Andy Pray: Agencies owe employees honesty about pay cuts, furloughs

The Praytell founder says firms are too opaque about the effects of the pandemic on personnel.

BROOKLYN, NY: Honesty about pay cuts and furloughs prompted by the coronavirus pandemic is rare in the agency world, but it shouldn’t be, said Praytell founder Andy Pray. 

“People make this industry,” he said, talking about a Wednesday morning LinkedIn post he wrote about tough decisions at his agency. “And they deserve and demand transparency.”

In the post, Pray described how his firm reduced salaries and furloughed some staff after clients put work on pause. 

“I share this carefully, but with sincere intent, for anyone at an agency feeling singled out if they’re furloughed or if they are now working harder for less. Please know that you’re not alone,” he wrote. 

Pray also chided the PR industry for opaqueness about the effects of the pandemic on staffing levels and salaries. 

“The silence from PR agencies these days is deafening. So let’s rip [off] the Band-Aid,” he wrote.

Pray said that he felt no trepidation about publicly sharing his experience and added that it’s hard to understand people looking askance at agencies for making cuts when so many other businesses are in the same boat. 

“If someone says there’s a stigma or shame in taking measures like this to ensure long-term stability, I don’t know how to help that person,” he said. “There is dignity in taking measures and working collectively to help sustain a future.”

It was clear that Praytell needed to take action in March, Pray said, when new business opportunities dried up and existing clients began putting retainers on pause.

“We had meetings in late March when the forecast changed quickly and dramatically,” he said, explaining that the idea wasn’t just to reduce expenses, but to create a path to restoring salaries and bringing furloughed employees back to work. Pray declined to provide specifics about the furloughs or pay cuts. 

“That plan all depends on us doing great work, and I think what is carrying us through is we’re doing our greatest work ever,” Pray said. “We’re seeing a great influx of opportunities right now. It all works together. It all works in balance. The staff understands that in this plan, everyone has a part to play.”

Pray said the plan is working. This month, clients began unpausing retainers, he said, and the volume of new business opportunities has increased. 

“We have closed five new relationships in the past two weeks,” Pray said.

While Pray didn’t single out any competitors, other agencies and networks have disclosed cost-cutting measures in response to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Last week, Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun said the holding company would introduce reduced hours, furloughs and some job cuts, Omnicom opted for similar measures, with CEO John Wren foregoing salary until September and other executives cutting their pay by a third. On Wednesday morning, Interpublic Group CEO Michael Roth said layoffs at his holding company would be “unavoidable.” 

Edelman global CEO Richard Edelman, meanwhile, has promised staff there “would be no job losses related to the COVID-19 situation.” 

Praytell’s revenue was up 28.5% in 2019 to $21.2 million, according to PRWeek’s Agency Business Report 2020

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in