Where do communicators get paid the best salaries?

An article by Mark Dober

One might imagine that some of the best communications salaries are to be found in London, where more money is spent on PR than any other city in the world. Indeed, the UK PR industry has done a remarkable job of weathering the recession according to the 2012 annual benchmarking survey conducted by PRWeek and the PRCA. Despite the economic downturn, the survey showed that the average salary increase of respondents had been 4.1% while the median salary for a full-time worker in the UK rose just 1.4%. The research showed that the average UK PR professional is paid almost £50,000 which is nearly twice the average salary for the UK workforce as a whole. In-house communication directors earn on average around £83,000. The bad news is that men earn significantly more than women.

How does London compare with the USA, the largest PR market in the world? According to the 2013 Salary Guide by the Creative Group in the USA, a VP/Group director of a PR agency should expect to be paid between US$114,000 and $194,000, while a Corporate VP of PR typically earns between $115,750 and $190,500.

However, I believe some of the best paid communications positions in the world are to be found in my home town of Brussels. As a headhunter, I have recruited senior communicators on packages of €500,000 euros and interviewed candidates who earn in excess of €700,000. I also recently authored the Ellwood Atfield report on Brussels salaries which described some of the high salary bands for senior practitioners here. Although Brussels is perhaps best known as the political capital of the EU with around 15,000 lobbyists, it is also a significant communications capital with one of the largest press corps in the world, and many senior well-paid PR people in agencies, associations, companies, NGOs and the EU institutions. Overall the best paid jobs in Brussels go to lobbyists rather than pure media or public relations professionals. In fact, I believe that lobbyists on a global level must be the best paid of all the communication disciplines, ahead even of investor relations.

Our report showed that running consultancies and trade associations offer some of the most lucrative jobs. We found that salaries of an ’Associate Director’ at a Brussels consulting firm range from €70,000 to €120,000 while Managing Directors of larger firms often earn in excess of €200,000. Salaries of trade association Director Generals range considerably but packages between €200,000 and €400,000 are not unusual. The highest earners of all are the in-house corporate lobbyists, who work closely with the CEO and C-Suite. I recently worked with one such lobbyist with an annual compensation of €450,000 and a ‘golden handcuff’ of over €1 million in shares.

Why can lobbyists earn such high salaries? Well quite simply Brussels is so impactful on our daily lives.In fact when was the last time you watched the news and the word ‘Brussels’ did not feature somewhere in one of the stories? Brussels is big for business too – 80% of the legislation that impacts on business is decided in Brussels – so it is hardly surprising that the best lobbyists earn big bucks. But how does Brussels compare to Washington DC? Well according to The Wall Street Journal which featured our report in an article entitled “What Does a Top EU Lobbyist Earn?” , a lucky few earn more than $4 million per year, including the top lobbyist at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America who had a package of $4,476,157.

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