Hal Crandall was appalled. A client needed a PR executive fast.
Hal Crandall was appalled. A client needed a PR executive fast.
One prospect had shown up that the client really liked. He was making
dollars 60,000. He wanted dollars 100,000 plus options that would be
worth dollars 1 million over the next four years.
Forget it, the New York executive recruiter wanted to tell his
Other, cheaper talent was available. All they had to do was wait a
Instead, they caved immediately. ’Believe it or not, he got it,’
Crandall recalls, bemused.
Stories like this are rife in the PR industry, creating an image of a
business where the price of talent is out of control. And the recruiters
themselves are fuelling this. ’For new people, we’re seeing 10% to 20%
minimum increases over last year,’ Crandall claims. ’We’re seeing an
average of 15% to 20% increases over last year,’ says Marie Raperto,
president of The Cantor Concern. And she’s heard rumors that industry
salaries, especially on the agency side, are hitting the 35% mark.
But rumors are apparently just what they are. Though the PR business is
going through an extraordinarily prosperous time, the PRWeek Salary
Survey 2000 shows that salaries rose, on average, by 7.9% in 1999, with
a further hike of 7.3% expected this year. These numbers are far higher
than the 1.5% average reported by the National Bureau of Labor
And they’re higher than the 6.6% reported by the advertising industry
(source: Advertising Age). But they are nowhere near the mythic levels
being heard over the grapevine of Internet, cell phone and other
’Ah, but what about places like New York, Silicon Valley? What about
hi-tech, healthcare, public affairs?’ you ask.
The fact is, even in the hottest sectors, though the gains are above the
7.9% norm, they are far closer to the overall average than rumors would
have us believe.
Of course, it’s human nature to focus on the exceptions. Look at the
dot-com explosion. Everyone talks about the Amazons and the Yahoo!s, and
fails to mention the countless start-ups that fail to make it to an IPO,
let alone the Nasdaq. And so it is with salaries, especially in an
industry where talent is scarce. The tales of 35% salary hikes and
overnight stock millionaires dominate the conversation and the thinking
of everyday job hunters as much as job sellers and job hawkers.
Part of the reason for the myths that surround salary hikes is the fact
that recruiters deal in people who move jobs - and that’s more likely to
get you a better raise. ’You’re getting the number - 15% to 20% - from
people who are willing to move,’ says Clarke Caywood, chairman of the
Department of Integrated Marketing and Communications at Northwestern
But there’s a degree to which reports from executive recruiters are
self-serving. PRWeek’s analysis suggests that those who have been with
their current employer for less than a year received an average raise of
7.5%; and those who’ve been in their current position for less than a
year (i.e., they’ve been promoted) took home an extra 8.9%.
With a sample size of 3,611 PR executives (over three times the level of
response to last year’s survey), the PRWeek Salary Survey 2000 thus
provides a highly accurate picture of salaries and benefits across the
This accuracy is essential for the economic and political health of the
PR industry, says Jack Bergen, president of the Council of Public
Relations Firms. ’Rumors and salary surveys with invalid methodologies
do serious damage to the people that are in the business of public
’Some of the salary surveys that are being done are crazy. They’re
showing 30% to 35% increases,’ Bergen adds. Bad surveys create
unrealistic expectations among employees and unneeded fears among
employers. ’Salaries represent about half the cost structure of a
business, and some of the salary surveys we’ve seen over the past year
have been totally out of line with reality.
It’s a dangerous spiral that is sending salaries beyond reasonable
levels, which in turn drives billing rates out of sight.’
The creation of unrealistic expectations is a concern that is borne out
by the survey. Asked what percentage pay raise they would require to
quit their job for another, the average pro is expecting over 20%. Is it
any wonder that job hopping is so rife?
PR pros are now moving companies, on average, once every three
Nearly 50% of respondents have been with their current employer for less
than two years, and a typical respondent had been working there for 3.4
years. In some sectors, like hi-tech and consumer PR, the average length
of stay is lower still, at just over two years.
As a relatively young industry (the average age is 36.5), a tendency to
job hop is not altogether surprising. But it’s more than just a societal
thing. According to a Pricewaterhouse-Coopers survey published in
November, the number of people who think it acceptable to move jobs
every two or three years is higher in PR (37%) than any other sector,
the average being 21%. ’We know the PR market well, but we are a bit
surprised by the attitudes to job mobility in PR,’ says PWC recruitment
specialist Alannah Hunt.
