SALARY SURVEY: Career moves - The new breed of PR professionals are less interested in hard cash than they are in job satisfaction and recognition. Rebecca Dowman reports

PR staff across the board enjoyed a hike in their percentage pay rises last year as, with recession memories fading fast, companies scrambled to catch and keep talented people.

PR staff across the board enjoyed a hike in their percentage

pay rises last year as, with recession memories fading fast,

companies scrambled to catch and keep talented people.

The increases - averaging 11.9 per cent in agencies and 7.5 per

cent in-house - are clearly in step with the wishes of

consultancy staff who, in this year’s PR Week/Media Appointments

Salary Survey, highlighted money as their key work-place


Yet, with 12 hour days and stress-overload the norm for many PR

people, there are growing signs that cash could soon take second

place to demands for a better quality of life.

The consultancy rise of 11.9 per cent, up more than three per

cent on last year, meant all but one band - solo-practitioners

and freelances - saw increases of more than 10 per cent. With the

industry continuing to pay dearly for its lack of account

handlers, account managers again got the biggest hike, with

salaries going up 13.9 per cent.

Although solo practitioners only won a 6.4 per cent rise, the

survey - based on responses from 1,400 PR professionals - quashes

the myth of the solo operator as ’one man and his typewriter’.

The top 10 per cent of lone practitioners - separated this year

from the managing director/chairman category - raked in an

average of pounds 77,583. This figure can only increase as

high-flyers like Alison Canning, ex-Burson-Marsteller chief

executive, go it alone as strategic consultants.

Although less striking, the average in-house rise of 7.5 per cent

shows the sector emerging from the doldrums of last year when it

won a mere 5.1 per cent. As last year, the PR officer did least

well, with a 6.8 per cent increase, while PR managers and PR

directors clocked rises of about 7.8 per cent.

Media Appointments director Benedicte Martin says the rising

salaries reflect the industry’s fight to find, and retain, PR

talent. ’Good people are very, very hard to find,’ she says.

’Those in charge of PR budgets are demanding more value for

money. Agencies are therefore shopping around for the best people

and leaving vacancies unfilled rather than taking on ’average’


Whereas account handlers have been the gold-dust of recent years,

Martin says fresh gaps are opening up. ’While, at entry level, PR

is as seductive as ever to green graduates, more experienced PR

professionals are becoming increasingly disaffected with the

industry.’ Such disaffection, she says, is encouraging many more

senior people to go in-house or to leave public relations


Such burn-out may explain the industry’s prevailing youth. This

year, the ages of all ranks remained static or fell, with, for

example, the average in-house PR director now aged 39, not 41 and

the average account director now 33, not 34 years old.

The increasing demand has not restored full confidence: only 46.2

per cent of respondents felt their company was in a healthy or

very healthy position, while 11.6 per cent of consultancy staff

and 23.9 per cent of in-house people are afraid of losing their

jobs. Yet, of the 22.2 per cent who changed jobs last year, more

than one third went to more senior jobs while less than nine per

cent were made redundant.

The actual ease of job movement is also reflected by the fact

that almost one in five staff have been with their firm for less

than two years.

Despite the overall rises, the actual level of salaries for top

operators has withered. This year an agency managing

director/chairman, in the top ten per cent earnings bracket, gets

pounds 91,667 not pounds 95,000, while the top in-house PR

director’s wage has fallen from pounds 91,375 to pounds


Although such figures could mean simply that last year’s high

earners were just too busy making money to participate in the

1997 review, they do indicate a scarcity of fat cats in the

public relations industry.

Benedicte Martin affirms: ’In these days of tight margins, fat

cat salaries are not as prevalent as the press would have us


’Consultancy managing directors would rather pay themselves a

realistic base salary with a generous bonus, dependent on the

agency’s performance.

Senior in-house roles do sometimes come with awesome packages but

these are invariably reserved for board level appointments.’

The survey shows women reaping a higher percentage increase than

their male colleagues - a healthy 8.2 per cent compared with 6.2

per cent for men.

However, there are still relatively few women at the top.

In-house, women make up 71 per cent of PR officers but only 43.3

per cent of PR directors and, in agencies, the 81.7 per cent

female domination of the account executive ranks translates into

just 35.5 per cent at chairman or managing director level.

’I am not aware of any specific discrimination with salaries, in

regard to women or, indeed, their being chosen to fill top

positions,’ says Martin.

’However there is no doubt that the competition ratio does start

to decline as women face increasingly difficult decisions when

juggling home/children and the demands of, say, a board position

in an agency.’

