Staying Sane in the PR Grind: Five Ways to Work and Live with L.O.V.E.
As per the January 2012 results of the annual study by CareerCast, PR is now the seventh most stressful profession instead of the second as it was in 2011. This doesn’t mean PR professionals have less stress. It only means other professionals increased theirs.
Think about Chick-fil-A’s vice president for public relations, Don Perry and his nightmarish last days defending president Dan Cathy’s stance against gay marriage. Could this non-stop media frenzy have triggered his heart attack? How about Rick Gorka, Romney’s spokesman losing it instead of handling his own stress while addressing reporters abroad. Instead of managing public relations for his client, he became news himself.
Public Relations professionals are on 24/7. Forget the urgency to respond to emails immediately, there is no time to wait till the papers are published tomorrow. Instead, add the stress to be on social media for breaking news all the time. In such a competitive environment where the first to share the news is golden, communicating with clarity in the middle of a stressful situation requires training, experience and nerves of steel.
Five ways stay sane in the media frenzy:
- Represent people and matters that are dear to your heart. A job is a job but it feels like torture if you represent someone you don’t respect, you don’t admire and you don’t care for. Make sure that you align with the person and organization when you take the job. Even if it’s stressful, you will be able to manage your own strain better if you feel you are making a difference in this world.
- Have a strategic plan from the beginning. There are things we can control and many things we can’t. While the unexpected happens all the time, there are many factors that contribute to stress that could be avoided. Ensure you learn everything you can about the person you are representing, the multiple issues that relate to your client and his/her organization. Check what you can anticipate and have a plan for this. You will only need to address the truly unexpected issues if you do your homework and plan your action first.
- Determine how often you deal with crises. Although you may not anticipate each and every problem that may arise, look at patterns and anticipate challenges. Let’s say you realize you have a daily crisis. Then, give yourself time to deal with crises every day: leave an open space in your calendar. Do they tend to happen a specific date or time of the week? Do they relate to other local, regional or national events? Do they relate to specific people or projects? Do you know when these other events occur? Have a system in place to deal with this additional pressure.
- Establish excellent relationships. I have seen brilliant people think they can easily resolve a problem by speaking with someone “because their point makes sense and they are right.” Wrong! When you establish excellent and long-standing relationships you will resolve a difficult problem with a five-minute phone call. It’s all about the relationships. Managing a difficult challenge will add stress to your day. Arguing with a well-respected colleague and friend is a lot easier than endlessly arguing with a strange foe. Both situations may be stressful but the first is more manageable.
- Avoid responding to everything as if it were an emergency. Your career is stressful but are you stressing out more than you should? Are you responding to everything with a sense of urgency? While you may pride yourself for being on top of everything that comes to your desk—or your phone—it will be impossible to keep track of everything as you juggle more and more balls. It is inevitable; there is so much we can do at any given time. You may be able to juggle two crises at the same time, but how about three, four or five? Establish your priorities and avoid responding to everything as if the house was on fire.
- Stay Healthy. Many people drop exercising from their busy schedules when they get busier. It should be the other way around: you should exercise more to manage stress during times of crisis. I use a simple acronym to help my clients and patients stay healthy and well during calm and hectic times:
Live with L.O.V.E.:
L stands for Lifestyle: exercise daily, eat well, learn to relax, and sleep every night.
O stands for Organizational Skills: Learn to prioritize, create strategies, plan and organize your day.
V stands for Values: Know who you are and what’s important to you, it’s a lot easier to work hard when you are passionate about something than when you don’t care about it.
E stands for Enjoy! Make it your priority to bring joy to your life; no one else will do this for you. Even though you will continue to experience stress it will become quite manageable when you enjoy each and every step of the way.
Gabriela Cora, M.D., M.B.A. Dr. Gaby Cora is the Wellness Doctor & Coach on Lifetime’s Health & Wellness Makeover on Balancing Act, Lifetime Television. She’s the author of ExecutiveHealth.com’s Leading Under Pressure: Strategies to Avoid Burnout, Increase Energy and Improve Your Well-Being (Career Press, 2010).