CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

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

an hour.

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@

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