When you choose a career in public relations you’re opting into a position that requires you to adapt to stressful situations. After 27 years of PR, there are many wonderful aspects about my role that I absolutely love, solving communication challenges and creating campaigns that put a big smile on my face. However, that’s not what this post is about. I’ll save that discussion for another day.
My goal for this blog post is to share actionable advice with professionals; what you can do when you’re faced with stressful situations, really tight deadlines, a campaign that goes awry (Murphy’s Law), clients upset by the numbers, issues that pop up on your social channels, the rejection you’re often faced with by the media, tough personalities challenging you on the job, or the dreaded crisis, which fully demands attention. If you’re in PR, It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or if you are 20+ years into your practice, you will face one or more of these situations on any given day.
So, the next time an annual report comes out about the most stressful jobs in America and PR is on the list, I hope you will remember this post and my advice. I’ll offer these suggestions knowing that you choose your career and your lifestyle. I’ve realized over the years, if you select a career in communications, then you may not be able to take the stress out of the job. However, you can change or manage how you handle the stressful circumstances.
Get ready to combat PR stress with five simple tips:
- Stop and Breathe, Often: When your company’s reputation is challenged, your event is not well-attended, or the big boss is upset about the campaign numbers, take a moment to breathe. I know that everyone says this, but there are physiological benefits to breathing. When you breathe deeply you’re able to calm yourself down quickly, and be more focused and centered. Deep breathing will allow you to think clearly and to handle the situation at hand. After all, your reaction always deserves careful consideration so that you can put your best foot forward to move toward a resolution.
- Stay Positive, Even When the Situation Looks Grim. You may be faced with some rough situations that need to be handled delicately. Even when things get tough, you should keep your positive attitude, which help you to push forward to solve the challenge or problem. Research says our brains are wired to be in survival mode and to look for threats. However, there are more benefits to remaining positive both for productivity and for health purposes. As a matter of fact, studies show that being negative or pessimistic can lead to depression and other health issues. Staying positive is a quicker path to solutions and living a healthier life.
- Know Your Daily Boundaries: This is another way of saying, “Learn to say, NO.” It took me years to learn that “No” is a more powerful word than “Yes.” You only have so many hours in a day and the choices that you make will help you to be happy and healthy. Working too much, finding yourself over-extended and depleting every last bit of energy out of your body is not good for you personally or professionally. By taking time to refuel (daily) and not waiting weeks or months, you will find a renewed focus, energy and creativity. When I started saying, “no” to opportunities, I found that the opportunities I carefully selected were the best ones for me, and I was a much more active and thoughtful participant.
- Move and Excel at Your Own Pace. This is a big one. I’m a competitive person, constantly challenging myself to do more and get the most out of every opportunity. However, knowing the rate at which you move and excel is really important. There are times when you’ll be tempted to look at colleagues who move at lightning speed. Remember, their pace is not your pace. If lightning speed is what you want and you can be organized and effective, and produce quality work that makes you feel great, then go for it. But, if you’re making numerous errors and upsetting your normal rhythm of activity by working at lightning speed, then you may want to re-evaluate your pace. The goal is to be the best YOU can be. This is all you, and no one but you can determine the speed at which you excel.
- Turn Your Type A Tendencies into a Type B Personality. There is nothing wrong with being a type A personality. Type A personalities are known for moving quickly and conquering tremendous tasks in a short amount of time. However, if you ever find yourself wrapped up in doing a lot and just going through the motions, without a clear picture, then step back. It may mean that it’s time to incorporate a Type B outlook into your regimen. Stepping back means you can think, and connect the dots. When you remove yourself from your crazy cycle of busy tactics, you can visualize the big picture and strategically move toward your goals. Here’s something most PR people understand … it’s the difference between being tactical in your approach or strategically planning for what you want to achieve and then moving toward success of your program.
In the end …
Who knows, maybe your clients will change, your supervisor will always be happy, your social channels will become errorless, and issues won’t pop up and crisis won’t rear it’s ugly head. But this is highly unlikely, if you plan on a long-term, fruitful career in PR or any industry for that matter. Think about the five simple steps that I’ve offered. Whether you use one or all of them, see if they make a difference. Be good to yourself first and you’ll be a much better professional, team player and person, able to handle any challenge that is thrown in your path. How do you combat stress when you have a crazy day?