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70% of the PR sector got a pay rise this year, claims research

The majority of corporate communications employees are happy with their current pay, according to The Works Salary Search Guide 2024.

The survey of over 400 UK in-house and agency corporate communications professionals, conducted in February and March 2024, found that 82% of in-house and 76% of agency employees were “feeling OK to very happy” with their pay. This is an increase of 4% and 13% respectively, on the previous year.

The Works hailed these results as “impressive”, given that pay increases had reduced since 2023.

But what else did the report have to highlight on the current financial state of the industry

The Works

Overall, 70% of professionals received a pay increase, which marks a 9% drop since 2023. The Works said this highlighted how a soft market and companies tightening their comms budgets had “taken their toll” on the industry.

The exact split of those receiving a rise is 69% of in-house professionals (down from 80% in 2023) and 71% of agency professionals (down from 77% in 2023). However, on average 32% reported either no change in their salary, or a decrease.

“Salaries are a significant fixed cost to any business and when the business is people (as is the case in communications) and the economy is flat, one of the easiest ways to save money is to not increase salaries,” the research highlighted.

The Works
The Works

A total of 71% of in-house professionals received a bonus this year, but global heads of comms and heads of PR/media are the levels that missed out this year, with average bonuses taking 7% and 8% hits, compared to last year.

As shown above, in-house did better than agency professionals with their bonuses. The average bonus awarded to those in-house professionals was 21% higher than what agency professionals were awarded (13%). However, in-house favoured seniority with its bonus receipts, but senior account managers in agencies have done very well this year with an average 15% bonus. 

Account directors have taken a hit, with average bonuses unable to reach double figures (9%), compared to the previous year when they received an average 12% bonus.

Sarah Leembruggen, managing director at The Works Search said: “When the economy is hard to predict, companies act with caution and deploy their resources efficiently. It’s only natural for decision-makers to want to tighten their communications budgets and this has a knock-on effect to the comms agencies that support them. Everyone is trying to protect their bottom line and retain their margins. Inevitably, reduced salaries and bonuses will factor into these cuts.”

The Works

Healthcare for professionals and their families is desired by both groups, but in-house tend to value benefits focused on wellbeing and income protection such as dental cover and life assurance. They are also expensive benefits for a company to provide. Agency professionals are valuing flexibility and time off. Working from anywhere for up to four weeks is very popular, which likely reflects the fast-paced nature of agency life.

The Works

Businesses faced high interest rates, inflation and diminished consumer confidence in 2024, this resulted in 11% of in-house comms professionals and 7% of agency being made redundant. 

The research noted: "Quite a few of the redundancies in agencies were happening at the larger group-owned agencies and the large private equity-backed consultancies. These businesses are run by their profit margins and when consultancies don’t hit their desired revenue targets and profit margins, costs are cut, and professionals’ roles are made redundant."

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