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The Works Search Salary Guide 2023 reveals healthy pay increases, but bonus pay-outs are down

Posted: Jun 2023
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We are almost halfway through 2023, and the challenges continue to blow in, from every corner ­– in a brutal combination of high inflation, the highest interest rates in 14 years, and an energy crisis – resulting in the cost-of-living outpacing earnings.

As we move into the second half of the year, with changes in the market here to stay, we are delighted to bring you our highly informative Annual Salary Guide for PR and Comms professionals – the go-to resource to help you weather the storm, by upgrading your hiring strategy, and keeping ahead of the curve when it comes to differentiating yourselves and creating an attractive workplace for employees in this landscape of uncertainty.

The survey takes an in-depth look at salaries, bonuses and trends, and is based on the responses of 400 corporate comms professionals, with data based on the period January–December 2022.

Are salaries in corporate comms keeping up?

We have spoken to many employers who say supporting employees through the cost of living crisis has been a high priority. They have responded empathetically with salary increases while remaining realistic about how far they can boost employee pay packets. Our findings revealed that an impressive 79% of in-house and agency professionals received a salary uplift in 2022, compared with 67% in 2021, and 72% of professionals said they were happy with their pay – the highest figure reported in 14 years of our report’s publication. The average salary increase across all respondents was a very healthy 10% (compared to only 2.5% reported the previous year) and for those not receiving such large increases, employers have sought to bridge the gap in different ways, either via a one-off cost-of-living payment, or better company benefits. Comms agencies are working hard to hire and retain talent by focusing on proactive engagement, paying out good salaries and bonuses where they can, and offering flexible working in a market where great talent remains hard to come by.

Our Guide offers insights to help both employers and employees navigate the current market. With unprecedented numbers of professionals looking to leave the industry, we encourage comms leaders to use the information in our Guide to benchmark salaries and bonuses and use the insights to attract and retain employees, particularly around hybrid working. In this year’s Guide, we also look at exactly how professionals feel about hybrid working, promotions, and how women are faring when it comes to pay.

Highlights from the Guide:

Generous salary uplifts

80% of in-house professionals received a pay increase, up from the previous year’s findings by 19%-points. More agency professionals (77%) received an increase too, albeit by only 4%-points. The report revealed that more agency professionals received a higher proportion of larger pay increases. Over a quarter (27%) received a pay increase of 11%+, compared to 22% of in-house professionals receiving a pay increase of 11%+. Overall, in-house comms teams and corporate agencies have been giving healthy pay rises to the lion’s share of employees.

A dip in bonus pay-outs

The number of bonuses being paid out across the industry is down. A healthy 69% of in-house professionals got a bonus in 2022, which is 3%-points down on the previous year’s findings; agency professionals took a greater hit – only 54% of them received a bonus, down by 6%-points on the previous year.

The average bonus for agency professionals was 15%, down 3%-points on the previous year, and significantly less than what in-house professionals were rewarded – an average bonus of 23%, up by 5%-points. In-house comms teams have fared well on bonuses this year.

Agencies 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 comms agencies have not met their targets as in-house comms budgets have tightened, and we hear from agency leaders that decision-making around new business is increasingly slow, which 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 one-off cost-of-living payments.

Who pays more – in-house or agencies?

There is a strong perception in the industry that in-house pays far better than agency. However, when we take a closer look at the survey findings, we see that this isn’t always the case.

The total remuneration (base salary and bonus, no other benefits) is not always better for in-house professionals and their equivalent levels at agencies:

While the total average remuneration for an in-house Comms Manager is £70k compared with £65k for an agency Account Director, a Senior PR/Comms Manager is averaging only £76 compared with £81k for an agency Associate Director.

The senior level agency roles also do well – an agency Partner is paid £199k on average, compared to an average of £163k for a Global Head of Comms. We often meet professionals wanting to move in-house, citing ‘more money’ as the main driver for the move. Our findings show that agencies are fighting hard when it comes to compensation packages, something that is worth thinking about.

Hybrid working is now a firm fixture

We did wonder if company leaders would reverse hybrid working policies now that life has seemingly ‘returned to normal’. What the report reveals is that hybrid working is now an absolute must for most comms professionals, which is why the report takes a deeper dive into the subject. We looked at how companies are implementing policies around flexibility, what exactly are employers offering around hybrid working and whether comms professionals are doing what their company asks of them.

An impressive 30% of respondents said they are offered complete flexibility in their role, yet most of them still prefer to split their working week between office and home. The majority of professionals (73%) are working 2 or 3 days in the office, even though only 58% of employers stipulate this as policy. Only 5% of respondents are expected in the office 4 or 5 days per week, yet 17% are going into the office.

This means that overall, comms professionals are going into the office more than their employer is requesting.

Just 2% of employers expect their employees to come into the office every day, illustrating how hybrid working is now well established across the industry.

We know that there are still a lot of agency CEOs who would like their employees in the office five days a week if they could, but the appetite for being in the office more than two or three days has gone, especially from mid and senior level comms professionals. Having a level of flexibility is important to comms professionals. Home and work life has equal priority, they feel more trusted to manage their own time and productivity, and their work is given more purpose as they’re valued beyond the act of merely showing up.

Employees now expect hybrid working, and businesses are embracing that, whether they like it or not ­– flexibility has become a prerequisite.

These are just a few examples of the survey’s findings. Look out for more commentary in the coming weeks in our series of blog posts that will delve deeper into topics raised in the survey. Make sure you are signed up to our newsletter here.

We hope you find the information in the Annual Salary Guide 2023 interesting and useful.

For a free download of our full Annual Salary Guide 2023, click here.

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The Works Search: a search consultancy specialising in PR and corporate communications. We have unrivalled matching abilities and are known for finding the top 5% performers in the industry - the ones who deliver and make your reputation great. For more advice or market insights, do get in touch with us on 0207 903 9291 or email

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