Our annual salary survey, which polled more than 400 corporate communications professionals, 99 per cent of whom were based in the UK, was carried out during the calendar year 2022 to gather data for our annual Salary Guide.
Against a backdrop much turmoil, with inflation soaring during 2022, and the rising cost of living affecting everyone, we saw large salary increases for professionals broadly in line with, or slightly ahead of, average inflation rises. The findings of the survey highlight how the industry is doing its best to offset the sharp upturn in the cost of living with generous pay rises and some respectable bonus pay-outs.
More professionals received salary uplifts – overall, 79% – a 13 percentage point increase from the previous year’s findings when 66% received an increase. The average salary increase across all respondents was a very healthy 10%, which has shot up from the average 2.5% increase awarded in 2021. In-house professionals earned 9% more in 2022 than in the previous year while the average agency professional took home 11% more. This marks a significant improvement and illustrates how companies are making efforts to meet the financial needs of their teams in the face of the current economic climate.
80% of in-house professionals were given an increase in 2022, which shows a huge leap from the 61% who were rewarded the previous year. There wasn’t such a big change for agency professionals, with 77% receiving an uplift, compared to 73% in 2021.
Although more in-house professionals have been rewarded with uplifts, agency professionals have fared better with more substantial increases. Over a quarter (27%) of those working agency-side received a pay rise of 11% whereas the increase for most in-house professionals (58%) was 5% or less. Agency leaders know how hard it is to attract and retain the best talent with the allure of in-house roles still very strong. That said, the appeal of in-house has taken a slight dip, dropping from the 2021 figure of 65% of respondents expressing a preference to work in-house to 57% in 2022. Agencies have made marginal gains, with 15% expressing a preference in 2022, which is up by 4 percentage points from 11% in 2021. We have heard how some agencies have struggled with budgeting over the past year so to see these generous uplifts being given to their employees reflects their determination to retain them.
The highest pay increases for in-house employees went to Comms Officers and Comms Managers who received a pay rise of 10% on average. Awarding the biggest increases to the lower levels was a common trend across most job categories, reflecting how the rising cost of living has had the greatest impact on these employees. They were closely followed by Global Heads of Comms (averaging a 9% increase) and Comms Directors (8% on average). At the middle levels, Heads of Media and Senior Comms Managers received the smallest increases (5% and 6% respectively).
In the agencies, the most sought-after delivery levels were rewarded with the most generous uplifts – Account Managers (8% increase on average), Senior Account Managers (11%) and Account Directors (13%). The lowest increases went to Managing Directors who appeared to prioritise their staff before rewarding themselves, with just a 3% average increase.
The survey found that the number of bonuses being paid out across the corporate communications industry is down. Two thirds of in-house professionals got a bonus, a similar proportion to the previous year. In comparison, only just over half (54%) of agency professionals received a bonus – the lowest proportion we have seen in years. This fell six percentage points from the previous year (60%).
The average bonus for agency professionals was 15%, down 3 percentage points on the previous year, and significantly less than what in-house professionals were rewarded – an average bonus of 23%, up by 5 percentage points.
We have heard of agencies who have walked away from their Russian clients since the war in Ukraine, which will have impacted revenue; the knock-on economical effect has meant that some agencies have not met their targets; decision-making around new business is increasingly slow, and there are fewer financial transactions to advise on which further affects the pipeline. These challenges mean that some agencies were not able to pay out bonuses. Instead, the focus has been on healthy pay increases, improving company benefits where they can, and some agencies have offered one-off ‘cost-of-living’ payments. They are pulling out the stops in whatever way they can.
Of those who did receive a bonus, the average was 23% for in-house professionals, which is up 5 percentage points on the previous year. For those working agency-side, the average bonus was 15% which was down 3 percentage points from 2021.
Among in-house professionals, where Comms Managers came out on top for pay increases, they fared the worst on bonuses, with their average bonus sitting between 16% and 19%. The more senior in-house roles came away with the bigger bonuses, about a quarter of their salary on average.
In agencies, Chief Executives fared well with average bonuses of 50% of their salary although it’s common for CEOs to reward themselves healthy bonuses if the business has performed well. Account Managers and Senior Account Directors only took home single digit bonus percentages (8% and 5% respectively). It appears that the focus has been on increasing base salaries rather than paying out large bonuses.
72% of corporate comms professionals reported being happy with their pay, the highest we have ever seen in the 14 years of publishing this Guide. We wonder why so many are happy with their pay compared to 66% in 2021 and 63% in 2020.
Perhaps it’s not surprising when the average salary increase was an impressive 10% for so many. The number of bonuses paid out was down; an in-house professional was nearly twice as likely to get a bonus than an agency professional, however, the agency bonuses (where received) were bigger on average. Overall, in-house and agencies leaders have made great efforts to keep their employees’ salaries up to speed with inflation and this is a good reason to be happy.
For a free download of our full Annual Salary Guide 2023, click here.
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