Freelance PR or employeeIf you are seeking additional public relations support, will you engage the services of a freelance PR, interim or independent PR practitioner?  Is there a difference in the value they add, or do they just have different titles?

In the eleven years that I have been self-employed, I have realised that to the people who outsource PR activity, clarification of the different types of PR person out there would be useful as there are fundamental differences.  I see these as:

Freelance PR

Generally, freelance PRs are coal-face workers.  If you know what you need to do and need someone to make this happen, a freelance PR will fit the bill.  They are engaged as flexible additional manpower by PR agencies and in-house teams.  Some freelance PRs choose this way of working as a career, others as a stop-gap between permanent roles.  They tend to fill the more junior positions and you can find them via specialist recruitment agencies or via job adverts.

Interim PR

Interim PRs are usually more senior in both age and experience than those who are freelance.  They are generally engaged for a minimum of 6 months and for specific one-off projects or to maintain business-as-usual, for example, to cover a long-term absence such as maternity cover.  They will be able to set strategy and manage the implementation and a team of staff.  They have their own contacts through which they find work and obtain referrals, but you can also find them through specialist interim recruitment agencies.

Independent PR

These are at the most senior level and extremely valuable when it comes to third party counsel and strategic insight.  You should not think of these people as staff, but as contracted consultants.  They will hit the ground running and need no supervision.  They will likely trade as a limited company, be VAT registered and have their own website and blog.  You will unlikely find them via a recruitment agency as they compete on the same level as a public relations agency, but are more flexible in relation to your requirements.

CIPR and Independent PR Practitioners

In the summer of 2014, I took part in a round-table at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) to discuss how they could best serve the growing number of self-employed PR practitioner members.  Initiatives are underway which are all good news for those of us trading as individuals and I will report back as and when these are announced, so look out for more posts on this blog.

UPDATE on Monday 2nd March 2015

There was a #CIPRCHAT on 27th February 2015 for solo PRs. Independent PR practitioners make up around 10% of UK PR, working as freelance PRs, in contract and interim roles or as independent consultants. This tweetchat explored why public relations professionals go it alone, how they establish their businesses, find clients and win work, and the key challenges and opportunities of working as independents.  Read the Storify of this chat created by fellow Independent PR, Paul Wilkinson.

  • If you are involved in the procurement of public relations resources, what do you think of these definitions?  Do they work for you?  Do they fit with your experience?
  • If you are a PR practitioner, what do you think about these definitions?  What does your experience tell you?