How FiComm Partners’ Kirsten Plonner makes room for more than work

PR practitioners have demanding jobs and jam-packed schedules, which can lead to burnout and overwork. Here’s how one pro has preserved her work/life balance.

For a PR pro who serves the financial industry, the day starts bright and early—but not for the reason you might think.

FiComm Partners’ chief of communications Kirsten Plonner shared with us how she powers through her day, what keeps her up at night and what changes she sees coming for the communications sector.

Her message? Take care of yourself, and promote a healthy work/life balance at your agency or department.

Here’s what she had to say about a day in the life of a communications professional:

1. What time do you wake up?

 I wake up at the unforgiving hour of 5:30 a.m., because I have a 5-year-old who can’t tell time (yet).

 2. How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?

 I drink one cup of coffee to start the day and then a second midmorning to power through the rest of the day. If things are crazy busy, a third may be needed midafternoon to help cope with whatever the day is throwing at us.

3. Who is the most important person at work you talk to during your day?

At work, there is no one person; it’s my FiComm team. Being available to answer questions and provide guidance in real time is important to me so they can feel like they have the direction and empowerment they need to move ahead. And talk doesn’t always have to be business. We’re a super-close-knit group, so being able to bond and chill together is important—despite how many cups of coffee I’ve had.

4. What’s one tool that you couldn’t live without?

My iPhone. There is no way I could function without it. It fuels my life—work email, Slack, text messaging, personal email, and every app available on planet Earth. It’s the one portal that represents total engagement. I’m convinced that it can read my mind. Without my iPhone (and coffee), I am nothing.

5. What’s the last thing you do before finishing your workday?

I ask my team what they need help with and when they are leaving the office, because I want to make sure they have the support they need and that they’re leaving at a reasonable hour. And if they need help and can’t leave just yet, I can help them figure out resources to get everything done—even if it means I work late with them. And then I drink more coffee.

6. What keeps you up at night?

In addition to all the coffee I drink, the well-being of my team is the No. 1 thing that keeps me up at night. FiComm is fortunate that we have a close-knit team of doers and believers. But if any one of them is having a hard time—whether it be personally or professionally—I want to make sure we’re providing a work environment that is supportive and empowering to their jobs and careers, both in and out of the office.

7. What trend or change is the next big thing in communications and/or your industry?

I think that PR and marketing professionals will continue to see clients … as partners to their business as opposed to vendors who service their business. There is a marked shift in the way that companies engage communications firms over the past 10 years or so. Before it was more about, “How can I hire you to help me do X, Y, and Z things?” But now it’s more about, “How can we partner together so that you can help my business grow via strategic communications?” As financial services communications professionals, we’re certainly seeing this amongst financial companies who are trying to grow amidst a shifting regulatory environment and an intensified competitive landscape. And as the market for fintech grows, these challenges only expand with it and become more complex. So communications partners who are embedded within an industry and who are able to understand business challenges is paramount to a healthy client partnership.

8. Anything else you want to share?

 It’s a commonly known issue that the communications industry struggles with work/life balance. Many professionals believe that in order to do a good job we have to sacrifice ourselves to our jobs. I think many communications firms promote an unhealthy mindset to do whatever the client wants, as opposed to training employees to take a step back and learning to partner with the client to provide them with what they need. As a result, the burnout and frustration level is high. As a PR pro who is also a wife, a mom and an adjunct professor, this struggle is real as we balance competing priorities. One thing that I’m passionate about is not checking emails during the weekends and PTO. My team knows that I don’t look at emails when I’m on vacation or on the weekend, and I expect them to do the same. We need to remember to take care of ourselves first, whether that means taking vacation, flexible work schedules or additional training to learn how to manage clients more efficiently—as a partner—and that sometimes taking a moment to provide clients with counsel and perspective goes a long way in creating balance in the workplace.

Connect with Kirsten Plonner on LinkedIn.

If you or a colleague would like to be featured in our Day in the Life series, contact PR Daily editor Ted Kitterman.

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