Survey shows strong agency CEO billing rates

NEW YORK: A new study by PR merger and acquisition consulting firm Stevens Gould Partners (SGP) found that US PR agency CEOs have begun posting billing rates comparable with such professionals as lawyers and accountants. SGP sent the survey to 175 PR CEOs and received 151 responses.

NEW YORK: A new study by PR merger and acquisition consulting firm Stevens Gould Partners (SGP) found that US PR agency CEOs have begun posting billing rates comparable with such professionals as lawyers and accountants. SGP sent the survey to 175 PR CEOs and received 151 responses.

 The survey, which aimed to determine current hourly rates for all positions in a PR agency, found that the average hourly rate of a CEO, president, or chairman of a PR agency is $322.  

"The rate of the CEO's billing was much higher than I would have guessed," said Rick Gould, SGP managing director. "I think it is an acknowledgement of PR people as strategists, counselors, and consultants, similar to [counterparts at] law firms and accounting firms and [in] consulting." 

According to the survey, the hourly rate of an account executive is now $140, a senior account executive $161, an account supervisor $180, an account manager $202, a VP $226, and an EVP $272. 

But the survey suggested that there was regional disparity. A New York City firm CEO garnered $364 an hour, while a CEO in Washington got $344 an hour. A Southeast executive only charged an average of $284 an hour. Also, a CEO at an agency that exceeded $25 million in billings generated an average hourly rate of $470, while his counterpart in an agency below $3 million generated hourly fees of $278. 

Gould said another surprise was that position, not salary, was the benchmark for hourly billings in most firms. He said agencies are billing by position more because it's simpler and more transparent.  

Gould said the survey would become a yearly benchmark, owing SGP's decision to do the study annually to feedback from agency leaders. He said next year the study will tally surveys from 250 respondents and will also break out data by revenue, region, and specialty.

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