Survey: PR agencies are charging clients more for CEO time

Results from the latest survey of rates by M&A consulting firm Gould+Partners.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

NEW YORK: The hourly rate PR agency CEOs charge clients grew nearly 10% last year, compared to 2017, according to a survey of rates by M&A consulting firm Gould+Partners.

The survey, released on Tuesday, asked 41 "best in class" PR shops for the hourly rates of employees, from the CEO down to account coordinators. Gould+Partners managing partner Rick Gould said agencies were included in the survey based on factors such as growth and profitability. 

The average CEO hourly rate for all agencies was $410 in 2018, nearly 10% more than the $376 they were charging in 2017. The hourly rates of EVPs and SVPs also went up in 2018, roughly 6% to $367 an hour, compared to $346 an hour in 2017.

Blended rates, a combination of the rates of various employees working an account, also rose nearly 9% to $224 an hour in 2018 from $206 an hour in 2017. Blended rates are offered in lieu of specifying and charging for the work each individual agency employee and often vary depending on the project or client. 

The increase in rates reflects the health of the industry, Gould said.

"This is a positive sign," he added. "Because for several years billing rates were really flat."

Not everyone, however, is seeing the financial love. The survey found that, on average, hourly rates for account coordinators only grew approximately 2%. For account execs, it was even less at 1%. 

Increases at smaller firms are also tinier in general. The hourly rate for CEOs at firms with revenue under $3 million grew just a little more than 5%.

Smaller firms are hesitant to raise rates for fear of losing clients, Gould explained.

"Larger firms are more aggressive in giving big raises and if you’re giving big raises you have to raise rates," he said. "But even for account executives, the change from 2017 to 2018 was only $171 to $174 an hour. That’s under 1% and they are the people that do all the work."

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