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Who is getting all the money?

Posted: Jul 2023
who is getting all the money pr and corporate comms

Against a backdrop of uncertainty, rising inflation, economic turmoil, and the cost-of-living crisis, it’s more important than ever for companies to look after and retain their employees. An attractive remuneration package is an essential part of any employer value proposition as it helps attract in-demand talent and keep employees on board for longer. In the current climate, it needs to sit at the top of any employer’s offering, and it’s why we decided to focus on remuneration packages being given to comms professionals in our most recent Salary Guide. If the right salary and bonus package is being offered, professionals will be happier, be more productive and have fewer reasons to leave.

Our findings showed that pay rises have been aplenty, some of the highest we have seen since we started publishing our Guide which is now in its 14th year. However, fewer professionals got bonuses, but among those lucky enough to receive one, the average bonus was higher than the average bonus reported in the previous year.

A healthy 69% of in-house professionals got a bonus; while this is down 3 percentage points from 2021 when 72% received one, overall, it was a good outcome for those working in-house – their bonuses went up to an average of 23% of their salary.

The picture was not so bright for those working agency-side – only 54% of agency professionals got a bonus, which is down by 6 percentage points from 2021; this is the lowest figure we have seen in years.

Many of these employees will be used to receiving a bonus; this will no doubt have repercussions on happiness levels among agency professionals about their pay, and potentially retention. We have heard of some agencies offering one-off cost-of-living payments to help their people manage increasing costs and hoping that they can retain staff in doing so, even if they haven’t been able to pay out bonuses.

When we narrow things down and look at the lucky professionals who have received a bonus, we can look at average remuneration for agency and in-house roles. It’s a useful set of data for employers to gauge levels of job satisfaction and happiness, and for professionals to refer to if they are thinking of moving, whether it’s from an existing in-house role to another one, or from agency to in-house.

Total remuneration – in-house vs agency

For the purposes of our survey, we defined total remuneration as base salary plus any bonus received.

There is a strong perception in the industry that in-house pays far better than agency, however, when we take a closer look at our findings, we see that this isn’t always the case. We often find that agency Account Directors are thinking about moving in-house as their next career move, as opposed to moving to another agency. These people will often cite wanting more money as a key driver in this decision-making process. When we look closely at the average total remuneration for an agency Account Director (£65k) looking to move in-house into a Comms Manager role (£70k), this comes out as a valid reason to move in-house – it’s £5k more in pocket than if they move to another agency. However, it’s still not a huge hike.

Let’s look at another scenario. An agency Associate Director is equivalent to a Senior Comms Manager in our eyes (and number of years of experience). The total remuneration for an agency Associate Director is £81k on average, but our findings show that a Senior Comms Manger will earn an average of £76k in total remuneration. In other words, £5k less! It’s also worth pointing out that an Agency Partner (earning £199k on average), looking to move in-house into a Global Head of Comms role, may need to consider taking a hit on total remuneration as the average for this coveted in-house position is £163k.

As an aside, in previous years, we have examined company benefits as part of the survey, looking at what benefits employees receive and the value of the benefits on offer. Results have always shown that there are higher value benefits on offer in-house than in comms agencies. Pension contributions are higher, for example, and parental leave can be more generous. However, in 2020, we started to notice that a lot of agencies had made improvements to their benefits packages, no doubt as part of their attraction and retention strategy. We have seen how agency benefits are starting to become much more comparable to those on offer in-house. So, when you consider overall compensation, (base salary, bonus and benefits), in-house professionals will probably still receive more overall than agency professionals unless agencies have a bumper bonus year. Then senior agency professionals will be earning more on average as their bonuses will outshine those in-house. When times are good, it pays to work in an agency.

Are professionals happy with their pay?

The remuneration on offer appears to be on track as a very encouraging 72% of professionals reported being happy with their pay – this is the highest percentage we have reported to date. In our last Salary Guide, we reported that 66% of comms professionals were happy with their pay. When we combine in-house pay increases averaging 10% and an even more impressive 11% in agencies with average bonuses of 23% (in-house) and 15% (agency), these figures can only make for happy employees!

In-house professionals (78%) are the happiest with their overall pay, compared to 63% of agency professionals. That does leave over a third (37%) of agency professionals who are unhappy with their pay. While agency leaders have clearly been working hard to retain their people, there is still room for improvement.

Who is happier – men or women?

More men (75%) are happy with their pay than women (70%); although women did receive marginally higher pay rises (by 1%-point), their total remuneration (15% base pay + 6% bonus) was 21% less than men.

We know that men are out-earning women on their base salaries by 15% and their bonuses by 6%. The question here is, would 70% of women be happy with their pay if they knew what their male counterparts were being paid? That their bonuses are more? And more importantly, what are they going to do about it?

While employers have been making great strides to benchmark their salaries and bonuses where they can stand out from the crowd, and help their employees navigate the increased cost of living, and not leave their jobs, in a landscape of ongoing uncertainty and change, we urge employers not to be complacent. Investing in generous remuneration will always pay off!

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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