Julie Rusciolelli, of Maverick PR, posed an excellent question on her blog – why won’t PR bloggers blog about PR? Why can’t we have a discussion about the foundations of the industry and not a never ending bore-fest on social media?
Then my friends Terry and Dave had a very illuminating discussion on InsidePR on compensation packages. The guys did a great job in clarifying that compensation is more than salary, and that it’s the job of the employee to make the best use of the benefits his/her employer is paying for.
But I’d like to talk salary and, as a senior consultant who’s seen the thin end of the wedge and is, hopefully, about to see the thicker, juicier end, here’s my point of view.
The starting salary for an entry-level PR consultant is shocking. Truly woeful.
The PR’s worm’s eye view
However, as much as junior PRs would like to have us believe it does, paying more does not increase their value or productivity:
- More money does not increase the value a person brings to their accounts; time and experience does.
- More money does not mean better quality work; time invested in professional development does.
- More money does not mean people will try harder at their jobs; job satisfaction (from the right project/assignment etc) does.
- More money does not mean employees will win more new business or deliver better results. A combination of all of the above does.
I believe if you ask any well paid sports star, the worst insult you can give them is the old “you’re earning XXX, you should be winning more/playing better.” And it’s the same for agency folk – minus the failed drug tests, sex scandals and mini tantrums. Or is it the other way round…
So if you are thinking about moving agencies, do it for the right reasons. Do it for a new career focus. Do it to be in a new country with someone you love. Do it to work with someone you’ve always wanted to work with. Do it for a new challenge, to stretch yourself. Do it for increased responsibility or influence. Do it for an exciting new client.
I’ve done all but two of these but it’s still easy to be tempted.
Just don’t do it for the money. You’ll find yourself back on the merry-go-round sooner than you thought.
The Owner’s 10,000 feet view
There are a lot of very smart, very successful people running agencies out there – yet the vicious circle I’m about to outline continues to be perpetuated. The merry-go-round continues to be pushed, to gain momentum. To gather speed.
For some reason, employers think that consultants at other agencies are more valuable than the one’s they already have.
I’m not sure whether it’s a need to get some warm bodies in the building and on the phones or just a “grass is greener” philosophy. Although in this case, I suppose it would be more like “the cows are milkier/fatter/more productive” philosophy.
This leads them to pay more to new hires than to existing members of staff. So a consultant moving agencies can expect a greater pay raise, in percentage terms, than a consultant who stays with an agency and who only renegotiates his or her salary.
But what happen for the person who moves agencies when the next salary review comes around? They don’t get the same sort of percentage increase they did the last year because, for the employer, it’s important to keep existing salary growing at a manageable level – note that this says nothing for “new” salaries.
But – they can find another employer who is willing to pay them more. And so on and so on, ad infinitum. Forever.
[EDIT – Manager Tools has a great podcast about annual reviews and compensation from, obviously, a manager’s perspective]
The BMBY take
The system is completely screwed and no-one is prepared to end the merry-go-round of PR consultants in agency life.
Consultants are moving agencies for the wrong reasons – for money – rather than the right reasons – job satisfaction. But agency bosses aren’t helping with their covetous eyes and “cow is milkier” way of thinking.
Agencies should be looking at staff like accounts – it’s easier to grow an existing one than to sign a new one. It’s cheaper to groom someone to be a great employee than it is to hire a great employee.
It’ll take a better man than me to figure out whether the system is irrevocably broken or if it can be fixed.
For now, my job satisfaction is high and I’m happy to be taking one eye off the merry-go-round and putting it back to where it should be. Creating value for my employer and for our clients.