’These are not young account executives, who traditionally butterfly
from one job to the next fairly quickly, but people at the top end of
the market, who, in other professions, are looking for stability in
their careers at this stage.’
Coming of age
That said, whether it’s the shortage of talent or the growing
recognition of PR, the rising salaries increasingly validate the PR
industry as a profession. PR is now achieving comparable status in
corporations and agencies with fields such as advertising and other hot
below-the-line media like direct marketing.
According to a survey by Crandall Associates, an account executive at a
direct marketing advertising agency with two years’ experience makes
dollars 33,000. An A/E in PR will make dollars 38,000. Account execs in
ad agencies still earn more (dollars 45,600), but at the top end, the
value of PR pros is truly being felt. A CEO at an ad agency will take
home dollars 163,100 (source: Advertising Age). An SVP at a corporation
will bring in dollars 172,808. An EVP at a large PR agency earns even
more - dollars 205,905.
’You’re talking about a field that’s arrived in terms of
professionalism,’ Caywood says. More and more, salaries in PR are
looking like those ’that used to be attributed to people in finance or
law,’ he says.
Matt Gonring, managing partner of communications and integrated
marketing at Arthur Andersen, believes the statistics prove that PR has
made the leap from business afterthought to strategic asset in the minds
of those who hold the purse strings. ’Business is willing to pay more
for generalists and problem solvers, rather than functional specialists
PR pros have acknowledged strategic skills,’ he says. ’Students studying
for MBAs in public relations are commanding salaries of dollars 60,000,
and they’re being snapped up.’
Agency salaries spiral
Although agency salaries still lag behind corporate ones, the difference
between the two is narrowing rapidly as competition for talented staff
continues to increase.
At first glance (see table 6), corporation salaries (dollars 76,421) are
about 9.4% ahead of PR agencies (dollars 69,833), with PR positions in
government/politics (dollars 56,415) lagging behind, along with
non-profits (dollars 54,047), and education professors (dollars
But closer analysis (see table 11) reveals that particularly among the
medium-to-large-size PR agencies, salaries are now neck and neck with -
or ahead of - salaries in corporations. Individuals working at agencies
with 100 to 1,000 employees earn dollars 71,194 compared with dollars
63,667 at a similar size corporation. And in agencies with 1,000-plus
employees, the agency pro (dollars 86,522) again earns more than the
corporation pro (dollars 84,198). It’s only because there are such a
large number (66%) of agency pros working at smaller agencies (with
fewer than 100 employees) that the statistics get skewed.
Further evidence of the shifting balance of salary power is provided by
an examination of salary increases (see table 3). Agencies are
definitely pulling ahead of corporations. ’The agencies are seeing the
bigger increases, because they’re all fighting for the same pool of
people,’ Raperto says.
Agency salaries rose by 10.2%. In corporations, salaries rose by
At medium and large-size agencies, the salary hikes were even greater,
rising by more than 12%; whereas in corporations with 1,000-plus
employees, salaries rose just 6.6%. As further evidence of the pressure
on agencies, 15% of agency pros enjoyed a salary increase over and above
their annual review specifically to stop them from leaving. Across the
industry as a whole this figure was 12% to 13%.
And agency salary inflation is expected to continue. Agency pros expect
an 8.5% increase in salary next year. In corporations, the expected
increase is 5.8%.
It’s a far world from the picture in government/politics and non-profit,
where salaries and increases are more prosaic. But increases in all PR
sectors were at least a couple of times the national average of
That’s a sign of the rising maturity and importance of the PR field,
More surprising was the fact that self-employed individuals are among
the best paid in the PR business, with an annual take of dollars 85,644.
This may be because of the rising importance of the Internet and virtual
’It shows that in your business, you can be a virtual person and do very
well,’ Bergen says. The PRWeek Salary Survey also reveals that the
self-employed are among the most contented of all people in their jobs.
The majority reported that they had left agency life in order to go
Perhaps we can conclude that they are enjoying a break from the
pressures of agency life.
Does size matter?
