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The Statement of Work

The Public Relations Procurement Toolkit is published by the Joint PR Profession Panel on Procurement
Researched and compiled by Tom Wells, a member of both the PRCA and CIPR.

This is one of a series of modules that together comprise the PR Procurement Toolkit - a joint initiative of the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the Kent branch of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS), and the Central Office of Information (COI).

The Toolkit as a whole is designed to help clients of the PR industry - in functions including Marketing and Procurement - and their suppliers, including agencies and other service providers, to work together to maximise the value delivered by PR people and PR activity.  The modules within the Toolkit are independent but interlinked, each covering a specific stage of the client/supplier relationship.

Module 5: The Statement of Work

Whatever form it takes, the 'Statement of Work' is the foundation of any successful commercial transaction.

It describes in clear, precise and mutually understood terms:
• what services or goods will be provided
• in what quantity and /or of what quality
• by whom and to whom
• when
• for how much, and how payment will be made

Unfortunately, relationships in the PR world often start with no proper Statement of Work (SoW). Sometimes - if only through good luck - no harm is done; on other occasions, the result is confusion, conflict and the wasted time, effort and money of both the client and the supplier.

The tendency to start work without a SoW may be due to the fact that the client, the supplier or both find it difficult to describe precisely what outcome a given PR activity will have. This is a mistake because an effective SoW specifies the inputs and outputs involved in an activity, and not the outcome. The outcome may be difficult to describe - such is the nature of marketing and communications - but while it may be a factor in a 'payment by results' agreement, it is not an appropriate element of the SoW.

In terms of process, the SoW normally sits between the legal Contract or Master Agreement (which governs the client/supplier relationship) and the Purchase Order (which is the legal authority to pay the supplier) and it should therefore be seen as a document with legal standing. While this makes it even more vital to ensure the SoW is properly drafted, it does not mean that developing a SoW for each project or transaction should be daunting or require the involvement of a lawyer or legal expert, regardless of the size of the project concerned.

If client and supplier are both clear about what is required, a SoW should be a relatively simple document to create. The format and content may vary, but there are certain elements - outlined below - that should always be included. Addressing each of these points will not guarantee success, but failing to address them will, to one extent or another, prevent it.

In preparing a SoW, it is worth bearing two points in mind.

First, each successive SoW you create will make the next one easier, partly because you will soon build up a 'library' of definitions and clauses which you can simply 'cut and paste' - obviously taking care to ensure that the precise phrasing of previously-used material is still appropriate.

And second, if you are finding it difficult to create a SoW for any given project, it may be an indication that either the client or supplier - or both - has not fully understood or agreed the requirement.

It is precisely because creating a SoW imposes the need for complete and mutual clarity between client and supplier that it is such an essential process and document.

This is especially the case in the world of PR, where inputs and outputs, as well as outcomes, are often - wrongly - thought to be intangible or unmeasurable