OPINION: Leader - Salary survey sheds new light on sector

The issue of salary levels in the industry is not one that people tend to focus on other than when desperate to recruit or when good staff leave, there being, of course, nothing like a crisis to concentrate the mind. But the data that emerges from the PRWeek Salary Survey, for which there were over 500 responses from all levels and areas of the industry, is worth a closer look.

Although it is impossible to compare the numbers with those in our last survey two years ago - the methodology having changed to take account of the diversity of pay levels within PR - it is possible to make general observations about where salary and benefit levels are heading, and why.

For a start, and on a most obvious level, the giddy days of dotcom boom pay are long gone. But equally, so are the tight pay rises, salary freezes and even pay cuts that characterised the downturn years.

It is no longer worth asking, it appears, whether there is a hiring freeze at your place of work (the answer is almost always, thankfully, no) or whether your employer is still cutting headcount three years after the industry slump started.

More significantly, it appears that the base measure of how much you pay someone is less important a driver of staff motivation and retention than certain other aspects of an individual's package: benefits, equity-based incentivisation, promotion prospects and so on.

It is also worthy of note that along with the continuing growth in the public sector PR headcount, there is evidence that the historic gap in pay levels between the public and private sector is less pronounced than in the past.

Yes, almost a third of private sector in-house communications heads earn more than £100,000 a year, while more than half of those in the public sector earn less than half that. But public sector salaries of £80,000 and up are not as newsworthy as they once were.

The only downside would appear to be that entry level salaries have not kept pace with the growth visible in other areas - to the extent that one in three account executives earns less than £16,000, barely enough to reach the tuition fee threshold.

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