might add a deadline.
A contract or proposal statement such as “All pricing and guaranteed availability for pr services expires 14 calendar days from the date the contract is sent.” This makes it easier for freelancers to follow up when the deadline is approaching, too.
What if the client wants adjustments to my PR contract template?
In the best case scenario, a client signs the PR contract as is. However, it’s not uncommon for a client to ask questions about certain elements of the contract or to request changes. Review any amendments carefully before inserting them into your PR consultant contract. Remember that all things are up for negotiation, but you can also decide when a client’s ask is too big.
What about liabilities incurred?
In most contracts involving public relations, the freelancer or agency providing services will waive liability for legal liability issues that emerge as a result of the relationship. As an extra precaution for those instances where the client wants some sort of liability protection, the agency or freelancer could obtain errors and omissions insurance coverage.