The survey found that in 2008 some account managers billed as much as 96% of their yearly capacity of 1,700 hours at an average rate of $198 per hour. That is the same as the average hourly billing rate for 2007. However, some only billed an average of 72% of their hours.
“Firms are thinking, ‘Should we raise our rates?'” said Rick Gould, managing partner at SGP and director of the survey. “You can tell by this no one changed their rates. They're nervous about clients complaining that the time is not right.”
The survey, based on responses from 106 PR agencies nationwide, asked participants for both 2007 and 2008 figures. It was SGP's first annual survey focused on billing rates and productivity, though it produces a number of other benchmarking surveys.
SVPs billed only 66% of their hours at a rate of $287 per hour, just two dollars less per hour than 2007. (The same rates apply to the EVP level.)
The average CEO or president billed $343 per hour in 2008, one dollar more than 2007, while the chief executive of an agency with $25 million or more in revenues averaged $505 per hour last year.
“We think there will be more layoffs unfortunately,” Gould said. “The CEOs don't want to do it, but they've got to keep their profitability. We think it's still going to be another rough six months.”