Editorial: Investing in PR talent

With sizeable pay rises across the board, the majority of PR people believe they are well rewarded. We should not be surprised. They are an increasingly scarce, and therefore valuable commodity. As the business picks up speed it has become harder than ever to recruit and this spells higher pay for many.

With sizeable pay rises across the board, the majority of PR

people believe they are well rewarded. We should not be

surprised. They are an increasingly scarce, and therefore

valuable commodity. As the business picks up speed it has become

harder than ever to recruit and this spells higher pay for

many.



We have seen something like this before. A similar scarcity

afflicted the PR industry in the 1980s, and it led to spiralling

salaries as employers battled to find staff. This put excessive

pressure on margins and when the recession hit it all became very

messy indeed. The 1980s boom also led to a more insidious trend -

job title inflation - as the dearth of talent led to the hasty

promotion of inexperienced and less able staff into positions

they were ill-equipped to handle.



History may not be allowed to repeat itself. Employers are now

demanding far more from their PR people - both in quality of

service and value for money. Those that don’t deliver will find

it hard. Among the rank and file, the majority already say they

feel overworked, and many lack confidence about their future

prospects. Eleven and 12 hour days are commonplace, and a third

now say they would not choose public relations as a career if

given a second chance.



At the top end of the scale, the picture is brighter. There are

plenty of six-figure earners in the public relations business -

many more than the average figures would suggest - but they too

are under greater pressure.



Sir Tim Bell once famously claimed that PR people undercharge for

their services. He was partly right. The very best PR people are

undervalued, often because the value of their service is not

fully recognised. In this rarified upper atmosphere PR

practitioners, like lawyers, can only really be judged on the

quality of their advice. That requires better measurement of

results - not just on the narrow scale of media evaluation, but

against business objectives.



But the real bar to higher earnings in public relations is the

quality of the people practising it. The most shocking statistic

in this year’s PR Week/Media Appointments salary survey is that

half of the in-house PR staff and nearly two-thirds of the

consultants say they receive no structured training.



We should be glad that it is becoming tougher for the mediocre

and the underperformers in this business - provided the talented

are being nurtured.



But the bad news is that the industry is letting itself down by

failing to invest in its only asset - people.



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