Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

PR: The Joy of the Job

A PR professional who works in the Big Apple wrote a blog describing public relations as one of the most stressful jobs on earth behind military service, firefighting and piloting airplanes. Really?

PRWhat about overseas aid workers? Oh yeah, they didn’t have time or access to the Internet to respond to a Yahoo poll about stress.

The evidence of stress, according to Julia Sahin, can be found in the working conditions for PR pros. Namely, they have to work with other people.

Boatloads of people stuck in isolated cubicles crunching numbers yearn for a chance to interact with people. So do morticians who interact with corpses. PR people, according to Sahin, stress over interaction. I’ve been in the PR rackets for more than 25 years. If dealing with people, even difficult people, is the biggest stress in your life, you are living a charmed life.

Other stress marks on PR professionals include meeting media deadlines, prepping for big announcements and dealing with constant change and occasional crisis. All this stress in an office setting, working in front of a computer, usually steps away from a kitchen with snacks.

There is no denying that public relations, like almost any occupation or job, can have stressful moments. But I suspect PR has a lot more fun and interesting moments than many other occupations. Stress is hardly its hallmark.

stressful-jobs1Deadlines often are a bane for PR account executives, especially those who never worked on a daily newspaper or at a TV station and had to meet rolling deadlines all day long. Meeting deadlines is an acquired skill that requires discipline. That should be motivating, not stress-inducing.

Product launches demand a lot of preparation. But think of the poor people who had to dream up the product, engineer it and produce it before ever thinking about promoting it. You could argue convincingly that the inception of a product is much more stressful than calling a blogger to test it and write about it.

As for constant change and occasional crisis, I hate to break the news that these are pretty common in every sector of the workplace. For many workers, stress is being blind-sided by a layoff. While lay-offs occur in PR, they are seldom sneak attacks.

Sahin also says it is stressful trying to build a reputation in PR.

“Changing perceptions, bridging relationships and building reputations almost never happen overnight,” Sahin wrote. “These processes take a lot of strategic planning, decision making and hard work – even over a long period of time. We learn to think long term (while working in the short term), make tough choices and execute in a way that’s mutually beneficial for a company and its stakeholders. Accomplishing these things is never easy.”

That’s a fair description of the work of PR professionals. But it doesn’t sound like work that would send someone into paralytic shock.

Like many jobs in the contemporary workplace, PR professionals must work in teams. And some people aren’t good companions in the sandbox.

“Crises mean day-to-day work must stop. People have to come together, communicate clearly, figure out the root of the problem and find the solution, and act to remedy the situation,” Sahin explains. “One problem: Things rarely go as smoothly as I made it seem in the last sentence. There are hiccups, bumps in the road, barriers – you name it – on the way to recovery. Communication plays a large role in how a company handles a crisis, because a lot of it is about perception. Talk about getting pressure from all angles.”

If this was the measure for a taxing job, then just about every job involving groups of people striving together toward a goal could claim to be under the burden of high stress.

At the end of her blog, Sahin asks PR professionals to comment about the stress in their job. My answer: The stress you cite is overblown. The Yahoo poll on which you base your conclusion is full of self-selected pity. (Senior corporate executives are on the top 10 list, but not ICU nurses, schoolteachers or mine workers.)

Love-my-job-smI’m old enough to retire. But I’m still on the job because of the exciting developments in my profession – from content marketing to easy-to-access technology tools. Most days, I’m giddy to go to work. I thank my lucky stars I’m healthy enough to work.

The stress points I encounter on the job can be irritating and sometimes frustrating. But they are smothered by the overall joy of the job.


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