Working with Friends and Family

This is a guest post by Alison Kenney.

It’s that time of year…when families gather for the holidays lots of things can happen. Those of us in the PR profession have more than likely experienced at least a couple awkward conversations about our work with family members who don’t quite understand PR. Since I’ve already blogged about my family’s inability to understand what it means when I say I work in PR, I’ll focus this blog on the other awkward work-related conversation that inevitably comes up at this time of year: what happens when family members, or friends, ask for your PR help.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I know we all have family and friends who we’d do anything for, and many of us have benefited from the help and advice of family members. Yet sometimes these situations can get sticky.

Take, for example, situations like these:

  • A family member is excited to work with you and promises to pay you for your time and expertise…but they have no idea what the cost of your service will be.
  • A relative outlines an “opportunity” or “project” that you would never consider taking on if it came from someone who was not a family member.
  • Friends dangle in-kind payback that is not at all enticing to you: “I’ll introduce you to all my poker buddies entrepreneur friends so they can call you when they need advertising PR advice.”
  • No matter how expert you are, or how respected you are in your industry, when your great Aunt Ruth or your older brother need you, they know how to reach you and they know your personal soft spots and what to say to get you to do their bidding.
  • You’re asked to get on board and help with publicity for a product or company that doesn’t exist yet. Maybe it’s more fun to talk about publicity than other business infrastructure issues, but these prospects are nowhere near the RFP stage. They don’t need PR right now; they need to find a manufacturer first.
  • After you take on a project with an old friend (even though you knew better) and it ended up going way over the anticipated scope of work, they have the nerve to criticize the (pro bono) work you did. For years to come, they will continue to mutter about your inability to get them results.
  • And the #1, most common request from friends and family: asking for your PR help for a product or company in an industry that is not related in any way to the career experience you’ve built over the years.
  • Remember, there’s a big difference between doing business with your friends and becoming friends with the people you work with.

If you have any remaining doubt, I leave you with this funny org chart that can help you decide whether it makes sense to work with a family member:

.Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on You can find her at Learn more about Alison Kenney.

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