Salaries vary across different regions and sectors. Central

London continues to lead the field, with its average salary of

pounds 32,792 being pounds 3,000 greater than the next contender

- Greater London - and over pounds 9,000 higher than in the

poorest-paying area, Yorkshire and Humberside.

The utilities and power arena offers the highest average

salaries, of the survey’s 12 defined sectors, with both in-house

and consultancy staff on pounds 37,000-plus - a reflection no

doubt of the rough media ride suffered by many former

nationalised industries.

The other sectors pay differing rates between in-house and


In-house, financial services ranks second in the money stakes, on

pounds 33, 404, with the industrial sector third on pounds

31,333. In agencies, the healthcare and pharmaceutical field is

runner-up with pounds 35,102, and the government and public

services sector third with pounds 32,205.


With the supply and demand equation tipping in their favour,

employees are increasingly looking beyond the pay cheque when

changing jobs.

’The recent generations of PR professionals are definitely more

clued up when it comes to benefits and in turn have higher

expectations,’ says Benedicte Martin. ’It is not unusual for

graduate trainees to come armed with a battery of questions

relating to benefits.’

The survey reveals a picture where, in almost all sectors - apart

from pensions - in-house staff seem to have lost their

traditional ascendancy on perks.

Martin comments: ’To retain their staff, rather than for

altruistic reasons, agencies are perhaps realising they have to

be competitive and offer a better benefits package than they did

five years ago.’

In-house staff should do better on pensions with 76.7 per cent

covered against just 43.6 per cent of agency employees.

In all fields, the company car is becoming far less popular, with

just 44 per cent of agency staff and 26.9 per cent of in-house

staff at the wheel. ’Cars are decreasing in popularity as

employees have become more aware of the tax disadvantages,

preferring cash in lieu,’ says Martin.

Surprisingly, considering the continuing media fascination with

the state of the NHS, there is an across-the-board reduction in

private health benefits, with just 40 per cent of consultancy

staff and 33.9 per cent of in-house employees covered. Agency

board directors buck this downward trend by increasing take-up

from 61 per cent last year to 63.1 per cent.

This fall may reflect employees’ tendency to ’mix and match’

benefits, rather than employer parsimony. Martin says: ’Employers

are increasingly offering a set cash package when offering jobs.

These can then be broken down by the individual and allocated

according to preferred benefits spend.’

Performance-related bonus figures reveal a complex picture.

In-house, the average percentage of staff receiving such benefits

fell in all staff groups.

However, those in-house folk in receipt of PRBs saw them rise in

value with, for example, a PR manager’s average bonus rising from

6.9 to 9 per cent of their salary. In consultancies, some

sectors, such as account managers, became less likely to receive

PRBs, while others, including account executives, became more

likely recipients. As with in-house, the value of bonuses


Guaranteed bonuses remain far less common: at a prevalence of 7.4

per cent in consultancies, and 5.9 per cent in-house, they showed

basically no move on last year.

Stake-holding is becoming more politically fashionable than last


Then in-house staff were far less likely to part-own their

company, with only one in eight in-house people holding shares,

compared to this year’s figure of almost one in four agency


Training is lauded by many as the great white hope of public

relations, yet the survey reveals a disturbing inconsistency

across the industry.

In-house, more than half of all staff had no structured training;

one quarter had no training days last year and 60 per cent had no

presentations from external experts. In consultancies, almost

two-thirds had no structured training, one-fifth had no training

days and more than half saw no expert presentations.

There were, however, some glowing trends, such as the 18 per cent

of consultancy and 15 per cent of in-house staff who had more

than five days training last year and the one-third of

consultancy people, and one-quarter of in-house employees, who

had personal mentors.

Benedicte Martin suggests the mega-agencies do not always offer

the best development opportunities. ’It seems to be the

middle-sized and fast expanding agencies which are increasingly

committed to training and quality accreditation.

Smaller agencies seem to offer more of the ’all hands on deck’-

type training which, although somewhat unstructured, can

undoubtedly be beneficial.’

It is not only rogue companies who put little stock on training.

In the league table of ten motivational factors, both in-house

and consultancy staff put training near the bottom of their

personal top tens.


This year’s salary survey also trounces the Ab Fab myth of the PR

practitioner as a Bolly-swilling, long-lunching air-head.

Industry professionals are highly qualified: almost two-thirds

are graduates, nearly half speak two or more foreign languages

and 36.7 per cent are members of the IPR. They work immensely

long hours. In-house, on an average day, 13 per cent of staff

spend between 11 and 12 hours at work, with over one per cent

working for more than 12 hours. Consultancy staff clock up even

more hours, with 14.8 per cent of respondents spending between 11

and 12 hours at the office and over three per cent working even


Martin explains: ’In these days of tight margins, and in keeping

with the whole reshaping of work over the last five or six years,

it is a rare PR operator who will disappear off to lunch not to

be seen again until the next day!’

