SALARY SURVEY: Knowing the score - PROs are working hard to maintain a dynamic industry. Robert Gray investigates

While in some quarters it still seems fashionable to deride PR as a fluffy, easy discipline, such strictures are shown to be totally wide of the mark when one probes just how hard many people in the industry are having to work. PR as an industry is arguably going through one of its most dynamic, thriving and exciting times, but the knock-on effect is that practitioners are working harder than ever. The results of the PR Week/Media Appointments Salary Survey 2000 shows a significant number of practitioners working long hours, and 74 per cent of respondents say they suffer from stress. It is probably no coincidence that 74 per cent also have budget responsibility.

While in some quarters it still seems fashionable to deride PR as a

fluffy, easy discipline, such strictures are shown to be totally wide of

the mark when one probes just how hard many people in the industry are

having to work. PR as an industry is arguably going through one of its

most dynamic, thriving and exciting times, but the knock-on effect is

that practitioners are working harder than ever. The results of the PR

Week/Media Appointments Salary Survey 2000 shows a significant number of

practitioners working long hours, and 74 per cent of respondents say

they suffer from stress. It is probably no coincidence that 74 per cent

also have budget responsibility.

The methods used by practitioners to manage stress vary. Of our sample

of 946 respondents, 34 per cent admitted using alcohol for stress

management, not far behind the 47 per cent who use the more salubrious

option of sport to let off steam. Massage was used by 11 per cent of

respondents and smoking by 12 per cent.

Ways to wind down are clearly important given that only a little over a

quarter of consultancy and in-house practitioners work a 40 hour week or

shorter, with 31 per cent working 40-45 hours a week. Despite the

introduction of the working time directive, which limits the hours

Europeans work to 48 per week unless they sign a disclaimer, 20 per cent

work between 45 and 50 hours, and a sizeable 14 per cent work 50-plus

hours. Freelancers and solo practitioners appear to be driving

themselves equally hard, with 20 per cent working between 50 and 60

hours a week. And lunch breaks are a thing of the past: 70 per cent of

you would appear to agree with the assertion of the Gordon Gekko

character in Oliver Stone’s movie Wall Street that lunch is for


Almost 20 per cent of our sample confessed to weekend working on a

fairly regular basis - significantly higher than the 11 per cent who

said they never worked at weekends. Just under two-thirds of respondents

said they occasionally had to work at weekends, while a highly

industrious three per cent claimed to work every weekend. Over half of

the respondents spent one evening a week out on business. For 15 per

cent, it was two evenings; while four per cent weighed in with three

evenings a week.

’Longer hours and increased pressure have led to a more stressful life,

but it is not just alcohol and cigarettes people are using as stress

relievers,’ says Media Appointments consultant Louise Hannant. ’They are

trying more alternative techniques and spending more time doing sport.

Benefits on the consulting side increasingly include gym


One apparent anomaly in this year’s survey is that average salaries in

many categories are down on last year. This can only be explained as a

quirk of this year’s sample, in that all other evidence points to a

continuing rise in salaries in the industry. Indeed, only ten per cent

of our sample said they had either not been given a pay rise or had seen

a reduction in their earnings. While the majority of increases were

reasonably modest - 29 per cent, for instance, getting between two to

3.9 per cent - one in four enjoyed a salary uplift of ten per cent or

above. This breaks down as 11 per cent receiving a ten-14.9 per cent

hike, 13 per cent benefiting from a 15-19.9 per cent increase, three per

cent getting between 20 and 30 per cent, and almost two per cent seeing

their salary boosted by over 30 per cent.

In recent years there has been a narrowing of the differential between

men and women’s pay in PR. But this year’s survey shows that there is

still some way to go before parity is achieved. This year’s sample has a

strong female bias: 65 per cent women, to 35 per cent men. The high

proportion of women respondents, who on the whole are paid less than

men, may account for the lower salary averages in many job categories

this year.

For instance, while the average salary for a female consultancy account

executive was pounds 20,000, for a man with the same job title it was

pounds 21,000.

At consultancy board director level the averages were pounds 42,000 for

women and pounds 58,000 for men - a hefty pounds 16,000 difference.

Female chairpersons/managing directors earned pounds 56,000, while men

in the top consultancy jobs averaged pounds 62,000. In-house the

differences were not as pronounced, but still evident.

Male PR directors earned an average of pounds 41,000 against the pounds

38,000 salary of their female counterparts. And while female internal

relations managers had average salaries of under pounds 30,000, men in

that position enjoyed salaries averaging over pounds 36,000.

Intriguingly, men and women in a new business development role had

exactly the same salary average: pounds 22,500.

’PR seems to be a predominantly female environment, apart from the

in-house side and public affairs and finance, where males still

dominate,’ says Media Appointments director Tracey Austin. ’In line with

other areas of the marketing mix there is still a gender differentiation

with salaries of different levels on the in-house and agency side. The

more senior the position, according to the survey, the greater the

margin. However, it is good to see that glass ceilings within PR are

practically non-existent in comparison to other industries. People are

promoted on merit.’

