Posted: February 10, 2015, 3:09 p.m.
by Ethan Wiggins.
The daily life of the modern-day public relations professional is extremely busy and demanding. With the rapid growth of social media, the demand for on-the-spot creativity is higher than ever. Some interesting parallels emerge when comparing the top minds of public relations to some of the most creative minds in history, such as Benjamin Franklin and Sigmund Freud.
Much like PR professionals, these intelligent individuals had very busy daily routines. For instance, Sigmund Freud spent 12½ hours per day working with clients or reading and writing journals. Though not all PR professionals work this much, they are on call at all hours of the day.
“There’s no escaping it — you’re always carrying your phone in case something happens,” Dave Collett, executive vice president at Weber Shandwick in St. Louis, said.
Collett spends most of his workdays meeting with clients, answering phone calls and working in an office that he said is similar to a “film studio.” Weber Shandwick, a top public relations agency, was recently voted as a top ad agency. Collett attributes this unusual recognition to the ever-changing world of public relations, which has gone from a “newsroom” to a social media film studio, helping clients — like Mattel— use social media as advertising platforms.
This new shift in public relations from media relations to social media advertising requires creative ideas; and in the 9-to-5 grind full of disruptions and interruptions, sometimes the best creative ideas come after (or before) hours. Collett finds that he is most focused when away from work. The activities he does outside of work help free him from the distractions at his office. He enjoys watching the morning news at 4 a.m., training for a half marathon every morning at seven, and playing guitar in the evenings, as he calls himself a “wannabe rock star” on his Twitter page.
“It gives me some of the best ideas,” Collett said about his morning runs and gym sessions.
Erica Swerdlow, executive vice president at Burson-Marsteller in Chicago, said that her morning exercise routine is her “stress reliever” from the busy days full of meetings, traveling and more meetings.
Through all the meetings and constant working, Swerdlow is still able to find time to have an early dinner with her husband before going back to work from her home office until 9 p.m.
“I love to work,and I love what I do,” said Swerdlow, who has worked in the agency sector since 1993. On the hot summer weekends, Swerdlow acts as a pit crew member for her husband’s Moto GP team. She helps take care of the bike and take pictures and videos of the race.
“I’ve been on the phone with clients while at the track, and then there’s the ‘zoom’ [of the bikes] in the background,” Swerdlow said.
Benjamin Franklin could relate to their ideas about focused time away from work. According to Franklin’s autobiography, he spent much of his time away from work reflecting on the work that he had done. His morning question was always, “What good shall I do today?” and in the evening the question was, “What good have I done today?” This idea of self-reflection is evident in public relations professionals’ lifestyles because the evaluation step is always the last step in the communications process — a process carried out not only in every plan, but also in every day life.
“We know the drill,” Swerdlow said about public relations professionals during times of crisis. Sometimes your sleep may suffer during these times, which forces you to change your normal routine.
“Your work always dictates the rest of your routine,” Dave Collett said.
Calls with clients can occur at any time during a crisis, and you have to be able to answer and deal with the issue, no matter what is going on.
“I can remember walking down the aisle of a wedding rehearsal on the phone with a client,” Swerdlow said.
Crisis management is just one of the many reasons why public relations professionals are constantly busy. Every public relations professional maintains a busy schedule throughout the week, but having some sort of commitment away from work help keeps us sane. It also helps our creative brains spawn new ideas. Even in times of crisis, we must adhere to some sort of routine in order to do our most focused work. At the end of the day, as Benjamin Franklin said, we should take a few moments to think about all the good that we have done.