Q: After 12 years of corporate PR in New York, I moved to a very
small town in the Southwest and started my own shop. (I moved for
personal reasons.) Because it's tough to get started in a small town,
I've been subcontracting and pitching stories for other PR firms. I have
obtained two placements on NBC's Today using my contacts. My hourly rate
doesn't seem adequate compensation for such great placements but I'm new
to this. Help! How should I be billing other PR firms for my freelance
Ms. T, Phoenix
A: It varies, of course, depending on what kind of work you are doing
and for whom. You might imagine that larger agencies would pay more, but
that's not necessarily true. The bigger agencies can often be the
tightest on costs.
I called around and discovered that for media relations work you should
be charging something in the region of dollars 65 an hour (or around
dollars 500 a day).
For straight writing you could charge a little more - up to dollars 85
You might have to recast these numbers if you're being handed an entire
project, but the day rate should still hold.
You will be in a better position to negotiate a good rate if the agency
calls you in before they have finalized details of the project with the
client. Once the work is arranged, the agency is more likely to be
firmer on their budget and to have less to throw in your direction.
As for worrying that your great placements are under-appreciated,
remember that your early freelancing is so important for marketing
yourself. What you may lose in cash now you'll make up later once your
reputation for getting stories placed gets around.
Q: I'm going for an interview next week and wondered how I should handle
the tricky subject of salary? To what extent is it reasonable to lie
about my current salary? How and when should I bring the subject up? I
don't want to appear too money-oriented.
Ms. R, San Francisco
A: Lie? What kind of PR exec are you? I'm shocked ...
Seriously though, everyone inflates their current salary a little when
going for another job - the key is to keep it reasonable and you'll
minimize the risk of being found out. If you know you're underpaid in
your current job, then it makes sense to quote a more reasonable figure
when you go for interviews. Check out PRWeek's recent salary survey for
an idea of what the market rate is for your level (PRWeek, March
As for when to bring the subject up, most interviewers are likely to
mention it themselves by asking you either how much you're getting, or
how much you want (better for you as you can simply name your price). If
you're nervous about naming too high a salary, don't be. Employers are
more likely to respect you being gutsy about how much you think you're
worth. At more senior levels, they even expect a bit of negotiating. Aim
high at the start and bear in mind that you'll probably have to drop
back a bit.
The important thing is to be clear about your expectations regarding
your salary, says Jean Allen, senior partner in Heidrick & Struggles'
communications group. 'The key to good leadership is to communicate with
force and grace and that applies in this situation. You need to make
sure early on that you are both in the same salary range. Don't leave
that first interview without having brought up money.'
- Got a problem that no one else can help with? Try Pandora. E-mail her
at pandora@ prweek.com.