One area where more of a trend is apparent is in the freelance


For the purposes of this survey freelances were analysed according to

whether they worked predominantly in-house or with a consultancy, with

those in consultancy having a substantial lead in the salary stakes.

Overall, combining both ways of working, in 1998 freelances earned an

average of pounds 41,340. Last year that fell to pounds 37,880 and this

year it is down again to pounds 35,300. Making a good living as a

freelance practitioner would seem to be getting harder.

Roughly three quarters of those in employment have their salaries

reviewed regularly every year, while nine per cent enjoy a review every

six months.

A hearty 60 per cent of our sample expressed themselves happy with their

most recent salary review, but 30 per cent were dissatisfied. The level

of increase most (35 per cent) expected to receive at their next review

was between two and 3.9 per cent. However, there were plenty of

inflation-busting expectations too. Sixteen per cent expected a salary

increase of between four and 5.9 per cent; 11 per cent hoped for between

six to 9.9 per cent; ten per cent predicted ten-14.9 per cent; three per

cent thought a 15-19.9 per cent hike likely; while another three per

cent were looking for an even greater leap. Only six per cent expected

no increase whatsoever during the coming year.

In this year’s sample there is a 60:40 bias in favour of in-house over

consultancy respondents. Looking at pay by industry sector,

entertainment/youth comes out as the most highly rewarded, followed by

industry/utilities, healthcare/pharmaceutical, central Government and

hi-tech. The lowest paid is local government, followed closely by

leisure/travel, charity and new media. The latter may be a surprise in

light of the ongoing boom but may be accounted for by the youth

of many practitioners in the field and the fact that some may be putting

up with modest salaries in return for equity options that might one day

be worth a great deal.

Indeed, the survey shows that salary alone is not the be all and end all

for PR practitioners, who are motivated by a wide range of factors (see

chart). Media Appointments consultant Edwina Rankin says: ’Overall

people are looking for a more defined career path and a professional yet

enjoyable work culture. Location is often an issue and some clients we

have worked with have had to offer relocation as part of the package,

particularly on the in-house side. For those working in consultancies, a

central location which is conducive to their increasingly shrinking is

very important!’

Rankin raises several interesting points that are echoed in our survey

findings. For a start, the question of recognition for one’s efforts,

which scored highly as a motivating factor among both in-house and

consultancy practitioners as being either important or very important.

Location, too, was seen as a big factor - not surprisingly those working

in central London, both in-house and at consultancies, were the most

highly paid.

The PR industry boasts a well-educated workforce. The survey shows that

59 per cent have a degree as their highest academic qualification, with

another ten per cent having achieved an MA or PhD. IPR membership stands

at 40 per cent, and eight per cent of respondents are members of the

Chartered Institute of Marketing. Education, training and broad skill

bases are in ever greater demand across the industry.

Rankin says: ’On the consulting side clients are looking for a strong

academic background in addition to relevant work experience. Often it is

not just the skills set but the ’soft’ skills side that people are

interested in. Team working, personality, charisma and a ’can-do’

attitude are just as important as copy writing, selling in stories, and

managing events in an increasingly service-orientated, quality- driven


Austin adds: ’In-house clients also look for good academics, and have a

strong emphasis on the mix of skills. Often the teams are smaller and

the balance and combination of skills within the team need to be finely

tuned. Industry sector exposure is important, and time in service, track

record and, increasingly, language skills are being requested by


The world is becoming a smaller pool especially with the increase in

global communications and a trend towards company mergers.’

Yet despite the globalisation of commerce, a majority of respondents (54

per cent) do not speak a second language. Of those that do, the most

popular language spoken is French (24 per cent), followed by German

(nine per cent) and Spanish and Italian (both four per cent). Just under

60 per cent of the sample have internet access at their homes. Yet,

given the increasing importance of the medium, many observers will feel

that the percentage should be far higher.

The most dominant sector in the survey was industry/utilities, which

yielded 19 per cent of respondents. Government agencies, local

government and hi-tech each accounted for almost 11 per cent of our

sample. Business-to-business was the main PR area worked in (27 per

cent) ahead of media relations (20 per cent), corporate (18 per cent)

and consumer (17 per cent).

With the UK economy remaining in good shape, these are pretty good times

for most people in the industry. Most agencies are rushed off their

feet, even turning down work, and talent is at a premium because many

employers are faced with skills shortages at all levels. This is borne

out by the fact that a huge 60 per cent of the sample had been

headhunted in the past 12 months.

’Due to the dearth of good candidates there are increasing numbers of

unfilled vacancies,’ says Rankin. ’This means that clients are having to

widen their recruitment briefs to look at people with transferable

skills. Particular areas where we have noticed this trend are IT,

healthcare, financial, new media and public affairs. On the e-commerce

side in particular, because of lack of experience in this arena,

companies are willing to look at people who have a passion for the

sector and believe in its potential.

Because of the skills shortage companies need to be forward thinking and

keep training and career development high on their agenda in order to

attract and retain good quality employees.’

