Bonuses Lift PR Compensation in '06 - 1st Quarter '07 Base Salaries Rising Rapidly

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The Official PR Salary & Bonus Report - 2007 Edition reveals latest PR compensation data.

Spring Associates, Inc., a New York public relations search and consulting firm (, has just released the results of their 11th annual public relations and corporate communications study called The Official PR Salary & Bonus Report - 2007 Edition. The data is compiled and analyzed using Spring Associates' proprietary database containing detailed job information on nearly 18,000 credentialed PR corporate and agency professionals nationwide.

For 27 years, Spring Associates has been conducting mid-to-senior level search assignments using its unique database method of categorizing and cross-referencing career information from thousands of public relations professionals nationwide. Individuals with at least one year of demonstrated, full-time, PR experience with a bona fide corporation, agency or non-profit, and, who have a qualifying PR or corporate communications title - are included in the database.

2006 was a good year for the economy and the public relations business in general. Companies of all sizes reported steady revenue growth and respectable profit margins. From our executive search perspective, we have seen more foreign companies and PR firms commit to a New York presence than ever before. And yes, just about everyone who sought a PR job had found one in 2006. This trend seems to be continuing through the start of 2007.

Overall, average corporate communications base salaries increased a mere 3.3% compared with the previous year's 7.6%. Conversely, average PR agency base salaries declined an overall -3.2% compared to the previous year's increase of 8.9%.

Taken separately, the eight "key metro cities" (those with the greatest concentration of PR professionals), - New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles Boston, Dallas, Washington DC, and San Francisco - posted an average salary decline of -2.6% for PR firms and an average increase of 2.8% for corporate communications departments.

Typically, corporate communications average base salaries exceed PR agency salaries year after year, with the only exception being the dot-com boom years.

However, when bonuses, merit increases, promotion increases, health benefits, pension plans and the like, are factored into the overall compensation numbers, corporate communications professionals have consistently out-paced their PR firm counterparts. This fact has been noted for each of the past 11 years that The Official PR Salary & Bonus Report has been published.

A look at the four major regions of the country - northeast, southeast, mid-west and west, (excluding the 8 key metro cities), reveals that corporate communications average salaries are up a modest 2.7% while PR agency average salaries slid -3.4%. Last year, corporate and agency professionals in these regions reached a combined average increase of 8.2%.

"Even though the PR industry experienced reasonable growth in terms of revenue and hiring in 2006," said Dennis Spring, president of Spring Associates, Inc, "overall wage growth in public relations seemed to lag slightly behind. My feeling is that a certain amount of caution permeated clients' hiring decisions because of various unpredictable world events and a fresh memory of the negative affects of the dot-com implosion on the entire PR business."

Last year (2006), our Salary Report press release stated - "From 2002 to 2004, we found that PR agency bonuses were either down, skimpy or non-existent compared with the corporate sector that consistently showed some gains every year. We're happy to report that last year's bonuses (2005), on both the corporate and agency sides, finally showed a sharp upturn from the previous three years - at all levels."

The latest 2007 edition of The Salary Report continues to show an upward trend from the year before. For instance, when all titles and specialty categories are combined on a national basis, corporate communications professionals averaged bonus increases of 6.2% (last year's increase was 23.7%), compared to PR agency personnel who came in with a respectable 11.2% gain (last year's increase was 20.2%) in bonuses - nearly double their corporate counterparts.

It would appear that even though the PR industry had a relatively solid revenue growth year, base salaries remained flat or slightly up. To even the gap, savvy managers added bonus incentives to create a more competitive overall compensation environment so as to keep their best people happy.

"The PR agency landscape is now dominated by global communications conglomerates that usually pay bonuses on a more consistent basis. In addition, the impending shortage of skilled PR practitioners will force agencies of all sizes to invent creative ways to compensate their personnel in order to attract and keep the best candidates," said Mr. Spring.

PR Agency Hourly Billing Rates
Not much exciting news here. The slowing increase of hourly billing rates continues from 2005 to the present. We see this as a continuing "correction" of hourly rates that spiked dramatically during the dot-com boom years. It is our opinion, that agency billing rates are beginning to slowly creep upward. However, this time, the increases are gradual.

In all three main categories - Ad Agency Owned, Top 100 Independents and Other Independents - hourly fees rose ever so modestly. Here's a quick snapshot with some individual notable increases by title and region --
·    Ad Agency Owned: +2.9% (previously +10.7%) - AAE/Acct Assoc +6.4%, AE/Acct Mgr +5.0%, SAS/Group Mgr +3.9%, Media Mgr +3.4%.
·    Top 100 Independents: +2.2% (previously +6.6%) - Sr Media Mgr +5.7%, Media Mgr +4.7%, AE/Acct Mgr +3.2%, AAE/Acct Assoc +2.7%.
·    Other Independents: +1.9% (+2.6%) - AAE/Acct Assoc +8.2%, Media Mgr +7.9%, Senior Media Mgr +2.8%.

From our executive search vantage point, 2006 could be summed up as follows:

1.    The PR business grew both in revenue and new hires. However, most professionals we spoke to during the year reported that they were working excessive hours and feeling overworked and underpaid.
2.    In spite of employee grumblings, many people stayed in their job waiting to see how the year would unfold.
3.    Many of the PR professionals who stood on the sidelines during 2006, are now cautiously looking around for greener pastures.
4.    Our clients have already started to notice that some of their best employees are not happy with their wage and working situation and are trying to prevent attrition by adding more wage incentives and adding more staff to handle the increased workload.
5.    As a result, we have seen a sudden movement of both new hires and itchy employees looking for new opportunities.

In short, we are already seeing the beginnings of the hiring surge that we believe will characterize the rest of 2007. Tune in next year.

The Official PR Salary & Bonus Report is compiled from Spring Associates' proprietary database of more than 17,000 credentialed corporate communications and public relations professionals nationwide. The database is updated daily by the firm's recruiters, researchers and consultants to reflect the latest available information. The salary and bonus numbers are divided into multiple job-information fields, including up to eight specialty categories across six title designations. Salary numbers are also cross-referenced and compared to the previous year for four nationwide regions and eight "key" metro cities. Public relations agency hourly billing rates are segmented into three categories and cross-referenced with eleven billable titles and four regions of the country. Years of experience ranges and comparable titles are part of the Report as well.


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