A guide to compensation for communications pros
Whether you’re a young professional interested in pursuing a career in PR or a seasoned vet up for that long-sought promotion, you’re likely at least partially interested in the answer to this question:
“Just what is reasonable compensation for people in this profession?”
Don’t worry, no one will blame you for being vein. It’s a reasonable question to ask, since “public relations” can encompass a number of different services and clientele.
The reality is that the answer to this question is about as straightforward as the answer to “what is public relations?”. In order to find an answer, we’ll need to start reviewing a few aspects of a PR specialist’s job, as well as reasons why companies hire specialists in the first place.
We’ve created this guide to help you understand the basic ingredients that go into determining remuneration for PR specialists. By its conclusion, you should be able to start applying specifics of your niche and talents to get a feel for exactly what you’re worth.
You may even have an idea of skills to acquire that will increase it.
Know your clients and the entities supporting them
The first step in understanding what a PR specialist makes is understanding the clients they serve – just who is the specialist serving. The natural follow up question is often, why do they need the help of a PR pro?
Oftentimes the inclination may be to identify your market by your industry. “Well,” you may think to yourself, “I represent actors, so I am serving the entertainment industry.”
Someone working with small businesses may say to themselves, “my store sells all-natural small-batch hand soap, so my market is the beauty and hygiene industry.”
Indeed, these statements are accurate. But what’s far more helpful is to analyze your clients themselves.
If you represent actors or people in showbusiness, your clients are in and of themselves businesses. Their brands rely as much on producers and filmmakers as the general audience consuming products in which they’re featured.
If you’re representing that hand soap store, your client relies on not only customers prioritizing natural ingredients in their cosmetic products, but the businesses and distributors that enable the soap to reach a large number of consumers.
PR specialists who add direct value when it comes to successfully reaching and persuading these reliant entities will be compensated far more than those who simply reach a general audience.
Regardless of the industry that your client is in, if your services enable you to reach both the general population as well as strategic entities, you can reasonably charge more.
Be able to demonstrate the impact of your work
Taking an in-depth look at the finer points of PR reporting would require a whole different article.
That said, it’s important to at least mention that the more concretely you can demonstrate the efficacy of your services, the more you will stand to command when it comes to compensation.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know just how to communicate your value.
There are plenty of PR software companies that can help you show just how many people you’re reaching and, more importantly, how reaching them improves your client’s bottom line.
Be aware, however, that with all the available software tools out there today, it can be easy to get lost in mountains of meaningless data.
Instead of getting bogged down in minutia, try to pick out just a few key metrics that you think best encapsulate the work you do.
If you can firmly demonstrate through data that your services are improving your client’s goals, whether monetary or otherwise, compensation is likely to increase.
Location, location, location…
According to U.S. News & World Report, the difference in mean salary between the #1 most lucrative region (Washington D.C.) for PR pros and the #4 position (Connecticut) is just about 40%.
At that rate, it’s more than likely that states/regions closer to the bottom of that list may be less than half of the top spots.
Truthfully, where exactly the state you’re working in ranks doesn’t really matter. What’s more important is understanding that geography will play a big role in how you’re compensated as a PR professional.
The catch here is, geography here doesn’t mean where you live or work. It means where your clients are based.
If those you serve are located in cities with significant PR requirements, their budgets are likely higher than clients based in regions where demand for PR specialist services isn’t so high.
Partners of PR firms tend to make more than in-house PR specialists
If you’re the partner of a midsize-to-large PR firm, your compensation theoretically isn’t capped like a traditional salary.
This means that, so long as you maintain the quality of your services, you can take on as many clients as you can manage.
The phenomenon is very different for PR specialists who serve as in-house experts for companies.
While a top in-house PR pro can make a hefty six figures by working for a large scale firm, the reality is that there are limits to what a single employed PR rep can make.
If you’re an independent publicist or a partner of a publicity firm, it’s important to use tools that can enable you to scale up your ability to serve clients.
Sometimes, this is in the form of hiring employees to take over duties that free you up. If you don’t have to sweat the small stuff, this will allow you to focus on finding more clients (and better serving current ones).
We heavily recommend finding software tools (like ours) that can supplement the work of your employees and make sure that you’re maximizing the amount of success you can deliver for each of your clients without spending a fortune on payroll.
In short: what PR specialists make varies widely
What a PR specialist makes will vary depending on the factors we’ve covered.
Being aware of things like your client’s goals, client location, and whether or not you apply your PR skills to building a business will help you better understand your potential bottom line.