The widening of recruitment briefs is symptomatic of the fact that as PR

becomes ever more widely accepted as a vital communications discipline,

it is attracting talent from a broad spectrum of backgrounds. Only 39

per cent of our sample have always worked in PR. A further 19 per cent

also have journalistic experience; 13 per cent have worked in marketing;

seven per cent come from different roles within the industry for which

they now do PR; and one per cent have a management consultancy


Training is a live issue, both in-house and within consultancies. Some

21 per cent of respondents classify it as ’very important’ with another

47 per cent considering it ’important’. Clearly, opportunities to

acquire new skills and develop professionally are seen as a vital

component of any employment package.

Hannant says: ’Firms recognise this and are beginning to look after

their staff more than in previous years. Many are achieving the

Investors in People accolade, providing solid internal and external

training programmes and personal development programmes. They are also

providing more fringe benefits to retain and entice staff to their

company. I find that candidates are swayed by the overall package in

which they receive benefits like a gym membership, profit share and

discretionary bonuses based on performance.

These sorts of benefits will help employers attract candidates over

other firms or agencies.’

Nearly a third (31 per cent) of respondents are in a position to take up

share options. Meanwhile, 37 per cent of consultancy staff and 33 per

cent of in-house staff are in line for a performance-related bonus. More

consultancy personnel (36 per cent) receive health plan benefits than

in-house personnel (24 per cent), but more in-house staff receive

non-contributory pension benefits than their agency counterparts: 15 per

cent against nine per cent.

The situation is a little closer to parity when it comes to season

ticket loans: 19 per cent of in-house staff against 15 per cent of

consultancy employees. The gap is more significant again when one looks

at mobile phones. Only 39 per cent of consultancy staff are given them

as benefits, in comparison with 51 per cent of in-house practitioners.

Overall, this year’s research confirms the perception that in-house jobs

tend to offer superior benefits.

Half of all our respondents had a contributory pension as one of their

benefits. Our sample showed that 14 per cent had profit share

entitlement as a perk, 12 per cent got a Christmas bonus and 10 per cent

of agency respondents were rewarded for bringing in new business.

Environmental campaigners will be pleased to note a fall in the

percentage of respondents with company cars. In 1999, the average stood

at 31 per cent. This year it is down to 28 per cent. However, 34 per

cent of our sample received a petrol or business mileage allowance.

One way that employers seem to be tackling levels of stress that many of

their staff are having to deal with is by offering generous holiday

time. Last year’s survey remarked on the fact that the length of

holidays offered to PR practitioners had risen markedly, with many

enjoying up to seven weeks - although whether they are able to take all

that time off is a moot point. This year the same picture has emerged -

with average holiday weeks ranging between six and seven.

The regional concentration of PR in and around the capital was

highlighted again with 60 per cent of respondents working in central or

Greater London or elsewhere in the South East. The Midlands (13 per

cent), South West (eight per cent) and North West (six per cent) were

the next most popular regions. Another overwhelming disparity was seen

in the ethnic origin of practitioners. Those from an Asian, African or

Afro-Caribbean background combined accounted for less than two per cent

of respondents. Hardly representative of the population at large,

especially when one considers the cosmopolitan, multi-cultural nature of

London where so many public relations operations are based.

Away from work, 30 per cent of respondents have children, and 79 per

cent own their own homes. Among these, some have houses which are quite

substantial assets: six per cent reckon their property is worth in

excess of pounds 350,000, while another ten per cent believe their

bricks and mortar to be worth anywhere bet-ween pounds 250,000 and

pounds 350,000. Just over 40 per cent of the sample are married and four

per cent divorced; 32 per cent describe themselves as single and another

21 per cent are cohabiting.

It’s been an intense year for practitioners working in the PR industry,

whether in-house, working in consultancies, or freelance. The rapid

growth of the industry is leading to a lot of pressure and long hours,

but every indication is that those working in PR do so because it is

immensely satisfying.

Let’s just hope the message that PROs work hard as well as play hard

gets through to the media.


                       Chairman/MD    Board  Account   Account     Free-

                                   Director Director Executive     lance

Average salary (pounds)     61,463   47,804   33,842    19,938    38,250

Average age                     43       35       33        26        45

Average salary increase

  at last review               14%      13%      13%       13%       13%

Average holiday            6 weeks  7 weeks  7 weeks   6 weeks   6 weeks

% Receiving these benefits

  Car                        42.5%      45%      38%     12.5%       19%

  Health plan                42.5%      59%      48%       26%        4%

  Performance-related bonus    55%      59%      42%       30%        4%

  Non-contributory pension     20%      10%       5%        5%        4%


                           Head of       PR       PR        PR     Free-

                    Communications Director  Manager   Officer     lance

Average salary (pounds)     41,595   39,310   29,678    20,915    26,250

Average age                     41       38       36        33        45

Average salary increase

  at last review                6%       7%       6%        4%        3%

Average holiday            7 weeks  7 weeks  7 weeks   7 weeks   7 weeks

% Receiving these benefits

  Car                          37%      33%      30%       14%       25%

  Health plan                  36%      33%      42%       18%        0%

  Performance-related bonus    39%      33%      38%     17.6%        0%

  Non-contributory pension     16%      19%      15%       20%        0%

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