The median PR salary rose to $92,125 in the last 12 months.
Averages pose pitfalls in data interpretation, but the fact that the median PR salary is up roughly $8,000 from last year suggests competition for PR talent has sharply increased.
PR professionals have “every reason to be increasingly confident,” reports the 2016 PRWeek Salary Survey, from which that median salary figure stems. The survey, conducted in partnership with the executive recruiting firm Bloom, Gross & Associates, found a majority of PR pros saw salary bumps last year.
According to the data (solicited from 1,078 communications professionals), salary increases came in all forms, from job hops to promotions to talent retention:
“The survey found 75% of respondents who have remained at their company in the past year received a pay increase in the past 12 months. And even among those who stayed in the same position, 68% saw their salary rise. And, of course, among those who changed employers in the past 12 months, 81% had a salary increase.”
Segmenting the PR salary
The survey report breaks down salaries into several segments and graphically compares the data year-over-year. Here are two points that stood out to me:
Median salary by organization: PR firms are the proving ground for communications professionals who later move in-house. In-house PR salaries are higher than those of agencies, but I’d venture the in-house samples are smaller and include more persons with longer experience:
- In-house: $130,000
- PR agency: $84,500
- Non-profit: $68,000
Median salary by industry: New or aspiring PR pros should study this data to understand which markets present the greatest earning capacity. If you work for an agency, you should try to work on representative client accounts now. Likewise, this chart presents talking points for senior leaders mentoring young communicators:
- Industrial and manufacturing: $135,000
- Health care and pharma: $132,000
- Arts, entertainment and media: $130,000
- Financial services: $120,000
- Retail: $120,000
- Food and beverage: $115,000
- Tech/Internet: $104,500
- Trade associations: $94,500
- Government and public sector: $75,000
- Education: $75,000
- Travel, tourism and leisure: $71,000
- Nonprofit: $68,000
PR is an employee market
I’m a little surprised that the technology and financial services segments didn’t rank higher. Experience matters in these segments, and the lower average salaries suggest they are prime targets for headhunting—and a flight risk for employers.
According to the survey, three-quarters of respondents were approached by recruiters in the last year. Twenty-three percent said they changed jobs in the last year.
“The activity in the marketplace also means organizations and agencies are fighting to keep their best talent. And there are numerous forces at work intensifying the battle. For example, executive recruiters are actively contacting employees at increasing rates.”
The survey cites Edelman, which hired more than 2,000 new PR pros last year. “Most of the people we recruit are top talent; they are not without jobs,” Claudia Patton, Edelman’s chief talent officer, says.
PR and an MBA
A fundamental understanding of accounting, finance and economics is increasingly important to a PR pro’s credibility and ability to earn that fabled seat at the table. In a profession known for its mastery of persuasive language, fluency in business is essential.
Twenty-six percent of PR pros report having an MBA, the survey says. That’s up six percentage points from the previous year.
“If you had asked me 10 years ago if an MBA is worth the investment, I would have answered ‘no,’ because I wouldn’t have been able to guarantee they would work on projects that merit it,” Linda Rutherford, vice president of Communication at Southwest Airlines, said in the article.
“But the world has changed. The counselor role the PR pro holds today is far more cross functional than it ever has been. And the business understanding MBAs bring to the table, while having always been an advantage, ia being put to use more than ever.”
A version of this article originally appeared on The Sword and the Script.