What's PR worth?

      12 Comments on What's PR worth?

Jeff Morosoff, Special Asst. Professor, Hofstra University

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?

12 thoughts on “What's PR worth?

  1. Heather Glazewski

    I have known for a long time that I would not be earning a lot as I started PR. However was not aware that it could grow so quickly. I feel as a new PR (soon-to-be) professional it is hard to determine or show my worth, since I don’t have half of the experiences a people who are going for the same jobs who have been in PR for a few years.
    I wish I knew why we are paid such low starting salaries. I wish I knew so I could avoid or change it haha.

  2. Cait Scungio

    I believe that starting out in an entry level PR job a lower salary should be expected. In order to make the amount of money we seek we must in a sense prove ourselves and our work ethic throughout the years in the Public Relations profession. Once we prove ourselves and our skills we will in turn be about to receive what we give.

  3. Laurel

    Oy, Jeff. I remember that in the early 1990s, starting salaries in NYC were only about $18K. I would have killed for $35,000!

  4. Chelsea Rae Simmons

    I’ve simply come to accept that my brother, an engineering major at Hofstra, will be able to make at least twice as much as I make straight out of school. I think people are less likely to pay oodles of money for PR because not many people understand what we actually do, and if they don’t know exactly how having PR will be good for their company, they will be less willing to pay the same amount of money they would a lawyer or accountant, two professions that are easily defined.

  5. Alex Petrucelli

    The worth as a PR professional is usually measurable (i.e got this amount of press hits, handled this media relations, came up with this campaign initiative, wrote this press release etc…) and can be attributed to the assistant to the account manager to the senior account manager. What does this mean…well, while some responsibilities differ, the task work is relevantly universal within the firm and the title is an indicate of a better salary and one who has weathered some years in the industry.

    In the communications industry, entry-level firm jobs are a dime a dozen and with such high crossover between advertising, marketing and PR, all three fields competing for the same jobs drive the starting salary down low.

    One thing I have observed is that entry level-positions could be extremely low (I would be happy with $32,000 a year, but some places pay as low as $28,000) the opportunity for mobility and promotion is pretty high. The earliest I have ever heard of someone getting a promotion is 2 months…like any other field, with time comes rewards and money.

  6. artur finkel

    The outrage over the jobs mentioned are continuous and will never end. Regarding PR i believe the public outlook and the salaries or the lack of salaries is flawed. People don’t understand PR or in many cases fail to understand its role in everything. And PR does play a role in almost everything that is done economically. As a few people mentioned im not terribly discontent with the starting salary in PR. There is so much competition today that this low salary is necessary because after the first two years is when people really show how good they are at what they do which leads to bigger paychecks. The range of PR jobs allows for people to find their niche and develop their skills in that area. No one likes their first job in PR i bet and the salary reflects that. I believe that PR skills are very hard to come by and should be worth much more money….after the first year. PR isnt something you learn overnight and stop. With everyday, every job, every experience we learn more and more and it is at that point i believe the salaries must be raised.

    1. Kirsten

      A starting salary of $35-40,000 seems completely fair to me. Granted, I have never had a full-time, professional job in my desired career before, but it is more than just making rent in New York City. Interestingly enough, I was just talking to one of my girlfriends last night about the amount of starting salaries in PR and she knows someone that just got hired with a very popular PR firm in New York and they work 70 hours a week and earn $24,000. The thought of taking a high-profile full-time job with a big-time PR firm makes me reminisce to the days of summer when I was rewarded with a dream internship where I worked anywhere from 8-19 hours a day. Constantly I contemplate, is the name on your resume worth the sweat and grit that comes along with a non-paying or low-paying job or internship? And how much does that actually benefit my resume in the end anyways.

  7. Paul Chauvin

    I’m actually not too sad about entry level PR salary. Maybe it’s because it seems like a decent amount since all the PR work I’ve done has been for no pay, but something around $35,000-$40,000 seems fair. Also, I think if I keep telling myself this I’ll feel more comfortable with it, which I’ll need because I want to work in the non-profit arena and, thus, will have no money.

    Making that large salary seems really nice, and I would love to make that much money, but at this point in my life I’ll take pretty much anything that I can get and hope that it will pay off in the future.

  8. Alanna Garone

    I agree that it is normal for an entry level position to pay a low salary. As Julie said, you have to prove your worth to a company. As for PR pay in general, it makes sense that there is a wide range in salaries because there are so many different areas of PR. For example, crisis management is a very stressful job. Therefore the salary for doing that job should be relatively high, or higher than something such as event planning which is not as stressful.

  9. Julie Wiener

    I agree with Kelly. Although I do wish entry level salaries in PR were a bit more since rent is on the rise, I believe that once you prove your worth to the agency or company you work for you will be compensated with raises and/or more benefits. The CEOS and high up executives all had to start out at entry level as well so as much as I wish I’m going to start out at three figures, I understand that once I work hard and prove my skills I’ll hopefully get there some day.

  10. Kelly Cefai

    As much as I would love to begin my career in an entry level position making the amount of money I would hopefully make in x amount of years, I believe that starting at a lower salary would make sense in any career. It makes you work harder, set bigger goals, be more determined, and want to learn to enhance your skills and knowledge so you can eventually cash in with that $100,000+ salary. A good comparison to me would be in sports, I never understood why a rookie would enter the game with a salary that is more then half the other players on the team based off of their talent in college or high school. I feel like it is important to prove yourself in your field, to show that you earned that money that you are making. I am not saying it would take years because it could take months, but I do believe proving that you can earn higher figures is more then an accomplishment.

  11. Caitlin Brown

    I wouldn’t say we “rarely begrudge an entrepreneur or CEO” for having ridiculous amounts of money – in my opinion, those policemen, firemen, teachers, etc. generally deserve more money than what they usually make. If the salaries of government workers are paid for by taxes, then it makes sense that the richest communities have the highest paid workers – but it’s unfortunate for those areas that are much poorer to have to suffer.

    When it comes to my own salary, I do think entry-level is low – mostly because when my sister entered the workforce in her industry about 15 years ago, her starting salary was about $30,000. Of course it makes sense though that your salary will increase with time: you’ve been in the workforce longer, have more knowledge in your field, have greater skills, etc.


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