The 4 Culprits Behind PR’s High Turnover Rates

revolving doors

Today we bring you a guest post from Laurent L. LawrenceAssociate Director of Public Relations for the PRSA in New York.

A few weeks ago, Patrick Coffee asked a pretty good question: Why Does PR Have Such a Big Turnover Problem? It’s a question I’ve heard far too often. I anticipated a blend of pontification and vitriol-laced responses from all corners of the industry. I waited for the senior pros and agency owners to blame Millennials’ lack of loyalty, while young and new pros would chime in with a heated stance on an industry in need of “disruption.”

Yet, there seem to have been few who were willing to comment in response to his question. Coffee even offered an option for anonymity… still, nothing.

Maybe no one heard the good Mr. Coffee. Or perhaps no one is really sure how to answer. I figured I’d help prime the pump with my thoughts.

While high industry turnover is often seen as the new normal, I believe instead that there is a clear cause: poor management.

I would argue that inadequate leadership in the following four ways is the biggest culprit generating higher PR industry turnover.

1. External recruitment rather than internal support


Behind hiring mid- and senior-level staff, the recently released Holmes World PR Report lists retaining key talent as the biggest hiring challenge among those surveyed. In addition, when asked about hiring strategies, respondents go on to overwhelmingly cite poaching staff from competitors as their most likely source for talent this year.

While the report doesn’t specifically include information regarding internal development plans, I’d argue that lack of leadership, direction, support and training is the main reason so many are willing to jump ship to a competitor. The idea that the grass is greener on the other side is an enticing prospect for most overworked and overwhelmed staffers; couple that with the prospect of higher pay and you get mass turnover.


It’s time to take a good internal look at what’s being offered to staff and how companies are keeping up with the changing expectations of today’s workforce. Whether you’re managing a 60-year-old international PR brand or three-year-old boutique, focusing on promoting internally and making sure your staff is properly supported in their career is one way to keep them in the yard.

2. Low wage increase is the new normal


Through the recent recession, most people felt lucky to keep their jobs, much less to get an increase. At the time it was understandable. Decrease in business and a shift of budget from PR to advertising meant if you were lucky you might get a raise at some point, and on average it maybe hovered around three percent.

Although PR has since seen an 11 percent growth surge and is anticipated to hit 12 percent industry growth through 2022, wage increases still remain below 3 percent annually. With the possibility to increase your salary by 10-20 percent and sometimes as much as 50 percent, by jumping ship, it’s no wonder why our industry is in such a state of employment flux.

Again, considering that PR companies in the US are admitting that they see poaching staff from competitors as their primary recruitment strategy, it’s clear to see how a transient career lifestyle can be to ones benefit.


While I know it’s probably easier said than done for some, offering competitive increases to the staff you have will be one way to entice them to stay put. Once someone has indicated that they plan to leave is not the right time to start offering them more cash. By that point it’s likely already too late.

3. Lack of management accountability