Go West for higher PR salaries, says survey

PR professionals looking for a salary boost should heed the old American maxim about going West.

PR professionals looking for a salary boost should heed the old American maxim about going West.

The verdict from the first-ever PR salary survey conducted by accounting firm Gould & Co, was that California PR firms - especially those in San Francisco - offer higher average salaries, for executive VPs down to junior account executives.

For example, the average VP salary in the Bay Area - $90,268 - was 7.8% higher than in New York, 25.4% higher than in Chicago, and a whopping 77% higher than in Florida.

Jack Bergen, executive director of the Council of PR Firms, said the high salaries in California were due to supply and demand, as well as the preponderance of hi-tech firms. 'A lot of it is from hi-tech and biotech clients, the cost of living, and supply,' he said. 'That region doesn't have lots of schools graduating PR people. And there's no infrastructure like in New York or Chicago - it's a relatively new marketplace.'

As expected, larger firms paid higher average salaries, with one notable exception: senior AEs at firms billing $1-3m earned more than their counterparts at firms billing over $5m.

Survey author, Rick Gould, explained the discrepancy by positing that smaller firms rely more on senior AEs.

'If you look at what smaller firms are doing to hold onto people, there's an element there of being closer to the client, and liking the entrepreneurial situation,' Bergen said.

But for the most part, bigger was better in terms of salaries, and the variations were usually significant. Firms billing $5m pay executive VPs 40% more than firms billing $1-3m, VPs in the bigger firms get 37% more, account supervisors 20% more, and AEs 7% more.

The highest paid specialties were healthcare, hi-tech and government; lowest was travel.

Bergen said the survey highlighted the recruitment challenge presently facing the PR industry. 'Supply and demand in the larger firms is driving mid-and high-level salaries to a point where we have to find more good people,' Bergen said. 'With the kind of salaries we are paying, I'm more encouraged than ever that we can attract good people from MBA programs.

And we must.'

For more information, call Gould & Co. on 212 239 0804.

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