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Survey reveals insights into attitudes and perceptions of public relations practitioners.

Communication and public relations practitioners enjoy a high degree of job satisfaction, feel positive about their careers and would likely choose the same field if they had to do it all over again, yet also find their work very stressful, admit concerns over keeping their jobs and question whether business people-including their clients-really understand the importance of what they do.

This is according to the results of a recent survey developed by Heyman Associates, an executive search firm specializing in the corporate communication/public relations industry, and Marketing Strategy & Planning, a marketing research firm, to provide greater insight into the attitudes of PR professionals working in corporations, public relations/ ad agencies, government, and non-profit and health care organizations.

The questionnaire was mailed to a sample Of 1,150 men and women around the US, with 591 (or about 51 percent) responding. The sample was chosen to ensure adequate representation of high-income earners, to provide an intimate profile of executives occupying the very pinnacle of the profession.

Among those who responded, 53 percent work in corporate communication departments and 32 percent in public relations firms. There was a 60-40 split between men and women and the mean age of the respondents was 40, with the greatest percentage having I I to 20 years experience in the business. The salary range was from under US $30,000 to over $250,000. Job Perceptions Seventy-seven percent strongly agree with the statement "I enjoy my work," (including 82 percent of those in corporate life and an equal percentage of men). A similar percentage report that their jobs are important to their companies' overall efforts and 62 percent feel positive about a career in public relations.

More than 54 percent say they would definitely/probably choose public relations if they were starting over, with the highest percentage among those under 35 years old (62 percent) and those earning over US $150,000 (64 percent). And, unlike those boys and girls who someday wanted to grow up to become doctors or teachers, few admit to having had any long-standing plans to become PR practitioners with only 22 percent saying they had decided on their career before college. This proportion was significantly higher among younger people (34 percent).

Slightly under 60 percent consider their jobs to be very stressful, including 66 percent of those working in agencies (compared to 53 percent in corporations) and 69 percent of those earning the highest salaries.

Nearly 31 percent consider moving from company to company an important basis for career and salary advancement, with 35 percent of corporate and 24 percent of agency people agreeing. Those making the most money see it as less of a concern than those earning less. Men and women between the ages of 35 and 44, interestingly enough, consider this to be more important than those both younger or older.

About one in five respondents acknowledge a concern over loss of job or being derailed from the "fast track." Typically, job fears surface most frequently among those in the 35 to 44 age category earning between US $75,000 and $150,000.

The field itself would seem to be in need of public relations, with only 2 percent agreeing with the statement "people in business generally understand the importance of public relations" (and 41 percent disagreeing). Similarly, only 7 percent consider their own clients to be "PR savvy."

Respondents perceive that women have a far better chance of advancement via the agency route than in corporate life. Only 34 percent of those working in corporate communication departments (and only 24 percent of the corporate women) respond that "women have a good chance to get ahead where I work," compared to 65 percent of all agency people (and 59 percent of agency women). While 42 percent of all respondents-and 60 percent of women-feel that women are not as well paid in public relations as men in similar positions, this number drops to 29 percent in the high income class (with one in every three of the women earning over US $150,000 agreeing).

Somewhat surprisingly, only 13 percent of all respondents believe that public relations executives make good managers. Even more unexpectedly, this figure drops to 10 percent among those earning between US $75,000 and $150,000 and 8 percent among those earning more, which are the groups most likely to exercise management functions.

In addition, only 14 percent of respondents agree with the statement "most PR agencies give clients their money's worth," while 21 percent strongly disagree. This percentage, as expected, rises considerably among those employed in PR firms to 29 percent-compared to corporate types, who are often their clients, at a far more skeptical 7 percent.

Those under 35 view public relations as a viable stepping stone to other career opportunities (36 percent), far more than those 35 to 44 years old (27 percent) or 45 and older (23 percent).

About 20 percent agree strongly that "public relations executives are well compensated." As might be expected, those most in agreement earn more than US $150,000 a year (33 percent). However, only 19 percent of those making "upper middle class" salaries of between US $75,000 and $150,000 concur.

Some 38 percent of all respondents believe that corporate PR departments will face major cuts during the recession. just over one in 10 (11 percent) say that PR agencies will increase revenues in the months ahead (with high-income agency executives particularly optimistic at 26 percent).

Only 22 percent believe that PR professionals should be required to test for certification. No age, gender or income group, in fact, feels very strongly about accreditation, with the highest disapproval rating-over 55 percent-coming from those in the US $75,000 to $150,000 and over $150,000 groups. Profile of the Successful What does the successful PR executive look like on paper? According to the survey, corporate/agency "decision makers" earning in excess of US $175,000 a year tend to be male, over 45 years old, have more than 20 years experience and typically work 50-plus hour work weeks in a corporate communication department or PR agency with more than 30 employees. The executive most likely studied journalism or English in college and if he holds a graduate degree, which the majority (57 percent) do not, business/finance wins out rather handily over PR/advertising.

Either corporate communication (47 percent) or marketing communication (36 percent) is most likely to be the successful executive's area of specialization. While most trained in print journalism (48 percent), a disproportionately large number of these well-heeled executives have backgrounds in government (23 percent). Survey Comparisons The tables accompanying this article illustrate examples of how job perceptions and attitudes differ with regard to workplace and salary. Included under each heading are the percentages in the survey of those agreeing strongly with various statements. TABULAR DATA OMITTED
COPYRIGHT 1991 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Communication World
Date:May 1, 1991
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