Lunches do, however, still figure. Around 50 per cent of staff,

slightly weighted on the agency side, have two or more business

meals each week.

At those lunches, mineral water must often be the favourite

tipple as a sobering 7.8 per cent of respondents are teetotal.

However 14.7 per cent of staff confess to drinking more than 25

units of alcohol per week - four units above the Government’s

’sensible maximum’ - and more than a quarter of consultancy

staff, and just over one in six in-house people, had faced work

during the previous two weeks with a hangover.

Drugs, illegal or otherwise, were the pursuit of the minority -

although in-house staff proved more abstemious than consultancy

colleagues. In agencies, 27.4 per cent smoke - 0.4 per cent above

the national average - and 17.6 per cent had taken illegal drugs

in the previous six months.

In-house, 17.7 per cent smoke while eight per cent had tried

something harder.

A significant proportion - 9.5 per cent - of today’s PR talent is

made up of ex-journalists but, with 8.3 per cent now holding

degrees in public relations, the industry seems likely to become

the province of ’career PRs’.

This can have drawbacks. Benedicte Martin reports that graduates

in public relations are ’surprisingly picky and in some cases

unprepared to do the basic dogsbody hands-on work that the

average executive spends their time doing.’

Despite the recent climate of sleaze, the survey shows most PR

staff have a strong professional sense of how far they should go.

While 86 per cent would accept free drinks and 87 per cent would

take free lunch, only 14.4 per cent wouldn’t say no to a free

holiday and 12.4 per cent to a free car. Meanwhile, 22 per cent

of respondents had had affairs with colleagues and more than one

in 12 consultancy respondents said they had had liaisons with


Benedicte Martin also reports that money is no longer the prime


’Unlike in the 1980s, when candidates would come to me with a

non-negotiable figure to which they were aspiring, these days

staff are more inclined to move for the ’right’ job. Personal

happiness and job satisfaction are of ultimate importance.’

She adds that, due to the ’quality of life issue and a

disaffection with the intense pressures of London agency life’,

the last year has seen a definite trend of Londoners wanting to

move out of the capital.

However - despite popular cynicism, dogsbody work, long hours and

claims from almost one-third of respondents that they are

under-rewarded or even exploited - for many, public relations

retains its lustre. Given their career time again, almost

two-thirds of the people surveyed said they would still go into

the public relations industry.


PR DIRECTOR                   PR MANAGER

Average salary                Average salary

pounds 43,620                 pounds 28,324

Average age                   Average age

39                            37

Average salary increase       Average salary increase

at last review                at last review

7.8%                          7.8%

Average holiday               Average holiday

5 weeks                       5 weeks


Car                           Car

51%                           40.8%

Health plan                   Health plan

59.6%                         41.3%

Performance-related bonus     Performance-related bonus

43.3%                         31%

Pension                       Pension

88.5%                         78.3%


Average salary

pounds 19,823

Average age


Average salary increase

at last review


Average holiday

5 weeks




Health plan


Performance-related bonus






Average salary                   Average salary

pounds 47,280                    pounds 45,654

Average age                      Average age

45                               39

Average salary increase          Average salary increase

at last review                   at last review

11.7%                            12.5%

Average holiday                  Average holiday

4 weeks                          5 weeks


Car                              Car

68.8%                            61.5%

Health plan                      Health plan

50.5%                            63.1%

Performance-related bonus        Performance-related bonus

33.3%                            44.6%

Pension                          Pension

63.4%                            61.5%


Average salary

pounds 30,472

Average age


Average salary increase

at last review


Average holiday

4 weeks




Health plan


Performance-related bonus





Average salary                   Average salary

pounds 23,039                    pounds 17,043

Average age                      Average age

29                               26

Average salary increase          Average salary increase

at last review                   at last review

13.9%                            10.4%

Average holiday                  Average holiday

4 weeks                          4 weeks


Car                              Car

26.8%                            7.7%

Health plan                      Health Plan

47.7%                            35.6%

Performance-related bonus        Performance-related bonus

28.8%                            29.8%

Pension                          Pension

31.4%                            36.4%


      Consultancy                 In-house

1     Financial reward            1    Challenging work

2     Challenging work            2    Responsibility

3     Responsibility              3    Financial reward

4     Friendly environment        4    Recognition

5     Recognition                 5    Friendly environment

6     Career prospects            6    Career prospects

7     Job security                7    Job security

8     Location                    8    Location

9     Training                    9    Training

10    Fringe benefits             10   Fringe benefits

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