How do you get samples when you’ve been writing for a firm?

I've been writing press releases as a contractor for a PR company for a number of years and just launched my own business. I'm working on putting together a portfolio on my website and want to include samples of past releases I've done for the firm. Do I need to get permission from the companies the releases are about, or just the firm's permission? They don't seem to be very clear on what is the correct etiquette. And if they don't want me to post them on my website, can I still say something like "samples upon request?"

My other question is about formatting samples. The firm usually takes the press release, inserts graphics, and some other non-release related info. Should I ask for this finished copy to use as a sample, or can I use the text version (which looks more like a classic release)?
They're my biggest client, so I don't want to burn any bridges, but I would like to post some samples to hopefully attract other paying clients.

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I'm a freelance PR Writer with over five years of experience tailoring press releases, pitch letters, and more to meet the needs of businesses large and small.

3 thoughts on “How do you get samples when you’ve been writing for a firm?”

  1. You should be fine as long as you have the firm’s permission. I would simply make sure your portfolio lists the firm as the client so it doesn’t sound like you were directly hired by the company the release was written for. Something like “written on behalf of XYZ Firm” should suffice.

    By their very nature, press releases are meant to be shared. So they’re probably online anyway. Rather than publishing them directly on your site, I’d link to a version on whatever distribution sites they use. If not, I’d link to a copy on the firm’s own site if they share client releases there. And I’d link to a copy of the end client’s site only as a last resort (because, again, you don’t want it to look like you were hired by that company directly).

    As for the samples, I’d stick to linking as I said above. But if you really want to publish them on your site, I’d stick with the text-only version. Like you said, it’s more traditional. It keeps the focus on your writing. And it doesn’t give new prospects the wrong idea about what they’re getting — you don’t want them thinking your release writing services come with all that extra “stuff” the firm adds.

    I hope that helps!

  2. Thanks Jenn! It’s nice to know I was thinking along the right track. : )

    If I don’t have a contract, would I still have the rights to the piece and could post it without permission? Not sure how I feel about that, maybe a better approach would be to not include those in a portfolio, but if they were appropriate to a job I could send them privately as examples?

  3. If you’re based in the U.S. technically you would retain the copyright to your work unless you’ve signed a work for hire agreement. (It requires fairly specific language.)

    That said, if you think posting it would burn bridges with the client, it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to do that. The issue in this case isn’t so much publishing it (that’s what releases are for), but rather an issue of confidentiality. Do the firm’s clients know that they’ve outsourced the writing? If not, they might want to keep that between you and them.

    Sharing it as a private portfolio piece with prospects shouldn’t be a problem, especially as it sounds like you don’t have a contract in place that would forbid it with some kind of confidentiality agreement.


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