With the statehouse protest in Wisconsin in its third week and a national focus on union wages and benefits, I’ve been thinking about what public relations practitioners are paid. We often see outrage over the salaries and pensions of government workers, from a handful of cops who retire with million-dollar payouts to public school superintendents making three hundred, four hundred, and sometimes close to $500,000 a year.
There is anger because these salaries are paid for through our taxes. But with the exception of bank executive bonuses, we rarely begrudge an entrepreneur or CEO of a major private corporation their lucrative pay and “golden parachutes.” Whether or not it’s justified, the teachers, police, government workers, and other public service earners are the ones most often under the pay scale microscope.
Only a small percentage of PR people are public workers. There is no labor union to speak of for PR professionals. So what we’re paid is determined by our bosses, our clients and ourselves.
Most of us are aware that starting salaries in PR are fairly low. A college grad with a PR or communications degree may see only $35-40,000 (sometimes more, but sometimes less) in an entry-level position. After some years, the money can be good; I earned more than six figures for many years as a PR practitioner. I have colleagues in both the private and public sector whose annual incomes are anywhere between $150,000 and $300,000. Plus, many owners of big PR agencies are millionaires.
So at what point should our public relations skills be worth that kind of money? And why are we usually paid such low starting salaries? How do we determine what we and our services are worth? Your thoughts?