NEW YORK: During 2003, average PR salaries took their biggest year-over-year drop since PRWeek began tracking them in 2001, according to the 2004 PRWeek Salary Survey.
Overall, average base salaries this year dropped by 6.1%, to $63,590, according to the 2004 PRWeek Salary Survey.
That figure is lower than the $64,366 figure the survey registered two years ago.
The survey also found that mid-level practitioners, those with eight to 12 years' experience, were the only level to see salary gains.
The survey polled 2,546 practitioners operating in a variety of settings and bearing many titles.
"Freelancer" was the title with the largest gain in average base income, growing 12% to $70,954. That might stem from the layoffs of recent years, with freelancers taking on increased project work from agencies and companies with thinner staffs. It also appears that many of the freelancers are not in that position by choice, as nearly all of them (98%) in the survey said they are looking for jobs.
Corporate PR pros were far more likely to be satisfied with their compensation than agency colleagues (80% versus 66%).
Industry pros were not overly worried about the salary drop, viewing it as a delayed reaction to the economic doldrums of the turn of the millennium. They are perhaps bolstered in their thinking by the new optimism about the economy.
"It's a readjustment from the bubble when PR salaries got ahead of themselves - we are back to more sane pricing," said Don Spetner, SVP of global marketing and communications, and chief marketing officer for recruitment firm Korn/Ferry International.
While the dropping salaries might encourage employers to find other ways to make their employees happy, almost all respondents (98%) said money is at least "important" to them.
Yet, almost three-quarters of respondents (72%) said they were at least adequately compensated while the rest felt underpaid.
Entry-level salaries tended to drop at a faster rate year-on-year than those at senior levels. Professionals with less than two years' experience saw their paychecks drop by about 6.5% to $33,506.
Males continued to outpace female counterparts as men reported average compensation more than $22,000 higher than the average female respondent.