The corporate PR market is famed for its high salaries, but a growing
distinction can be seen between small and larger corporations. The
salary (dollars 54,300) and benefits in companies of fewer than 100
people perhaps confirms opinions held in some circles that small
businesses don’t value PR very much, or simply can’t afford it. In
companies of 101 to 1,000 employees, PR salaries rise appreciably
(dollars 63,667), and rise more steeply still in companies with
1,000-plus employees, to dollars 84,198.
But larger corporations are not having it all their way. The smallest
companies (8.1%) offered bigger salary increases than the largest ones
(6.7%), which suggests that smaller companies are working hard to keep a
hold of staff.
Smaller companies struggle to compete on benefits and other bonuses.
Only 68% of smaller companies offer 401K plans, while 83% of 1,000-plus
firms do. And smaller companies offer bonuses of 3.5%; while those with
more than 1,000 employees averaged 6.5%.
Though the hi-tech sector may be drawing a huge amount of attention, and
talent is scarce, it is still by no means the best-paid sector (see
table 8), with an average salary of dollars 69,957. The best field to be
in when it comes to PR salaries is financial services (dollars 78,939).
Next come utilities (dollars 74,507), retail (dollars 73,730),
industrial/manufacturing (dollars 73,537), food and beverage (dollars
73,013) and professional services (dollars 72,296) - all ahead of
That said, hi-tech PR pros are among the youngest in our survey. A
typical hi-tech pro is 32 (the overall average is 36.4), and has worked
7.3 years in PR (the average is 9.7). Hi-tech pros are also likely to
have been in their current position for just 2.2 years (average 3.4),
and with their current employer for just 2.7 years (average 4.5). All
this helps to explain why salaries are rising at an above-average rate
of 10.7% (vs. 7.6%) in hi-tech, and why hi-tech PR pros expect
above-average increases (8.9%) in their next pay packet. It also
provides much-needed context for the focus on this sector.
Other surprises: the healthcare/pharmaceuticals (dollars 66,916) and
telecommunications (dollars 68,204) sectors don’t figure quite as high
in the stakes as their attention suggests.
Less surprising is the fact that the lowest paid sectors are education
specialists (dollars 49,835) and PR pros in the non-profit (dollars
51,534) and sports PR (dollars 53,724) arenas, where job satisfaction is
higher and pay is appreciably lower.
What do you practice?
Similarly, skills count in the PR business for some specialties. The
specialist field of crisis management (dollars 90,110) is the best- paid
practice area (see table 9). ’If you’ve managed a crisis we know you can
make more money so long as you didn’t start the crisis,’ says one
It’s not just because of the discipline, of course. At 41.3, crisis pros
are typically the oldest, the most loyal (average tenure is 6.5 years
with their current employer) and the most steady (they’ve been in crisis
communications for an average of five years). That said, crisis
communications experts are among the most likely (45%) to leave their
job in the next 12 months.
Pros who delve into the corporate, M&A and investor relations market are
similarly well paid, at dollars 88,051, but are enjoying a more exciting
period of remuneration on the back of the Wall Street explosion. Salary
increases in this field were the highest at 9.3% on average. Salary
bonuses (8.4%) and future salary expectations (7.3%) are also the
highest. And PR pros in this field are the most sought after (74%) by
Also highly valued are pros in public affairs/government relations
(dollars 82,207) and marketing communications (dollars 82,300). The
commodity skills of media relations (dollars 62,275), internal
communications (dollars 60,401) and community relations (dollars 54,747)
are least valued.
NYC, DC, LA
Not surprisingly, the capital of PR, New York City, offers the top PR
salaries (see table 2), at dollars 84,566. But salaries are not actually
going up as fast in New York as the executive recruiters will have you
believe, up a fraction over the norm at 8.5%. The specialist skills
demanded in Washington, DC, on the other hand, have seen an explosion of
18.4% in salary raises. This is also the second-highest- paid market in
the country for PR pros, at dollars 82,547.
