- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Media manipulators are in fine fettle these days. All those publicists, flacks, spokesfolks, negotiators and contacts who people the public relations universe make some very tidy sums.
Somewhere around $80,000 a year, to be exact more than most journalists, and in some cases, lawyers and finance gurus.
The "media boom" is behind it all, noted Adam Leyland of PR Week, an industry magazine that revealed the lucrative details of the profession yesterday.
So is a 24-hour media marketplace that has muddled the borders between news and entertainment, gossip and fact.
With a dearth of content, news organizations look everywhere for story sources and ideas, credible or otherwise.
"Frequently the PR person is kind of an unsung journalist," said magazine spokeswoman Elizabeth Ames. "They don't get the byline, but often they are the first step in the media food chain."
Relations between journalist and flack can be uncomfortable at times, she said. But sometimes things are hunky-dory.
"The topic can be handed like a baton from the PR person who suggests it to the journalist who writes the story itself."
Who makes the biggest bucks?
The most money can be found in the department of scandal and hoopla known in the PR field as "crisis management," which typically lands the deft damage controller about $90,110 a year, according to the magazine's figures.
The crisis manager is that well-mannered spokesperson who suddenly surfaces to face cameras, microphones and rude reporters when PR disasters strike and unwanted or unruly fame follows.
They smile wanly on behalf of clients who need some spin, and need it now.
FOX TV's "Millionaire" groom Rick Rockwell hired one to turn the sleazy underpinnings of his bridal quest into something comedic and therefore acceptable.
Crisis managers also went into high gear when hackers shut down popular electronic commerce sites like Yahoo and E-Bay.
Strategizing a tenable path through the media minefield is a science complete with acronyms like "RPS," which stands for "reputation protection system" in the world of such international PR heavies as Hill & Knowlton.
Naturally, Washington is nirvana for public relations folks, where the average annual wage is $82,547, according to PR Week. Salaries rose by 18 percent here last year, "making the nation's capital the hottest PR market in the country."
Things seem good all over.
"PR salaries were up nearly eight percent in 1999," the magazine said, "more than four times the national average."
Such juicy compensation "used to be attributed to finance or law," noted Clarke Caywood of Northwestern University.
Now it goes to spinmeisters.
"Students studying for MBAs in public relations are commanding salaries of $60,000, and they're being snapped up," noted Matt Gonring of Arthur Anderson, a marketing company.
PR folks who specialize in government, nonprofit and educational matters are at the very bottom of the heap, however, drawing an average of $50,000-$56,000.
Those who act on behalf of financial services, utilities, retail groups, manufacturers and food or beverage make between $72,000 and $79,000 a year.
Jennifer Harper can be reached at 202/636-3085 or by e-mail ( [email protected]).

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