PR Pity Party

A few weeks back, I sent out an innocent tweet about a new poll that showed PR pros preferred using Facebook over Twitter. Fellow PRBC-er, Jeff Esposito, read me the riot act about how he was sick of PR people taking ourselves so seriously.

Here I will quote Mr. Esposito: “I am sick of the self-promotional BS spewed lately. Last I checked our job’s function was to make co’s look good.” I tried to rack my brain about what my link had to do with this topic. After a bit of back and forth, we discovered Jeff mixed up my tweet with someone else’s and now he owes me a drink.

Yet, in the confusion, he did make a point. Do PR pros have a tendency to throw a pity party for ourselves? Recently, CNBC called Public Relations the #2 most stressful job in America (obviously, they did not fact check the salary portion). When I heard this news, I was ready to pop open a bottle of tequila and wallow about how bad I have it, how difficult my job is, and so on.

Popping my own PR bubble, does our job REALLY rank at the top of the list? Yes, with the introduction of social media, PR is more a 24/7 job than ever before. I also agree sometimes we’re at the beck and call of our clients. But when comparing public relations to other jobs, I would think a surgeon or even a police officer could be more frazzled than us.

As PR professionals, we like to wax poetic about the industry; the hardships of the profession, the challenges we face on a daily basis. It can almost become second nature to complain. So before your write the next “woe is me” post, take a few steps back and ask yourself: “Do we really have it that bad?”

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  • I don’t think we have it all that bad. I think a more stressful job is the ER surgeon or a police officer. We PR pros have it made, by comparison.

  • I think how stressful your PR job is really depends on what sector you work in. When I was working on Wall St., with publicly traded companies, where a PR hiccup could drop the stock price, I was stressed. PR’s that work with celebs in a 24 hour news cycle are stressed. The wonks in DC are stressed.

    Working with tech and media companies the last few years, I think it isn’t all that stressful. Learn to turn your phone and computer off, and you’ll be fine.

    • “Learn to turn your phone and computer off, and you’ll be fine.” I can’t imagine a PR pro saying in this day and age. The minute a crisis happens and you’re not available, any planning will falter and you’re going to shoulder the blame for not being there in time.

      • Very, very few clients I’ve ever worked with will shell out the cash for a retainer that covers this kind of availability. In my experience, it’s always offered, and 99% of the time the client says “We’ll Be Fine”. 99% of the time they are.

        I don’t think clients can really blame their PR for not being available the second an emergency happens, especially if the emergency is caused by something the client did themselves (most of these “emergencies” seem to be self-constructed). In all the years I’ve been working in the industry, I’ve only had 3 cases whee there were actual, real, “All hands On Deck” PR disasters, where a few hours wait in response time would have a measurable difference.

        Being available, on call 24/7 for PR clients isn’t a sustainable business practice or lifestyle. A few years of that leads down the fast road to burnout city.

        • It sounds like you’re able to speak from years of PR agency experience, or which I have less of. As such your clients probably have specific billable hours for your work, which crisis comms does not usually fit into.

          In my own experiences in online reputation management, I’ve picked up clients after the fallout from crisis communications who are looking to repair their business’ image. And in my current capacity working for a single client, my employer who is a international corporation with an in-house PR team, I’m sure my boss expects me to be on call 24/7.

          We have different kinds of clients, different kinds of responsibility, so thanks for sharing your own perspective with me.

  • I find that PR people lament less than folks in many other fields — especially journalism, from whence I came. It’s kind of a universal habit, and it has a lot to do with self-aggrandizement: If my world is woeful, then I should get points for struggling valiantly on, right?

  • I think it’s great to have so many more telecommuting and mobile options for PR pros to stay in touch, but we can’t underestimate the downside of being constantly on-call at the behest of our clients. While Doctors and Law Enforcement live in this reality already, they’re also only called during real emergencies, rather than the mock crises some clients expect an instant email about (ie someone bad mouthing their brand on Twitter).

  • Suzi C

    I think Public Relations professionals — specifically the crisis communicators out there — are cut from a different cloth than other professions. These people are perfectly suited for this career, and they bloom! We strategize on the fly, draft communications in 15 minutes or less, are walking dictionaries and grammar books, have a working knowledge of the law, have a working knowledge of advertising, are able to process new information quickly and well enought and explain it to others. I think these are folks who are able to thrive in adverse situations. We surround ourselves with others like us, and we begin thinking, “It’s not so bad!”

    If you want to see how stressful public relations can be, plunk someone who isn’t cut from this cloth into our field. Who hasn’t seen the intern change majors after a day or two in the “real life situation”?

  • No. We don’t have it that bad. Like Jason said, we are not responsible for lives, but we like to think we are. 99 percent of the time, our stress level is of our own doing. Then we like to tweet and Facebook how much work we have to do. There will always be work to do. You just need to learn what’s important.

  • No. We don’t have it that bad. Like Jason said, we are not responsible for lives, but we like to think we are. 99 percent of the time, our stress level is of our own doing. Then we like to tweet and Facebook how much work we have to do. There will always be work to do. You just need to learn what’s important.

  • PR can often have its “urgency moments” but, let’s be honest, for most of us in the industry that’s exactly when we’re having the most fun!  It is during a crisis that people most realize the PR professional’s worth and when we get the most validation.  In my experience, the professionals who complain the most are the ones who either aren’t truly prepared (i.e., they were not efficient with their “slow” time) or those who shouldn’t be in the industry.  That said, I’m sure there are those living the agency life where senior management rides the lower echelon pretty hard, trying to squeeze as many billable hours out of their staff as possible.  To those in the lower echelon I say, that’s the price you pay to get ahead, and that’s the business model you chose to work in.

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