The West Coast also is a focus of highly-paid talent. Pros in Los
Angeles/Orange County earn dollars 78,707 on average, while salaries in
San Francisco/San Jose aren’t far behind, at dollars 76, 842. But again,
salaries on the West Coast generally are not as high as the rumors
suggest. In LA/Orange County, salaries rose by 7.8%. In San
Francisco/San Jose, they were up slightly above the norm at 8.5%. And
proving that it isn’t just the West and the East that’s enjoying the
most dramatic growth in salaries, Atlanta salaries are rising at
PR is one of the few industries in which women have been able to achieve
fame and even some fortune. Renowned for their superior communication
skills and tact, they account for an overwhelming majority (65%) of the
personnel in the industry. Yet women’s salaries are as low in PR as they
are in business as a whole, with the average female salary almost 40%
less than what the average male takes home (see table 4).
PR by chromosome
Men take in an average of dollars 81,920 vs. dollars 59,026 for women -
a dollars 22,894 difference.
Current salary trends will widen rather than narrow the difference,
since male salaries increased by 8.3% and female by just 7.6%.
This disparity can be partly be explained by age and experience. The
average male in the PR industry is 39.9 years old whereas women are
typically more than five years younger. Also men have been in PR for
11.8 years, women 8.5 (see table 1 for full breakout).
Another factor is the choice of job: in what have always been
traditionally the best-paid jobs (i.e., in corporations) men outnumber
women by 30% to 26%; in the least well-paid area (non-profit), women
outnumber men by 20% to 14%.
Men also tend to work in the best-paid sectors (financial services,
industrial/manufacturing) and practices (crisis communications,
corporate/M&A/investor relations, public affairs), while more women work
in lower-paid jobs in community relations and internal
But these factors explain only so much. Even with direct comparisons,
using specific job titles in specific positions, the numbers show a
distinct discrimination. A male VP at an agency earns dollars 97,928;
his female counterpart gets dollars 84,087. Even in more junior
positions (where considerations of skill and experience are less
important) there is a bias. An account manager/PR manager at a
corporation earns either dollars 68,530 or dollars 56,819, depending on
sex. And an account executive at an agency picks up dollars 40,799 vs.
In many ways, the numbers simply reflect a reality of the American
economy: women tend to get a raw deal. It’s surprising, then, to note
that the numbers don’t seem to be having a huge impact on morale. About
45% of men and 48% of women report that they are dissatisfied with their
career opportunities. And while 42% of women are likely to change jobs
(vs. 35% for men), that’s partly a reflection of age and seniority. The
fact is that younger people are more likely to change jobs.
Still, the divide between male and female income presents potential for
friction and decay that should be resolved, experts say. ’The industry
should focus in on closing that gap. It’s really unconscionable. It’s
bad for all of us,’ Caywood says.
There’s also a marked discrimination between ethnic groups, but it’s not
so much in terms of salaries (see table 4) as representation. Asian,
Hispanic and to a lesser extent African-American pros are younger than
the average white PR pro, and so we can expect salaries to be lower, as
they are. And these communities are enjoying above-average rises in
But at 91%, the industry remains almost religiously white. So much for
One thing that rising salaries can’t appear to guarantee is job
While a higher-than-average number of corporate and agency pros concede
that they are very well rewarded or well rewarded (43% and 42%
respectively), a lower-than-average number of corporate and agency pros
(57% and 54%) appear to find their job rewarding (see tables 16 and
Incidentally, as well as remuneration, a clear correlation can be made:
those who feel that the company training program is adequate are more
likely to be satisfied, to feel they have good career opportunities, and
to remain loyal to the company.
The dark side
In a market where talent is scarce, it is inevitable that job-hopping
will continue (see table 20).
But strong as it apparently is, it appears that at least part of the
job-hopping phenomenon can be explained by the darker side of the
American boom. According to the PRWeek survey, 6.3% of PR pros left
their previous job due to downsizing (see table 21).
So while salaries are up, stability is down. Overall, 11% of respondents
are concerned that their job is under threat. And the fear is most
marked in corporations (23%) and non-profits (12%) (see table 19).
’There is a lot of churning of people,’ says Doug Pinkham, president of
the Washington, DC-based Public Affairs Council. Pinkham’s board has 200
people, and he’s concerned about the speed with which the faces in the
chairs change. He estimates that 20% of board members have changed due
to downsizing this past year.
’Even among people who are within a company and want to stay there,
there’s a great sense of fear. People are never sure what’s in store for
them,’ Pinkham says.
