PR is stressful! Experts weigh in on beating work overwhelm
Public relations can be one of the most challenging occupations.
It is consistently ranked in the top 10 on Forbes’ most stressful jobs list, typically hovering around fifth or sixth, and actually reaching the second most stressful job in 2011 (it was #8 this year, #6 in 2016 and 2014, #5 in 2013 and #7 in 2012).
And, racked with tight deadlines, demanding clients and busy journalists, it’s easy to see why.
But, for all its high demands, the industry continues to grow, making it potentially even more stressful for PR professionals to stand out in their field and compete for jobs among a rising number of peers. In fact, in just the last two years, the number of PR specialists grew by 8 percent nationwide.
To combat the stress, advanced planning, expectation setting and time management are all key. Some other PR practitioners also weigh in with their own advice below, too.
1. Advanced planning
Many people look at what they have on their calendar coming up for the week, but it’s important to look even further out when planning as a PR pro.
Looking at a whole month or quarter can help give you an idea of what’s coming up -- and how that may impact your activity today, thereby allowing you to think more critically and strategically about your campaigns instead of getting bogged down in a frenzy of activity that “must go out today!”
For instance, if you know a client is attending a major industry conference in two months, you may decide to save a piece of news you had planned to announce earlier for the event to make a bigger impact. Or, you may see that your client’s CEO is traveling to your city next month, so perhaps you save that media phone briefing for a face-to-face chat instead.
Advanced planning may seem like more work, but it can ease the daily stress of the job if you know what’s ahead and why that matters now.
2. Expectation setting
Nothing makes your heart beat quicken and your palms sweat quite like a campaign that’s been over promised and under delivered.
For example, if your client wants to get in national business press, but their news isn’t that interesting, tell them! They need to understand what stories are going to resonate most with the media, and it’s a PR pro’s job to counsel them on what to expect -- and how to pivot strategies to get there in another way.
Laying out specific success criteria at the onset of any campaign is also crucial to ensure your clients understand what’s needed to achieve success. Perhaps that will encourage them to hold the campaign until all success criteria can be delivered, or help them understand that the results may not be as robust if two or three elements are missing, thereby relieving some of the pressure on you to deliver.
3. Time management
Understanding your ideal productivity environment is important, so you can use it to your advantage.
For instance, I know that I’m more productive in the morning, but that I like to save bigger projects that require critical thinking for when I have at least two hours of time that I can dedicate to the task, instead of trying to squeeze in 20-30 minutes here and there in between meetings.
But, I didn’t know this about myself right away, it took me some time to figure it out. And, once I did, I learned to organize my calendar to my advantage and block off time where I could have uninterrupted time to think, write, make calls, etc.
Advice from fellow PR pros
“Squad up: PR stress worsens when you let yourself suffer in silence. Don’t forget you have a team around you. Close internal communications lessen their stress – and yours – by eliminating surprises and unnecessary pressure. Make a habit of letting your team know when you anticipate finishing a project, if you need outside help or if you anticipate a delay in delivery.” -Michael Byrnes, Account Director, Matter Communications
“Learn to prioritize. A PR pro’s day is filled with tasks – both strategic and time consuming, and small and simple to accomplish; sometimes checking something off your to-do list happens right before three (or more!) additional activities are added. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but learning to prioritize is key to a seemingly never ending list of work. If you’re just starting your career, talk with your managers about how to prioritize your day and create deadlines for yourself to keep on track. If you’re a bit more seasoned, remember that you have a team that can support you to help ensure you’re accomplishing the right things for each client on a daily basis.” -Erica Frank, Vice President, March Communications
“Find a mentor you can vent to, problem solve and laugh with. There is no better stress reliever than being able to be open and honest with your coworkers and supervisors about how you are feeling in real time. This allows for problem solving and assessing stress drivers before they become burn out or frustration.” -Brittany Straughn, Account Executive, Cone Communications
“Exercise your body and mind. Exercise is one of the most critical ways I not only manage stress, but fuel creativity. Taking one hour in the morning to exercise and clear your head before the day starts has an abundance of benefits. It’s also a great activity to incorporate during the day with ‘walking meetings.’ A recent Stanford study found that creative thinking and outputs improve by as much as 60% while a person is walking rather than sitting. Nothing assassinates creativity like stress does, so finding ways to avoid these traps will be critical in the fight against burn out.” -Nikki Festa O'Brien, Vice President, PAN Communications
Have other tips for beating stress as a PR pro? Weigh in on Twitter!
Meredith L. Eaton is a Vice President at March Communications, focusing on driving awareness and engagement for technology innovation brands in cloud, telco, security, infrastructure, AI and IoT markets. By aligning her clients’ business objectives with PR initiatives, Meredith has helped companies – from large, public brands to niche startups – execute business-critical, integrated campaigns to capture competitive market share and shift brand perceptions. Follow her on Twitter.
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