Published on October 20, 2023, 2:20 p.m.
by Kat Weir.
Public relations is often glamorized as a field of creativity and communication prowess. Behind the scenes, however, PR practitioners are no strangers to the intense stress and pressure of their roles. From managing crises to meeting tight deadlines, the demands of the PR industry can put a significant strain on its practitioners.
A CareerCast.com 2019 study revealed that public relations is one of the top 10 most stressful jobs in the U.S. What aspects make this career so stressful? What can public relations practitioners do to reduce this stress?
Lights, camera, spotlight
According to Falls & Co., constant attention is one of the primary sources of stress in PR. PR practitioners work tirelessly to
build and maintain “mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” They are also responsible for “creating and maintaining a positive public image for the clients they represent.”
With the consistency of social media and 24/7 news cycles, the pressure to respond promptly and appropriately to emerging issues has intensified.
Dylan Lanas, a senior account executive at FleishmanHillard, advised, “Don’t tie your personal self and your personal self-worth to the work that you do.” He stressed the importance of caring about the work being done but also understanding that “at the end of the day, your job is to counsel and provide expertise to clients who are asking genuine questions for how to better run their business.”
Crisis management is a reality that PR practitioners must be prepared for at any moment. According to Forbes, there are 13 golden rules of crisis management, such as “take responsibility” and “be proactive, be transparent, be accountable.” These rules are important to remember when dealing with a particularly stressful situation.
“Professionally, how I helped manage stress during a crisis is first of all having a game plan before you go into those situations,” Lisa Bonatz, designer and account executive at the Hoffman Agency, said. Whether it’s a product recall, a negative news story or a social media controversy, PR professionals often find themselves in high-stake situations that demand quick and effective responses.
There are always going to be little crises popping up on the client side, and there are going to be mistakes on our end as well. Having a clear idea of how we want to proceed in various situations [is beneficial], so we do not have to brainstorm problem management strategies when our judgment is clouded by stress or worry,” Bonatz explained. The weight of responsibility can be overwhelming, as the client’s or organization’s reputation is on the line.
Making the deadline
Like most professions, PR practitioners are no strangers to tight deadlines. Press releases, event planning and media pitches must often be executed with precision and speed. These deadlines can be stressful, as there is little room for error, and the consequences of missing an opportunity can be significant.
“Common stressors that I run into typically [include] a feeling of uncertainty around a project, whether that be waiting on guidance or approval from a client for something that we’ve shared or advised them to do,” Lanas stated.
The constant pressure to deliver results on time can lead to burnout and increased stress levels. It is important to “prioritize tasks, break them down into smaller, manageable steps, and create a schedule or to-do lists,” according to D. Ericson & Associates Public Relations’ managing partner, David E. Rudolph, in a PR Daily article.
Stress on every platform
In this digital age, the landscape of social media is increasingly more diverse in both negative and positive ways. PR professionals must navigate a wide range of media outlets, from traditional newspapers and television to online publications and social media platforms.
The stress of navigating diverse communication strategies and tactics intensifies during a crisis. As the William Mills Agency noted, “When a business falls under public scrutiny during a crisis, there is no time for planning. Instead, it is important that leadership respond swiftly and truthfully to minimize the negative impact on the business’s reputation.” With so many channels to manage, practitioners face the challenge of ensuring consistent messaging while dealing with varying degrees of scrutiny from different media sources.
“I would say it’s a positive type of stress,” Bonatz said. “There are always new tools. We’ve talked [in depth about] generative AI,
especially in the agency, and PRWeek and the Art Council [a part of the PR Council] have come up with guidelines for how to use that. But we’re just navigating new tools, and I think that’s actually a good role that you can play as a younger person.”
The environment of public relations is unpredictable and ever-changing. Practitioners are bound to run into stressful situations, clients and crises in this career field. The unknown and uncertainty seem scary to some, but the satisfaction after the completion of a project, the resolution of a crisis and the positive reaction after a successful campaign far outweigh the stress one may endure.
In a world where information spreads faster than ever, the role of public relations is more critical than ever before. Practitioners in this field have the unique privilege and responsibility to bridge the gap between organizations and the public, fostering understanding, trust and positive change. As the world continues to evolve, public relations will remain a vital and ever-evolving profession, providing countless opportunities to make a difference and leave a lasting legacy.