But while job insecurity is a concern among corporate pros, the laws of
supply and demand are still very much in favor of the employee.
Executive recruiters are out in force, with 59% of PR pros reporting
that they have been approached by a headhunter in the past 12 months.
And it appears that as well as agency pros (69%), corporate pros (68%)
are right in the center of the radar screen, with those in
government/politics (30%) and non-profits (42%) somewhat off picture
(see tables 22 and 23).
What’s more, for those who have been singled out for attention, it
appears that the number of approaches is increasing: 50% said they had
more approaches in 1999 than 1998; 42% had the same; and only 8% said
they’d had fewer.
It’s clear that if you’re half decent, you shouldn’t have much trouble
finding a new job
PR is enjoying a new-found validity in the business market, and salaries
are clearly rising to reflect its new prominent position. The only
question on the horizon is what happens when the economy falters. The
key, says Clarke Caywood, is with a new generation of better-trained PR
pros. In this regard, the industry is doing unspectacularly: around 60%
believe that their employer provides sufficient training for their
needs, with PR agencies doing better than the rest, at 68%. With his MBA
program, however, Caywood is not leaving anything to chance.
’We don’t think of our students as just staff any more,’ he says. ’We
are training people to be managers, not staff. If people view themselves
as part of the management team, they’re less likely to be
The PRWeek Salary Survey 2000 was conducted in January and February
2000. A lengthy questionnaire was sent out to 30,000 PR executives. The
results were logged and analyzed by Impulse Research, an independent
research firm based in Los Angeles. With a sample size of 3,611
respondents, the results are accurate to +/-3%. This article provides
selected highlights from a full report that is now available from
PRWeek. The report includes a full breakdown of the data by sex, region,
ethnicity, job title, type of company, industry sector and industry
practice and includes more detailed information on areas such as
lifestyle, benefits, bonuses, training programs, job satisfaction and
countless other topics. The cost of the full report is dollars 250. Call
Jessica Sung at (212) 251-2600 for more information.
Category Average Male Female
Breakdown (total ) 100 35.7 65.3
Age 36.5 40.1 34.5
Years spent in PR 10.0 12.4 8.8
Years in current position 4.6 5.6 4.0
Years with current employer 3.4 4.4 2.9
Salary (dollars ) 66,979 81,920 59,026
Salary increase (%) 7.9 8.3 7.7
Next salary increase (%) 7.3 7.5 7.2
More than one review last year (%) 13 11 13
Minimum hike to leave job (%) 17.6 19.7 16.5
Vacation days 15.6 16.5 15.2
Bonus as % of salary 5.5 7.3 4.4
Source: PRWeek/Impulse Research
City Salary % increase
New York dollars 84,566 8.5
Washington, DC dollars 82,547 18.4
LA/Orange County dollars 78,707 7.8
San Francisco dollars 76,842 8.5
Houston dollars 71,580 20.3
Boston dollars 67,568 5.5
Atlanta dollars 66,108 10.8
Chicago dollars 64,779 5.9
Dallas dollars 64,764 8.7
Seattle dollars 63,473 4.4
Denver dollars 55,794 6.4
Minneapolis dollars 53,886 6.7
3 Who you are by where you work
Category Average PR Corpor- Gov/ Non- Self- Educa-
agency ation politics profit employed tion
Age 36.4 32.7 37.9 40.8 38.4 43.4 38.2
Years spent in PR 9.7 7.4 11.0 11.7 10.5 15.5 10.5
current position 2.6 2.7 3.5 4.6 3.9 5.8 4.0
current employer 4.5 3.5 5.0 7.0 5.0 5.4 4.8
