I have seen PR people stressed out, screaming, sending emails in all caps, and worse. A new study puts public relations as number seven on the top 10 most stressful professions. As a public relations executive, of course I have days that are stressful, but I don't think that has to make the entire profession stressful. Some of our industry's drama may be self-induced. According to a recent article by Rob Biesenbach, some people take a "perverse pride in how stressed out they are," as if people think their level of stress determines their importance -- or the importance of their careers. It doesn't have to be that way. I love my job. I know it's important. I find joy in doing it well... but unless I am risking my life or the lives of others, my job cannot be that stressful.
If you want to move away from stressed out mode and alleviate some of the stress from your PR job, try incorporating some of these strategies.
Lack of planning or not anticipating the needs of reporters -- especially tight deadlines -- can turn into an emergency. Communicate often with your clients, and then communicate more. Understand publishing cycles, and prepare ahead of time by having client quotes ready. Get graphics and other media converted in all formats so you don't lose an opportunity because of delay. Confirm the clients schedule so you can reach them quickly. Make sure all contact information is in a central place so others can step in and help if you can't be immediately reached.
Realize publicity is not advertising
You are not paying a media outlet to promote your product or client. Basically, you are begging them to work on a story idea with you. If your story idea is good and you have targeted the right person, the chances are good that you can get a placement. If a reporter is not interested, has recently covered a similar story or her editor has chosen to go in another direction, there may not be much you can do. That is the reality of PR. Our clients pay us for our time, our expertise in knowing which stories have legs and our contacts. Unfortunately, this can make for the perfect recipe of miscommunication. If you can communicate honestly with your clients, things will be less stressful. Don't over-promise. Even if your BFF is the producer for The Daily Show, you can't guarantee an appearance for your client. Set reasonable expectations so your client is not disappointed.
Touch base often
Regular updates and reports keep everyone on the same page. If you are honest with your clients, they'll respect your efforts. I tell my staff that communicating when things are not going as expected is critically important. Recruit your clients to help when things are falling flat or the reception is lukewarm. They may have great ideas to turn things around.
Keep Your Promises
One thing I hear often is that publicists don't do what they said they would. In a job without guaranteed results, it is crucial that your clients trust your efforts. The best way to do that is to keep your promises -- every one of them. If you say you'll call in 10 minutes, do it. If you have a phone conference, never be late (or only once). Send reports on time and like clockwork. Be dependable, reliable and trustworthy.
Select Clients Carefully
Don't fake it until you make it in this profession. It is important to pick projects based on your passion to promote them, and not by the money. Working on projects that you care about, makes begging and bothering editors, (oops, I meant following up, worthwhile.) Working on projects that don't speak to you personally will make you feel like a fake. Fake communication is stressful and ineffective.
Relax, Breathe, and Smile
Sometimes things don't go as planned or expected and during those times you just have to go with the flow. Remember to: Relax, Breathe, and Smile. A little perspective is a good think. We're not saving lives here.
Nothing you do will make your job completely stress-free, but it also does not have to be the seventh most stressful job in the world. Publicity can be a lot of fun, and when done with integrity, enthusiasm and honesty, it also can be respected.