Racing ahead

Salaries for agency staff have jumped this year because of a shortage of seasoned professionals.

Salaries for agency staff have jumped this year because of a shortage of

seasoned professionals.

Agency account managers and account executives are winning in the salary

stakes because cut backs in recruitment during the recession have left

the industry with a dearth of talented young account handlers.

This year’s PR Week/Media Appointments Salary Survey demonstrates a

rising level of optimism among consultancies. The average account

manager commanded a 10.5 per cent pay rise this year, an increase of 1.6

per cent on last year’s rise, and account executives received a healthy

9.9 per cent rise - indicating that the industry is working hard to

attract new recruits at entry level.

‘The past year has seen a significant increase in basic salaries,

particularly at account executive and account manager level, in complete

contrast to the position last year when salaries were remained fairly

flat,’ says Media Appointments director Ben¬Ědicte Martin, who attributes

salary rises to an upturn in agency business and a frantic recruitment

drive by consultancies as they staff up for new business wins.

Over the past year, the PR industry has, in general, produced some

moderately well-fed, if not necessarily fat, cats. In a year marked by

Cedric Brown-style rises, consultancy heads have, in fact, displayed

considerable self-restraint with their cheque books. The average salary

rise for a company chairman and managing director dropped by 2 per cent

of basic salary to an average 5.9 per cent rise in the past 12 months,

while board directors pay increases stood at roughly the same level as

last year - a situation not expected to change radically in the coming

12 months.

While at first glance it would seem that company heads are losing out to

their boards, average figures are distorted by the large number of

company heads who are either sole traders or operate a small-scale


Of 1,500-plus respondents, 27 per cent of all those who took part in the

survey say that they work for an agency made up of less than six people

and only six per cent work for agencies which employ 100-plus staff.

A survey of the top ten per cent of earners paints a more realistic

picture. While membership of the ‘six-figure club’ is still limited to a

select few, elite agency chairmen and managing directors can still

expect a pay packet of around pounds 95,000, while top in-house

directors can pull in pounds 91,375.

Overall figures, however, indicate that consultancy staff are one lap

ahead of in-house operators in the race to leave the recession behind.

‘While there has been a considerable boost in confidence and jobs have

stabilised in the public relations industry compared with previous

years, in-house departments have not recovered to the same degree as

consultancies, post-recession,’ says Martin.

Indeed, the mood among in-house operators is much less buoyant than

among their agency counterparts. Only a quarter of all in-house staff

felt that they had cause to be optimistic about their professional

futures, with 27 per cent of in-house staff claiming that their

situation has worsened. Despite an overall drop in redundancy 26 per

cent fear they will lose their jobs.

In-house salary increases have remained fairly static, with PR directors

and managers pay rises adjusted upwards by roughly one per cent on last

year. The in-house PR officer, in particular, cuts a rather sorry

figure, having been effectively put on a diet with a backward slide of

0.6 per cent on last year’s percentage salary rise. Is it any wonder

that, combined with a cut back in the average holiday allowance from

five weeks to four and a half, that 39 per cent of PR officers feel that

they are under-rewarded, while an outspoken six per cent say they feel

down-right exploited? In-house operators, not surprisingly, underplay

their predictions for next year’s pay increases - directors expecting

4.4 per cent of basic salary, and managers and officers 3.6 per cent.

Women working in-house have outstripping their male counterparts in

terms of average pay increases in the last year. However, within

consultancies, women continue to hit a glass ceiling above the level of

account director. While there are twice as many female account

directors and managers as men, and with 78 per cent of all account

executives are female, men are more likely to rise through the ranks.

Only 36 per cent of board directors are female and over two-thirds of

company heads literally wear the trousers. Women working in-house fare

considerably better, with 45 percent of PR directorships filled by

women. But this still represents a considerable fall off because a large

proportion of the 72 per cent of public relations officers fail to climb

the career ladder.

‘Women continue to dominate entry into PR but there is a greater fall-

out rate as other life issues, such as having children, influence their

career path and the flexibility to remain in key full-time roles,’ says


In terms of regional differences, London-based staff, not surprisingly,

earn the most, with the north-west and Wales the lowest paid areas of

the country to work in.

Across the various industry specialisations, those working in the

financial services sector fare particularly well, with average salaries

in consultancy standing at pounds 43,010 and in-house at pounds 32,965.

Other high-paying sectors to head for include the utilities and power

companies, which pay their in-house staff an average of pounds 38,935.

Within consultancies, the most lucrative interest areas include charity,

hi-tech, healthcare and pharmaceutical and government/public service.

