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PR Salary: What’s a PR Pro Worth in 2016?

Across the industry and experience levels, the median PR salary rose to $92,125 in the last 12 months. By definition, averages pose pitfalls in data interpretation.  However, that the median PR salary is up roughly $8,000 over the same survey last year suggests competition for PR talent has tightened sharply.

The PR professional “every reason to be increasingly confident,” according to the 2016 PRWeek Salary Survey, from which that median salary figure stems. The survey, conducted in partnership with executive recruiting firm Bloom, Gross & Associates, found the vast majority of PR pros saw bumps in salary last year.

Salary increases came in all forms from job hops, to promotions, to talent retention, according to the data solicited from 1,078 communications professionals:

“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 PR salaries in several segments and also compares the data year-over-year graphically.  Here’s are two that stood out for me.

Median PR salary by organization.  PR firms tend to be the proving ground for communications professionals that later move in-house. In-house PR salaries historically have tended to be higher than those of agencies, but I’d venture the in-house samples tend to be smaller and of uniformly greater experience:

  • In-house: $130,000
  • PR agency: $84,500
  • Non-profit: $68,000

Median PR salary by industry.  New or aspiring PR pros would do well to study this data to understand which vertical markets present the greatest earning capacity.  If you work for an agency, you should be angling to work on representative client accounts now.  Likewise, this chart presents talking point for senior leaders to mentor younger communications professionals.

  • Industrial and manufacturing: $135,000
  • Healthcare 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 association: $94,500
  • Government and public sector: $75,000
  • Education: $75,000
  • Travel, tourism and leisure: $71,000
  • Nonprofit: $68,000

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PR an Employee Market

I am a little surprised that technology and financial services segments didn’t rank higher in median salary by market segment. Both vertical markets have a heavy emphasis on B2B and usually complex products. Experience matters in these segments and the lower benchmarks suggest to me these are prime targets for headhunting – and flight risk for employers.

Indeed, according to the PRWeek report, three-quarters of respondents have been approached by recruiters in the last 12 months.  About one-quarter of respondents (23%) 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 PRWeek report cites Edelman, which hired more than 2,000 new PR pros last year as a case in point.  “Most of the people we recruit are top talent; they are not without jobs,” according to Claudia Patton who is cited in the article and is the chief talent officer for the firm.

“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, are being put to use more than ever.”

The MBA Inches Up in PR

A fundamental understanding of accounting, finance and economics are increasingly important to PR credibility and to earn that fabled seat at the table.  In a profession known for its mastery of language for persuasion, fluency in the language of business is essential.

Some 26% of PR pros report having earned an MBA, according to the survey.  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,” said Linda Rutherford, vice president of Communication at Southwest Airlines 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, are being put to use more than ever.” 

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Photo credit:  Flickr, Thomas Galvez, Money! (CC BY 2.0)

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