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Rewards and Disadvantages of Being a Public Relations Practitioner

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The amount of money earned is only one of many satisfactions of being a public relations practitioner. The beginning salary will depend on what you do, where you do it, what knowledge you bring to the job, and other factors such as the state of the economy at the time.

When I left college in 1912, office assistants earned $10 a week. By 1928 the figure was $20. Today few so-called office boys exist. A beginner in a public relations office 45 years ago earned $25 a week. Today a beginner in an independent public relations counseling organization earns about $6,000 to $14,000 annually. In a nonprofit organization a college graduate from a school of public relations will earn $9,000 to $12,000. In a business organization his salary is likely to be from $15,000 to $20,000. As public relations men and women move up the ladder, naturally their income increases.

According to the 1970 Census, of the total of 75,852 members of the experienced labor force who were public relations practitioners and publicity writers, 55,698 were men; their median earnings were $11,712 for a median of 50-plus weeks worked. These men had completed a median of 15.9 years of school and had a median age of 42 years. Of the total of 75,852, women numbered 20,154. Their median earnings were $6,133 for 50-plus weeks worked. These women had completed a median of 14.7 years of school and had a median age of 39.8 years.

Jean Cardwell of Cardwell Consultants commented to us on salaries in the public relations field:

"Cardwell Consultants handles public relations recruiting assignments nationally, and because of this salary ranges vary dramatically. A variance prevails between salaries of similar corporations, agencies, and associations.

"Starting salaries are lowest at public relations agencies and associations. Government generally has lower salary ceilings than public relations agencies. Agency and association salaries start as low as $6,000 to $9,000 annually. For entry-level jobs in corporations, salaries range up to $15,000 a year, especially to entrants with advanced degrees such as MBA or MA. The MBA has the higher status. Some corporate public relations departments have engaged MBA graduates of top graduate business colleges for as high as $20,000. Outstanding minority students command between $15,000 and $20,000 annually to start.

"Speechwriters command outstanding salaries-particularly now with larger demand and smaller supply of truly talented writers. Positions that formerly ranged from $25,000 to $35,000 now command as high as $55,000.

"Corporate public relations departments find it increasingly difficult to locate outstanding talent at middle levels under $30,000. Managers of public relations are recruited at between $25,000 and $40,000.

"In vice-presidential recruiting the salary ranges between $60,000 and $100,000. A handful of corporate senior vice-presidents of public relations earn as high as $150,000 annually.

"Middle- and upper-level public relations agency salaries are rising rapidly. Vice-presidents of major agencies earn from $25,000 to $55,000, with the majority around $35,000 to $40,000. Senior agency vice-presidents receive $60,000 or above with bonus plans that bring them up to six figures."

In the following abstract of a talk given by Larry Marshall, president of Marshall Consultants of New York, before the Philadelphia Public Relations Association in 1977, we are given an overview of public relations salaries.

Management is viewing its communications function in a new light. Corporations are becoming more responsible to the changing business, political, and social environment-positioning themselves as proactive rather than reactive regarding corporate policy. Due to increasing government regulation the key to a company's existence is projecting the reputation of a good corporate citizen. For example, many companies provide financial support for public television and other culturally oriented projects. Special interest groups that were ignored years ago are being listened to. Consequently, many corporations are reorganizing the function of public affairs and, in some cases, bringing in new management at the vice-presidential level to oversee the department.

Representation is building in Washington and in the home office to monitor new legislation and its effect on the company or industry. Public policy issues analysis and issue management are new functions created in many companies to decipher what is happening in Washington government agencies. The purpose of this function is to provide a necessary perspective on problems the company will face (short- and long-term) and what it should do to meet adversary challenges.

Consumer affairs today has attracted a large number of women, many with diverse backgrounds. They are sensitive and attuned to pinpointing problems and consumer concerns. Salaries have gone up tremendously, ranging from $20,000 to $60,000. Even $70,000 a year is not uncommon. Whether or not corporations listen to the consumer affairs advocate once they bring him or her in is debatable.

Speaking out on corporate issues by management executives at prestigious public platforms now requires the full-time services of able speechwriters. They must write for the eye and ear. Salaries range from $25,000 to $75,000. Speech-writers have high corporate visibility and find this talent to be the main reason they are given broader responsibilities, including overseeing the entire department

Progressive companies are upgrading their internal communications function, bringing in managers with problem-solving ability. To communicate effectively outside, they must first communicate well inside. Informed employees serve as executives sometimes feel out of touch with broad corporate operations. Executives lack the sense of involvement and of achievement from having followed a program through from conception to completion. They don't often see the fruits of their efforts. Nevertheless, the fun and excitement of servicing an ever-changing client roster provides another form of satisfaction.

On the corporate side, salaries for communications executives have escalated dramatically, on a par with other sophisticated corporate staff functions. Corporate officers with such responsibility receive compensation packages often exceeding $100,000.

Len Daniels, president of Placement Associates Inc., has supplied us with a table of public relations salaries.

As long ago as 1949, Advertising Age estimated that the top public relations counselors of New York and Chicago shared fees in excess of $3,000,000. We have received fees comparable to those charged by distinguished law firms.
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