But in-house public relations workers in the latter sector do far less

well, ranking alongside FMCG, non-food and drink specialists as the

worst paid.

‘Continuing the trend of the past few years, the IT, healthcare and

financial sectors continue to command a premium,’ says Martin. ‘This is

due in part to the lack of entry at graduate level in these specialist

areas. Healthcare agencies in particular have a preference for life

science graduates who do not traditionally leave university considering

a career in public relations - unlike their arts-based peers.’

The power of youth also makes itself felt in terms of rampant ageism,

with consultancy staff, in particular, getting younger by the minute.

While in 1995 a company chairman was likely to be in his or her mid-50s,

1996 sees such old-timers’ giving way to company heads in their mid-40s.

The same holds true at board level. Where a director might expect to

still have his feet under the boardroom table at 43, the average board

director is now a youthful 39.

Employers focus on quality of life issues

Apart from salary increases, what are agencies and companies offering to

generate that all elusive ‘feel-good’ factor? ‘While the pace of the PR

industry does not really allow for corporate perks such as overtime and

flexible hours there is more awareness of quality of life issues,’ says


In fact, media alarms about erosion of the state safety net have been

mirrored by a sharp increase in welfare-related benefits for both in-

house and consultancy staff.

As the crisis in the NHS deepens, company health plans have become an

increasingly popular option with a significant increase in the number of

staff across the board who have private health cover. But, as Martin

points out, while health cover is common, maternity schemes are not - a

significant oversight considering the number of female practitioners in

the industry.

Last year also saw a big jump in the number of staff who receive a

pension as part of their package. Over 85 per cent of in-house 30-

something PR officers now have a company pension as opposed to 55 per

cent in 1995 - and 29 per cent of account executives are preparing

financially for retirement at the tender age of 25.

‘As candidates in their late-20s and early-30s plan for their financial

future, they look more to employers to provide them with both security

and a good benefits package,’ says Martin.

While very few staff are guaranteed a bonus, there has been a sharp

increase in the number of in-house managers, public relations officers,

consultancy executives and account managers who are benefiting from

performance-related bonuses. Thirty-four per cent of in-house managers,

23 per cent of officers, a quarter of all executives and 35 per cent of

consultancy managers now receive performance-related bonuses. But Martin

says the cash benefit of such schemes vary from company to company,

particularly if used to ‘top up’ a base salary rather than as an

addition to a previously agreed base salary.

On average, an account director or manager would be looking at a bonus

equating to around seven per cent of his or her salary, and an executive

at around nine per cent. In-house managers can expect to see a bonus of

around 6.9 per cent of their salary and PR officers 5.1 per cent. Unless

you are a consultancy chairman or managing director, or to a lesser

extent a board director, you are unlikely to be offered share ownership.

And you are even more unlikely to lay your hands on company shares if

you work in-house. While 42 per cent of consultancy board directors have

a stake in the company they work for, only 17.4 per cent of PR directors

have the same privilege.

Fewer in-house PR directors now count a company car as part of their

benefits package, and those who do are sitting behind the wheel of a

less expensive vehicle. Sixty-two per cent of PR directors are supplied

with cars worth around pounds 16,978, a drop of one per cent in number

and pounds 1,000 less in terms of on-the-road value. By contrast, more

PR officers are benefiting from their own vehicle - 13 per cent now

drive cars valued at around pounds 11,316, a rise of 3 per cent and

pounds 1,100 on 1995.

Consultancies on the other hand have been more generous. While there has

been no great rise in the allocation of vehicles, there has been a

moderate increase across the board in terms of the value of cars.

Seventy per cent of chairmen and managing directors drive vehicles

valued at around pounds 17,000; 69 per cent of board directors drive

cars valued at pounds 17,500; 58 per cent of account directors have cars

worth on average pounds 12,800; 35 per cent of account managers at

pounds 10,100 and 14 per cent of account executives at around pounds


Driving-related benefits include free petrol for around half of all

consultancy chairmen and managing directors and a quarter of board

directors, with between 35 and 50 per cent of all consultancy staff

benefiting from business mileage allowances.

In-house staff lose out, with only 20 per cent of PR directors receiving

free petrol, although staff across the board make up for this in terms

of business mileage, which is allowed for around half of all staff.

Healthy salaries at the top

A mere ten respondents to our annual survey boasted six-figure salaries.

So either very few practitioners are on large salaries or the big

earners were generally too busy making money (or too embarrassed about

the size of their earnings) to fill in a form.

