Last week's CareerCast list of the 10 most stressful jobs
in America isn't the first time I've seen PR cited as a back-breaking industry.
If you're at the bottom looking up, then you spend your time trying to please your tyrannical account manager. If you're in the middle looking both ways, then you've got an overenthusiastic account executive to manage and clients and an account director to keep happy.
If you're an account director or in the upper echelons of your agency, then you've got employees wondering where the new business is coming from as you tear your hair out trying to figure out how to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Regardless of who you are or what your role is, if the clients aren't happy, then you'll all be up the proverbial creek without a paddle in no time. In light of that, the following tips may help make your job in PR a little less stressful:
Justify your value
CareerCast claims the reasons PR is so stressful are “tight deadlines and scrutiny in the public eye.” I'm not denying these are elements of the job, but they're elements of a lot of jobs, so I'm not sure I'm buying that argument.
I think the main reason PR is stressful is that it can be difficult to justify the value of the work we do. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big believer in the power of PR to raise awareness and understanding, and I'd argue, in the written medium, it's the most effective form of audience communication.
The reason publications make advertorials look as much like editorial content as possible is because it's trusted and digested. Is that enough to persuade your clients to renew their contract for another six months? Possibly not. Which is why a lot of our peers fall back on essentially pulling numbers out of thin air.
I've seen the future, and it's full of spreadsheet cells and statistics. If you're not aligning your PR activities with your clients’ business objectives, then in the long term they'll struggle with their ROI. Budgets must be justified. Give your marketing manager easily extractable, business-focused data, and they'll give you the account security you're looking for.
I dare say a lot of you already do this. (If you don't, it means either you're very good at your job and are able to make a story from anything, or you’re just plain disorganized.) Yes, it's important to know which industry events are coming up, but it's as, if not more important, to be aware of political, economic, and cultural dates of importance. Here's a handy list
of important days that can be used to inform strategy throughout the year.
Though I'm sure we've all had our Don Draper carousel moment
, most of us won't be able to come up with great media-worthy ideas at the drop of a fedora.
So, yes, turn to your account team, as they're the ones involved with the client on a day to day, but don't be afraid to go further afield for ideas either. Why not talk to the target audience on a quarterly or semiannual basis? I'm sure this happens a lot during the pitching phase of an account (if it doesn't, it should), but is that when it ends? After all, who will have a better idea of what'll appeal to the client's sales demographic than those in the demographic?
This doesn't have to be a $10,000 market research exercise. We live in a world of online social connections, and you'll be surprised how much significant data you can generate with a Facebook Messenger group and a bit of good will.
Get client feedback
One of the best ways to reduce the stress in the role is to minimize unknowns. Satisfaction surveys are a great way of doing this and are a staple of any agency (at least in theory).
You certainly don’t want to waste a client’s time, but how do you know if you're on the right track if you're not giving them the opportunity to offer feedback on the functions of your agency in confidence? You might ask on a monthly call how they feel you're doing, but even the most cantankerous of marketing managers is unlikely to tell you how concerned they are with a, b, or c directly.
Use a free tool like SurveyMonkey to compile a simple, short questionnaire to gather account feedback. The results will not only reassure you but will hopefully flag any lingering worries before they become insurmountable.
If you do get negative feedback, don't freak out. Don’t go looking for further detail yourself if you're directly involved with the account, either. You're too close to it. Instead, get an account director or someone above you and paid to have these conversations to make the call. The client will appreciate not being put on the spot by their daily contact, and you'll probably get better feedback as a result.
Last but not least is exercise. It might sound obvious, but even 15 minutes a day can help. I‘m not talking about the “lose X amount of weight by X date” routine, I’m talking about the type of exercise that will release endorphins and make you feel better in the short and long terms.
I swear by core-strengthening exercises, but I'm not a fan of the gym. So my approach is to use the money I would have spent on the gym to pay for a couple of visits to a local exercise physiologist. They'll assess your posture and then work with you on a simple exercise routine that requires basic equipment such as a floor mat and exercise ball.
I schedule 15 minutes into my morning routine, which I use to improve my posture and strengthen my core. After all, the job's stressful enough, so the last thing you need is niggling aches and pains to further darken your mood.
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PR is a great job, and though its highs can be matched by its lows, remember that however hard it gets, we're all in the same boat.
Luke Budka is account director at TopLine Communications (@toplinecomms).