PR “more stressful” than most jobs



PR is one of 2017’s Top Ten most stressful jobs according to a new survey – but why?

Fire-fighting, protection duty, event co-ordination and news writing are among the 2017 Top Ten most stressful jobs in the world according to Forbes – and, to some extent, PR covers them all.

Of course, most PR practitioners are not actually serving on a front line, but every day – in offices world-wide – they are fighting brand fires or reputation battles, and organising the odd event too.

“Endless deadlines, the need to achieve objectives, managing client expectations and challenging strategic decisions – this profession can certainly be stressful,” said Laura White, of Laura White PR.

“It’s PR not ER; however, the pressure of keeping a reputation healthy can certainly feel like a weighty responsibility at times!”

Public Relations has been named among the Top Ten most stressful careers by Forbes/CareerCast since at least 2012 – making the list just below pilots, firefighters, military, journalists and event co-ordinators.

The top three jobs all have personal risks attached but, while PR is deemed “safer”, the profession is still seen as stressful due to client demands, tight deadlines, long hours and the potential for “crisis”.

“The communications industry has always put the job first and people second,” said Paul Sutton, who wrote about PR stress for the book #FuturePRoof last year and is to speak on the issue at #PRFest in Edinburgh later this year.

“There exists a very strong ‘yes culture’, where no ridiculous deadline is unachievable and no unrealistic expectation is too much trouble. Personal lives and issues take a back seat.”

Paul has also contributed towards a report on mental health in public relations, which was published this week, and added:

“Pushing people too hard leads to emotional trauma; stress, anxiety, depression and, ultimately, burnout. Just look at the churn rates in PR.”


Matt Clements, a communications manager for the railways, also agrees that PR lives up to its reputation as stressful – for a wide variety of reasons.

“A PR person is probably thoughtful, empathetic and a bit of a rebel, a critical friend, and that’s not easy. Like vicars and police officers, we’re never really off duty. But the plus of standing up for beliefs is being able to sleep at night,” he said.

Meanwhile, Michael White – digital account director at communications consultancy Lansons – is calling on the PR industry to take more action to recognise mental health and stress in the workplace.

“I was discussing three big PR agencies today. All operate with junior “workhouse-type” environments. We need to start with looking at changes to internal culture, ensuring all line managers are able to recognise the signs of potential mental health or stress issues early,” he said.

“Especially for junior practitioners, if an agency works you all hours and doesn’t provide the necessary support, then it can wrongly damage your entry into the industry – when the fault fundamentally comes down to the culture of the company and probably not having the right support.”


Not everyone, however, thinks PR deserves such a terrible world-wide reputation for stress – at least not all the time.

Indeed, although Mandy Pearse, PR and marketing consultant at Seashell Communications believes “culture is key”, she added: “Some PR people love drama and make their own stress. Good strategy and planning increase control.”

However,  Chris Owen, director of technology at @MCSaatchiPR, is of the opinion that a lot of stress in the PR industry is ‘self-inflicted’ by poor legacy behaviours – especially “poor management training, poor tactics, and lazy, arcane approaches to what should be more strategic activity. That and unnecessary rollickings”.

He added: “There are perhaps two types of stress – ‘workload’, and psychological. The latter is driven by peer-to-peer comparison which is a little embedded in such a competitive industry.

“There’s a habit of looking sideways and comparing yourself to others, and (as is always the way), not looking properly and instead perceiving others as better, smarter, more able to handle the job, and then thinking working longer hours is a way to tackle what doesn’t exist.

“The workload element is something endemic which needs eradicating from the sector; this mentality of being seen to be working harder, longer hours just for the sake of it. Sending emails out of work hours, during weekends, or chasing things up before the office opens. It brings stress unnecessarily and is usually little more than preening.”

The final word, however, goes to PR and communication management strategist Judy Gombita, (who is also a principal of PR Conversations, including curating the @PRConversations stream), who suggests the various staff and agency positions that comprise “public relations” need to be defined and understood before potential stress can be considered.

“If someone works in the area of publicity or (marketing communications) promotions, most of the times the “stresses” would be average,” she said.

“An in-house person whose position revolves around issues and reputation management and the possibility of an operational or individual “crisis” situation, maybe.

“What I find ironic is that it’s typically (younger) people employed at agencies who claim their job is so stressful; however, when you look at the outcomes of what is trying to be achieved (more sales or profile,) it’s rare that anything of real, long-time importance is on the line.”

** The film below has been released as part of the report on mental health in public relations. Do you feel strongly about this issue? Please feel free to comment.


3 thoughts on “PR “more stressful” than most jobs

  1. Pingback: PR and stress – its not just dictators that create moral dilemmas | Booze, balls, bollocks, the babe and our boy

  2. Pingback: PR is supposed to be stressful, isn’t it? | Two tribes go to jaw

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