Fortunately for those aspiring to make their fortunes in PR, the latter

would appear to be true. A little extra research shows that more than a

handful of the industry’s top practitioners - both at consultancies and

in-house - earn above pounds 100,000 a year.

But the pay super league - those at the very top of the remuneration

pile - is still exclusively the preserve of entrepreneurial consultancy

founders who have built up their businesses over a period of years.

Shandwick’s Peter Gummer and Lowe Bell’s Sir Tim Bell lead the way, with

remuneration during the last full financial year of pounds 524,000 and

pounds 475,000 respectively. QBO chairman Quentin Bell is close behind,

having augmented his salary with a substantial chunk of the

consultancy’s profits to inflate his income to pounds 443,000.

Brunswick senior partner Alan Parker is rumoured to pay himself anywhere

between pounds 300,000-500,000 a year. As the other partners in the

consultancy all earn over pounds 100,000 a year, it doesn’t seem

fanciful. Meanwhile, top directors at Dewe Rogerson are believed to

receive between pounds 100,000 and pounds 200,000, with bonuses on top.

Financial Dynamics chairman Tony Knox and chief executive Nick Miles

draw salaries thought to be in the region of pounds 130,000 a year. But

profit share in a good year lifts their income to around pounds 200,000.

Lowe Bell group managing director Piers Pottinger admits to a package of

‘over pounds 200,000’, while Shandwick Consultants chief executive Chris

Matthews and director of public affairs Tom McNally are paid in the band

of pounds 110,000-160,000. Hill and Knowlton chairman, Europe Paul

Taaffe will not confirm a salary rumoured to be about pounds 150,000.

But whatever it is, he claims it is ‘not enough’.

Peter Hehir, chairman of strong performer Countrywide, is believed to

draw a salary of about pounds 140,000, topped up to a total remuneration

of about pounds 150,000 when a modest (in percentage terms) performance-

related bonus is added.

Remuneration for directors of corporate communications or public affairs

at the UK’s top companies (FTSE-100 or comparable companies) would

appear to begin at about pounds 100,000 a year. Some of the big guns

earn significantly more.

John Wybrew, who moves from Shell to become executive director

responsible for corporate affairs and strategic planning at British Gas

on April 1, will be paid pounds 275,000 a year for his labours.

Other in-house communications heavyweights thought to earn well over

pounds 100,000 a year include British Airports Authority public affairs

director Des Wilson, Grand Metropolitan group corporate communications

director Mary Carroll, Glaxo Wellcome public affairs director Geoff

Potter, Guinness group public affairs director Chris Davidson and HSBC

head of group public affairs Mary Jo Jacobi.

Standard Chartered group corporate affairs director Tim Halford is

believed to be on a basic salary of about pounds 140,000 plus a

discretionary bonus that brings his annual income up to around pounds

200,000. City communicators in the pounds 200,000-a-year or more bracket

include Richard Thurman, chief executive of Shandwick International, who

is on long-term secondment to the UK office of US investment bank

Goldman Sachs; Richard Spiegelberg, director of marketing and

communications at Merrill Lynch; and Salomon Brothers communications

director Leigh Bruce.

At the other end of the scale, there are plenty of first jobbers who

have to put up with wages that only just put them in the five-figure

club. Although many graduates start on about pounds 14,000-pounds

16,000, some young employees are much harder done by.

A recruitment consultant who wishes to remain nameless, says she was

recently approached by someone looking to move from their first job as

an account executive at a public relations consultancy in the north-

west. Their salary? The princely sum of pounds 10,800 a year.




PR director           PR Manager            PR officer

Average salary        Average salary        Average salary

pounds 44,500         pounds 28,000         pounds 19,430

Average age           Average age           Average age

41                    37                    33

Average salary        Average salary        Average salary

increase at last      increase at last      increase at last

review                review                review

5.9%                  5.1%                  4.2%

Average holiday       Average holiday       Average holiday

5 weeks               5 weeks               4.5 weeks

% receiving these     % receiving these     % receiving these

benefits              benefits              benefits

Car                   Car                   Car

62%                   43%                   13%

Health plan           Health plan           Health plan

61%                   47%                   28%

Performance-related   Performance-related   Performance-related

bonus                 bonus                 bonus

44%                   34%                   23%

Pension               Pension               Pension

81%                   88%                   85%



Consultancy (part one)


