PR Compensation Jumps 7% Over Last Year


Growth Tied to Better Benefits, Restructuring Results of the PR NEWS 1998 Salary Survey showing that compensation in the communications profession grew about 7 percent over last year is evidence of a PR bull market. Salaries are growing on both the corporate and agency side, with sources expecting the trend to continue for several years. This year's growth is tied to heftier bonuses and perks, rather than higher base salaries. Last year's findings indicated that salaries had surged 5 to 8 percent over the prior year but today's trend is to offer incentives to recruit and retain employees. Incentives include stock options and merit bonuses related to performance. The survey, conducted by Marshall Consultants, Inc. and first appearing in PR NEWS, shows that technology, healthcare and financial PR are again leading the pack, with executives in these areas often netting compensation packages that are 10 to 15 percent higher than a year earlier. Salaries are lower in industrial/manufacturing because of a decrease in demand for PR professionals in that industry. But overall compensation for communications executives will continue to grow as companies strive to compete in the evolving global market, predicts Marshall Consultants CEO Larry Marshall. The survey reveals average salaries by position, geographic location, industry and company size. For example, a senior VP of communications at a large corporation (sales above $2 billion) can expect to earn a salary of about $302,500 in high-tech, a significant increase over last year's $275,000 average. And a president/CEO of a New York-based PR agency can expect to earn around $291,500 in the technology arena, a jump over last year's average of $265,000. Examining just one placement by Marshall Consultants indicates the types of packages being negotiated in today's market. A recent Marshall vice president-level placement in a $3 billion, publicly-held technology firm received a package totaling more than $277,000, plus 7,000 shares of stock, a 401K plan with the company matching 25 percent and a termination agreement of one year's full salary. Restructuring Requires Communication Recent corporate restructuring, mergers, acquisitions and downsizing also are contributing to the growth in compensation, Marshall finds. Reengineering a company often contributes to a greater emphasis on corporate/brand positioning and reputation management. "Frankly, there's been growth in PR since 1990," says Bill Tesar, president of Chicago-based executive recruiter firm Tesar-Reynes, Inc. "But I don't think that the PR professional's expertise has changed dramatically - it's just that the skill-set he or she has is now more valued." Sears [S] is an example of a company relying on its PR force as it goes through changes. In 1993, the Chicago-based company eliminated 50,000 jobs to resurrect the floundering company, which posted $3 billion in losses. Last year, sales were $42 billion worldwide and its internal PR workforce was 61-people strong, up from 55, with salaries growing steadily. Sears is increasing the practice of offering stock options and bonuses to retain PR employees. About 50 percent of PR staffers are eligible for these perks. And in 1999, all of its communicators will be part of a newly implemented bonus plan. For the first time, hourly marketing employees will be eligible for bonuses that their salaried peers earn. The plan is one of several incentives Sears is using to attract and retain communicators. Suncorp Energy Inc., of Calgary, Alberta, also offers employee incentives to retain PR team members. Its more than a dozen PR employees will each receive 125 shares of stock if the value doubles by 2002, says CEO Rick George. George is credited with the company's financial recovery from a loss of $228 million in 1992. It posted $223 million in earnings in 1997. This year, giants such as Ameritech [AIT], AT&T [T], and Motorola [MOT] also announced layoffs. But, generally PR budgets, corporate staffs and funds for consultants are left intact, unlike the beating PR departments took in the 1980s. Paging company Arch Communications Group, Inc. is reducing its 2,800 workforce by 10 percent in the next 18-24 months, but its seven marketing communications/PR staffers won't be among those affected, according to Robert W. Lougee Jr., VP of investor relations at the Westborough, Mass.-based company. Salaries are growing for PR executives with expertise in disciplines such as IR, says Lougees. He also believes PR will remain more buffered in a rocky market than years ago because of the increased focus on corporate reputation. (Marshall Consultants, 212/628-8400; TR, 312/645-0871; Sears, 847/286-5703; Arch Communications, 508/870-6771) An Executive Package A vice president of corporate communications in a $3 billion revenue, publicly held technology firm will get about $277,000 in perks, along with 7,000 shares of stock and a 25 percent matching 401K plan. The benefits package includes much more. Here's a prototype package for such a position: The Company: Technology driven in its business units, operations, administration, marketing and communications$3 billion in revenue, publicly held The Position: Vice president, corporate communicationsReports to CEOResponsible for corporate, marketing, employee communications, and corporate brandingManages six to eight people directly and overall department of 35Manages multiple public relations agency relationshipsManages budget of $2.8 million The Compensation Package: Base/annual salary of $180,000 Bonus opportunity of $72,000 Sign-on bonus of $25,000Stock options of 7,000 shares, with stock valued at 20% under price, exercisable after five yearsPension plan inclusion, advanced 10 years of service for full vesting after five more years401K plan, with 25% company matchFull relocation, including sale of existing home, temporary executive housing, two to three visits for candidate and spouse to new location for house-huntingFull medical, dental for self and familyPaid life insurance policy of $400,000 Three to four weeks vacationPaid parkingAutomobile or mileageCountry/golf club membershipExpense accountSpousal outplacement/career counselingTermination agreement of one year's salary Source: Marshall Consultants

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