According to a CNBC story on Yahoo and a research survey by Harris Interactive, working in public relations (PR) is the fifth most stressful job (last year it was seventh). Here are some tips on how to deal with the stress on nonprofit PR staff.
I’ll agree that there’s lots of stress – we manage how organizations and causes look to the media and the public. We have to keep up with the news constantly and abreast of the latest trends in communications and social media. Breaking news eruptions can make our days turn into non-stop calls, emails, and website uploads.
And many people – even sometimes our own families don’t understand what we do – but seems to think they know how to do it. People ask us at cocktail parties why we haven’t considered going on Oprah to share the story of a cause or approaching the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for funding – as if they are giving us brilliant advice that no one has ever thought of before.
And it’s often true that when we do something right and a great story runs that raises awareness for a cause or person or organization we care about – our moment of victory can be short-lived.
That’s part of why I think professional connections are so important for PR people – we need a few people – even if they are just at a virtual water cooler – who will cheer for our successes with us – because usually only another PR person can appreciate the 20+ hours of effort that went into the 2 minutes and 19 second story that ran on a national evening news program and how huge it really is that that story aired and happened. Even so, one could argue that I and many other PR people inflict plenty of our own self-induced stress on ourselves.
Those stresses bubble up in our personal and private lives. My family is so attuned to the fact that one phone call can disrupt my day that the first thing my daughter did when she started walking was find my Blackberry and throw it in the trash – convinced that it had the power to take Mommy away.
A few reporters can be grumpy and mean to PR people – but I can’t say I blame some of them – really – for being mean and a bit out of sorts. Newspaper reporting is ranked eighth most stressful job (photojournalism is at #7) on the same list.
While it may be stressful – PR, in most cases, is not a life-threatening career. I wouldn’t mind seeing PR slip a few notches down the list. Firefighters were listed at #3 but police officers rated at #10 on the most stressful jobs list, well behind PR people. That seems wrong to me. PR people might get stressed out, but people don’t shoot at us and we don’t usually carry weapons. I’m sure my husband would be a heck of a lot more worried about my safety and stressed out if I were a cop, than if I were running an event at the National Press Club.
I was glad to see the military figured prominently in the list and was not forgotten. Enlisted military personnel rated #1 most stressful job on the list. As rewarding as what I do is – or as stressful it may be – I could never compare my job – not for a second – to what my brother gave our country when he enlisted in the army. He died in combat in Iraq in 2007 during the surge in Baghdad. Nor could I compare what I do to what the thousands of military men and women give this country every day through their service. We all should do more to help military families and service members carrying these stresses.
Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design work for publications and websites (portfolio). Ami blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.