Chairman/Managing    Board director        Account director


Average salary       Average salary        Average salary

pounds 45,524        pounds 45,753         pounds 30,371

Average age          Average age           Average age

45                   39                    34

Average salary       Average salary        Average salary

increase at last     increase at last      increase at last

review               review                review

6%                   9.5%                  6.5%

Average holiday      Average holiday       Average holiday

4.5 weeks            4.5 weeks             4 weeks

% receiving these    % receiving these     % receiving these

benefits             benefits              benefits

Car                  Car                   Car

70%                  69%                   58%

Health plan          Health plan           Health plan

51%                  61%                   56%

Performance-related  Performance-related   Performance-related

bonus                bonus                 bonus

29%                  44%                   39%

Pension              Pension               Pension

59%                  71%                   41%



Consultancy (part two)


Account manager         Account executive

Average salary          Average salary

pounds 21,030           pounds 16,162

Average age             Average age

29                      25

Average salary          Average salary

increase at last        increase at last

review                  review

10.5%                   9.9%

Average holiday         Average holiday

4 weeks                 4 weeks

% receiving these       % receiving these

benefits                benefits

Car                     Car

35%                     14%

Health plan             Health Plan

50%                     36%

Performance-related     Performance-related

bonus                   bonus

35%                     25%

Pension                 Pension

27%                     29%



Top ten motivating factors at work


      Consultancy                     In-house

 1    Challenging work           1    Challenging work

 2    Financial reward           2    Responsibility

 3    Responsibility             3    Recognition

 4    Recognition                4    Financial reward

 5    Friendly environment       5    Friendly environment

 6    Career prospects           6    Job security

 7    Job security               7    Career prospects

 8    Location                   8    Training

 9    Training                   9    Location

10    Fringe benefits           10    Fringe benefits



Professional optimism


***  Table missing -- unable to set ***

Optimism is running high among consultancy staff, with nearly half of

all  staff saying they now feel more confident about the future, with

only 12 per cent of staff fearing redundancy.

However, there are no great claims being made for an economic upturn or

knock on benefits for PR. Around half of respondents said they expected

more of the same in the coming year, with only 37 per cent predicting a

healthier outlook in the near future.

Over 70 per cent of in-house staff say that staff shortages have

increased their workloads, while nearly 60 per cent of consultancy staff

complain about being overloaded.



Reasons for planning career move


     Consultancy             In-house

1    Dissatisfaction    1    Promotion

2    Promotion          2    Dissatisfaction

3    Redundancy         3    Better package

4    Better package     4    Conflict

5    Conflict           5    Redundancy

Around a quarter of in-house and 19 per cent of consultancy staff want

to move jobs in the next 12 months. Prospect of promotion was cited by

in-house staff as the most common reason for leaving and dissatisfaction

with their current job as consultancy staff’s  motivation to move.

Nearly one third (29.3 per cent) expect to find their next job through

PR Week’s recruitment ads, followed by recruitment consultancies (24.4.

per cent) and word of mouth (17.3 per cent).

A top in-house position continues to be seen as the holy grail in terms

of ultimate career goals, underlining a widely-held belief that in-house

departments offer a more comprehensive benefits package.

Among consultancy staff, an increasing number of candidates are opting

to make their careers with owner-managed agencies, drawn by competitive

salary rates.

‘While we are finding employers to be more generous when hiring new

staff, internal pay rises tend to be leaning incrementally in larger

agencies and more generous in smaller PR agencies,’ says Media

Appointments’ Martin.

‘At the moment we are seeing a lot of account executives looking to

move. Due to the tight staff budget of last year a lot of them feel

undervalued and overworked. However, there is a real dearth of movement

at account manager and account director level.’

According to recruitment consultancies such as Martin, these are the

hardest candidates to attract as they usually fall into two camps:

either those fed up with the pressure of consultancy life and who will

only move for an in-house role; or those who believe that all agencies

are cut from the same cloth and see no incentive to move jobs.

According to Martin, candidates are generally looking for an increase of

around pounds 3,000 when moving jobs, having stayed in their last

position for an average of two years. While the older candidates may

have progressed in PR without a degree, over 50 per cent of all staff

now list a first degree on their CV, with 11 per cent claiming a higher

degree. ‘The popularity of university PR courses has allowed graduates

with work experience to gain entry into training schemes,’ says Martin.

The European nature of the PR business has led to an emphasis on foreign

languages. French still leads the field as the main language of commerce

and is spoken by 56 per cent of PR people; 15 per cent speak German, 6

per cent Spanish and 4 per cent Italian.

At the same time, more candidates are progressing to an executive role

via the secretarial route.

The PR Week/ Media Appointments 1996 Salary Survey is based on 1,560

responses of readers to a PR Week questionnaire.


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