The media annual PR salary increased from $89,000 to $95,000 last year, according to the 2018 Salary Survey from PRWeek. However, the rate of increase slowed to 6.7 percent from 10.3 percent the previous year. Median PR salary growth meaningfully outpaced inflation in both years. However, more respondents reported their salary as flat or down year over year – 29 percent in 2018 versus 23 percent in 2017.
Some commentators expressed surprise the increase wasn’t higher, given the low 4.1 percent unemployment rate. Other factors impact wage trends, recruitment experts say. Younger employees are replacing retiring baby boomers. Freelancers obtain more assignments. Organizations are merging marketing, digital communications and traditional PR functions. Also, labor costs were outpacing revenues.
The survey indicates that loyalty appears stable, says Frank Strong, founder of the Sword and the Script Media. Just 15 percent of PR pros say they changed jobs in the last 12 months. Although 77 percent of them said they negotiated higher salaries, other factors caused employees to seek new positions. Almost three-quarters of survey participants say career development and training and flex time are important benefits.
How PR Can Win Salary Increases
In order to gain a larger share of the corporate salary pie, PR needs to prove how it helps meet business goals. As companies merge functions, PR will increasingly work more closely with professionals who may be more accustomed to measuring results.
That’s why PR measurement has become critical, PR veterans told PR week. PR teams are investing in staff, technology tools, and research and analytics to show how their activities help meet business objectives.
“It’s about making us smarter, nailing the right insights for clients, and proving the value of our efforts,” Golin co-CEO Gary Rudnick told PRWeek.
How PR Pros Can Get Ahead
Forty-four percent of survey respondents cite management skills as the top attribute that leads to career advancement, followed by written communications cited by 25 percent.
Many communications leaders say both entry-level and experienced PR pros with data analytics skills will be better able to get ahead. Tasks once assigned to entry-level employees are now automated. Communications executives now hire interns with advanced data analysis skills, PR News reports. They seek people to hire people with coding, design and communications skills. Some hiring managers place a premium on data analysis and coding with little emphasis on writing skills.
In a previous survey by the Global Communications Report from USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations, almost two-thirds of PR executives said analytics is a required skill for PR pros. Analytics skills are increasingly important to measure PR campaigns and demonstrate PR’s contribution to the corporate business goals. Two-thirds of agency executives and over half (54%) of in-house PR executives say measurement is very or extremely important as a growth driver. However, PR teams face a growing shortage of employees with data analytics skills, executives warn. That indicates PR professionals with data analysis skills will command higher salaries.
Bottom Line: Although PR salary growth outpaced inflation in 2017, many PR pros expected median salary increases to be greater due to the tight overall job market. Better PR measurement and an increased emphasis on data analytics can help PR win larger budgets and higher salaries by demonstrating how PR contributes to increased ROI and other business objectives.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.