Salary (dlrs) 66,979 69,833 76,421 56,415 54,047 85,644 49,835
increase (%) 7.6 10.2 6.9 5.2 5.0 6.7 5.4
increase (%) 6.1 8.5 5.8 2.9 3.4 4.7 3.8
More than one
last year (%) 13 15 13 8 12 8 8
to leave job (%) 22.1 22.6 22.8 20.5 20.3 26.4 21.3
Vacation days 15.3 14.0 15.6 17.7 17.0 11.4 16.1
Bonus as per
salary (%) 4.4 4.4 8.4 0.3 1.5 1.4 1.7
Own shares in
company (%) 25 24 51 1 0 57 9
Source: PRWeek/Impulse Research
SALARY BY JOB TITLE, INDUSTRY SECTOR, DISCIPLINE AND AGE
7 AVERAGE SALARY BY JOB TITLE
Exec. vice president dollars 155,436
Sr. vice president dollars 139,877
Chairman/president/CEO/COO dollars 122,394
Vice president dollars 84,964
Communications/PR dir. dollars 70,019
Freelance consultant/sole practitioner dollars 68,635
Public affairs dollars 61,950
Account supervisor dollars 61,643
Account manager/PR manager dollars 57,352
Senior account executive dollars 49,684
Account executive/PR officer dollars 37,976
Account coordinator dollars 33,102
Assistant account executive dollars 28,929
8 AVERAGE SALARY BY INDUSTRY SECTOR
Financial services dollars 78,939
Utilities and power dollars 74,507
Retail dollars 73,730
Industrial/manufacturing dollars 73,557
Food and beverage dollars 73,013
Services dollars 72,296
Hi-tech dollars 69,957
Telecommunications dollars 68,204
Arts/entertainment/media dollars 66,992
Healthcare/pharmaceutical dollars 66,916
Government/public services dollars 62,931
Travel & tourism/leisure dollars 59,688
Sports dollars 53,724
Non-profit/charity dollars 51,534
Consumer dollars 50,425
Education dollars 49,835
SALARY BY JOB AND WORKPLACE SETTING, PLUS BENEFITS AND BONUSES
13 Title and setting
Title PR Agency Corporation Government/ Non-profit
Average dlrs 69,220 dlrs 75,621 dlrs 55,703 dlrs 53,514
CEO/COO dlrs 126,571 N/A N/A dlrs 74,875
Exec. vice president dlrs 156,546 N/A N/A N/A
Senior vice president dlrs 136,272 dlrs 172,808 N/A dlrs 107,375
Vice president dlrs 84,895 dlrs 103,076 dlrs 65,012 dlrs 64,526
PR director dlrs 84,952 dlrs 87,695 dlrs 57,021 dlrs 55,886
supervisor dlrs 60,152 dlrs 61,713 dlrs 55,715 dlrs 47,105
executive dlrs 48,774 dlrs 55,975 N/A dlrs 47,707
PR officer dlrs 34,870 dlrs 44,141 dlrs 48,170 dlrs 37,449
account executive dlrs 28,142 dlrs 36,250 dlrs 35,000 dlrs 36,180
14 BENEFITS 401K PLAN 72.7%
Guaranteed bonus 8.3%
Performance-related bonus 40.1%
Profit sharing 2.3%
Share options 15.1%
Health plan 83.2%
Paid maternity leave 25.9%
Source: PRWeek/Impulse Research
15 What is your bonus measured by?
Company-wide performance 43.3%
Individual performance 37.6%
Team performance 20.2%
Practice area performance 7.2%
Regional team performance 5.8%
Bonus is guaranteed 2.3%
No bonus 23.5%
HOW PROS VIEW THEIR JOBS
16 Pros who said they felt their job was rewarding
PR agency 54%
17 PROS WHO THEY FELT WELL REWARDED IN THEIR
JOB IN TERMS OF PAY AND BENEFITS
PR agency 4 2%
18 PROS WHO SAID THEY WERE SATISFIED WITH THE CAREER OPPORTUNITIES
WITHIN THEIR COMPANY
PR agency 69%
19 PROS WHO FELT THEIR JOB WAS UNDER THREAT DUE TO DOWNSIZING OR M&As
PR agency 3%
STAYING ON THE JOB
20 Are you likely to change jobs in the next 12 months?
Don’t know 8.2%
21 If you changed employers in the last 12 months, what was your main
reason for leaving?
Job dissatisfaction 26.8%
Conflict with manager/colleagues 4.6%
More interesting job 5.8%
Relocation requirements 7.0%
Promotion to a higher position 15.7%
More money/better package 24.6%
22 HAVE YOU BEEN APPROACHED BY A HEADHUNTER IN
THE PAST 12 MONTHS?
23 HOW MANY APPROACHES FROM EXECUTIVE RECRUITERS DID YOU HAVE IN 1999
COMPARED TO 1998?
No approaches 36%