Polaris has been in business for over 13 years and in that time we’ve only had one client who refused to pay.

We did a good job for them but the organization was run by a rather strange individual who I later learned had a reputation for not paying his bills.

In the end, we sued the company and won. Our saving grace when we went to court was a signed contract outlining the deliverables and payment terms.

Lesson learned?

Every formal business arrangement requires a contract and the relationship between a client and its PR agency is no different. A contract protects both of you in case things go wrong or your business situation changes and the agency’s services are no longer required.

Some large organizations have template contracts prepared by their legal team and purchasing departments, but if you’re a small to medium-sized enterprise it’s really not necessary. The PR agency will have a standard letter of agreement their clients are required to sign off on before any work can commence.

If you haven’t worked with a PR agency before here are the six must have items the contract should include:

#1 Scope of work:

The scope of work outlines the work your agency will do on your behalf. Whether it’s a simple, one-off project or a more complex arrangement, the deliverables should be specified.

If the details of your agency’s work plan are still fairly high level, that’s OK. It’s not essential that all of your i’s are dotted or your t’s are crossed. Outline the general ‘buckets’ of work your PR agency will tackle and indicate that detailed plans are still to be developed.

#2 Contract time period

The beginning and end dates of the contract must be specified.

#3 Termination clause

While your PR agency would love to have a guaranteed contract for the next year, it’s more realistic to include an escape clause, typically 30 days.

#4 Budget and billing procedures

The agency will want up front agreement on when they’re going to bill and the payment terms–and you’ll also want to know what to expect.

#5 Signature

Both agency and client need to sign the agreement to make it official.

Bonus tips

There are a few additional items clients sometimes specify in their contracts with PR agencies.

Agency personnel

Clients don’t like it when PR agencies ‘bait and switch.’ This practice happens when heavy hitters (EG senior staff) are brought in to pitch a piece of business but are never again seen by the client.

It’s a good practice to outline the key staff who will be working on your business as long as you understand that turnover is a fact of life in the agency world.

Confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)

At times we are asked to sign an NDA prior to pitching a client, especially if confidential details about the client will be shared with us prior to meeting with them. At other times, a clause is included in the final contract, outlining that we will not divulge or disclose any information that’s deemed confidential.

Conflict of interest

As far as I’m concerned it goes without saying that a PR agency will never work with two clients that are competitors of one another or who represent some sort of conflict. Nevertheless, some clients are more comfortable spelling out the details of competitive organizations with whom the PR agency should not be working.


What items do you include in contracts with suppliers or clients?




Written by Shelley Pringle