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The ins and outs of communications

The ins and outs of district communication contracts

March 22, 2022
Allison wears many hats in her role at ESD of which is the management of our district contracts. We sat down with her recently to talk specifically about district communication contracts.
The ins and outs of communications

What exactly is a district communications contract?

We offer a wide range of contracts with districts to provide communications, design, and/or website services based on what the district is requesting. Every request is different, so no two contracts are exactly the same, but they can really be broken down into two types: retainer or project.

District Retainer Contract:

Some districts want a district retainer contract, where they are paying for a portion of our team’s time (FTE, full time equivalent) for regular communications support throughout the year. These are especially helpful for districts who do not have the budget to support a full-time communications staff member of their own, or require the combination of skills our amazing team can provide as a full-service department. Most of our retainer contracts are for about 2-8 hours a week and include a combination of communications, graphic design and/or website maintenance. These contracts are billed on a quarterly basis throughout the entire fiscal year of September to August.

Locked into lower contract rate for the entire year
Full team support
Dedicated communications manager
Access to Communications Consortium

Project Contract:

We also offer project contracts, where a district requests support for a specific project, or combination of projects. These are typically shorter-term contracts for something like bond or levy support, web development, strategic communications planning, video content, branding, logo design or crisis communications. These contracts can be billed as short-term retainer contracts (such as half of the total upfront and the remainder upon completion, or just billed one time upon completion) or each month as the work happens.

Short-term with monthly billing
Normal hourly rate with estimated hours to complete
Services & deliverables limited to what is listed in the contract
Ability to change scope of work, as needed

While we have standard rates for our services, we know every district is different. We work with each district to customize their contract to their specific needs and budget. This may include a discount for bundling services or a small district rate for our tiny districts with very limited budgets.

What services are included?

As a full-service department, we can do it all! Regular staff and family communications, crisis communications, social media, website maintenance, graphic design, strategic planning. You name it, we have someone on our team who has that expertise.

The district retainer contracts include all of these services, unless there is a big ask for something specific like a new website, district rebranding or video project: these would be separated out as a project contract due to their specialized skill and time requirements.


It’s like gaining an entire communications & design team!

Does the district get a dedicated communications manager?

All of our contracts are created with specific team member workloads and skills in mind so we can provide the best service for each district’s individual needs.

Due to their length (a year minimum, but most will continue renewing for years to come), the district retainer contracts get a dedicated staff member that will remain with them for the duration of their contract or contracts. While it’s almost always a communications manager, the specific needs of the district could also mean it’s one of our designers, our web developer, or a combination of team members.

What if the district doesn’t need full communications support but just help when a crisis arises?

We understand that you can’t always plan ahead and things can change in an instant (hello, 2020)! As an educational service agency, we’re here to help districts and schools no matter what: you don’t need to have a contract established with us already. Though depending on the request, we may need to create one due to rules and regulations 😉.

In March 2020, our lives changed seemly in an instant. Our team immediately pivoted into COVID/crisis communications mode to help our districts navigate the ever-changing pandemic because we knew we were better together. We created a massive toolkit for our districts with letter templates, graphics, flowcharts, info from the federal, state and local health departments, etc. And from this, the idea of our Regional Communications Consortium grew.

Districts now have the opportunity to join the Regional Communications Consortium with a contract that includes access to the toolkits and resources our team creates in addition to some dedicated hours for individualized crisis communications support. We know we can’t prepare for every scenario, so the individualized hours allow for a district to get the exact support they need at the time.

Do you support any specific district contracts? What is your favorite part?

While my primary role on the team is administrative assistant, which includes managing all of the contracts & billing, I also support a few of our smallest districts as a part-time communications manager. One is within our region, one is up in the north Puget Sound, and I previously supported a small district in the central Cascades. I will also occasionally help with one-off projects or requests for other districts we support.

I think the most fascinating part of being a communications manager is to learn more about each district and communities they serve, as that can significantly impact how a district communicates. Districts of similar sizes can have very different needs depending on their location and community, so I’ve enjoyed the challenge of creating or tailoring content that is relevant.

One of my district contracts is primarily for creating newsletters, so it’s been fun to learn about the amazing staff and students, as well as the programs the district offers so I can highlight a few in each newsletter. For my other district, I’m more of a “jack of all trades” and do a little bit of everything – I work closely with the superintendent to help with crisis communications (a lot of COVID), regular internal and external communications, articles for the local newspaper, newsletters and social media.

I like the variety between the districts, in addition to my “normal” admin assistant duties – I’m never bored, that’s for sure! Though things always seem to go bananas all at the same time, which makes for some really crazy work days!

Anything else you want to share?

Contracts aren’t scary and managing them is kind of fun – in Spring 2022, I was managing almost a hundred different contracts for our department! Excel is my best friend for these things 😊

I know a 7+ page document can be intimidating, but it’s a great way to lay everything out ahead of time so all parties are on the same page. We purposefully try to anticipate needs and crisis’s that may arise, in addition to the requests of the district, so we’re prepared but if something comes up we have that covered too.

About the TEAM Member

Allison Klump

Allison Klump

Allison was our team's Administrative Assistant and a Communications Manager from January, 2020 until December, 2023. We appreciate her skillful contributions to our work during her time with us, and we wish her well in her future endeavors!