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Why PR is the most stressful job

There has to be solid reasons why PR has been voted as one of the most stressful jobs in the world for a few years in a row.

While the methodology of such research can be debated, I know for a fact my PR friends seem to be in a firefight at work on a daily basis.

Drawing the line on clients’ demands versus the risk of losing the account is the bottom line of nearly every dilemma they face.

What’s making their job so tough?

Second guessing

Quite often the PR agency/manager has no inkling of what the client’s management wants. And this is more so in the case of bigger, multinational companies where the management is not easily accessible, leaving a lot of room for miscommunication, second guessing and, therefore, mismatched expectations.

The dollar dilemma

Budgets, as always, is another source of frustration. From shoe-string to non-existent to simply bad budget management – the range is, well, disappointing. My sympathies are with poor account managers who are being pulled by clients on one hand asking for more with less and by account directors, on the other, whose orders are to stop servicing the client.

Perfection is a myth …

Sometimes clients ask for perfection. Agency folks, this will ring a bell. You’ve worked very hard to get a media plan ready – releases, social media, press interviews, everything. A pretty creative PR campaign overall, but that one teeny weeny typo, which would have crept in thanks to auto-correct, is all that the client is fixated about. The entire work is ignored because of that one mistake. Now, that’s really asking for perfection, isn’t it?

… so is the deadline

How many times have you had a client come to you and ask for that report on Saturday morning? The team ends up working all night on Friday, hands the report to the client on Saturday and gets this million-dollar reply as a reward: “Oh! my boss just postponed the meeting to next week, but thanks for your effort, anyways!”

Death of a PR manager’s career?

This one is a horror story and doesn’t happen often, or so is my hope. Clients call the PR agency’s boss asking to remove a consultant from the account on the grounds of under-performance. Now this could well be true in some instances, in others it’s just a case of the client not providing the consultant with ample information.

Entertainment yes, but at what cost?

This one is not just for clients but journalists as well (ahem!). Many PR agencies feel it’s imperative to take journos out for “entertainment”- karaoke sessions or similar leisure outings, for example. Whilst the practice is age-old, one practitioner warns: “That’s not what’s going to get you media coverage. A solid story angle will.” Many PR professionals, he says, get caught in this compulsive behaviour to entertain clients or the media, but you need to know where to draw the line.

“I once had a client who reminded me multiple times during a conversation that it’s her birthday next week and that a new restaurant had opened up just down the road,” he says.

“When you look back, you laugh at such things but while you are in it, all you feel like is crying,” he said.

(Read also: Why senior PR guys leave big agencies)

Moreover, these are just some pointers. Think about the report entailing 30 data points that your client asked you to come up with. You know five data-points are sufficient and the others will not see the light of the day, but so what?

Numerous friends have pointed out how over-reporting is almost a habit in this industry. Reporting for the sake of it adds no value to the agency or the client and is a complete waste of time.

(Read also: Busting common myths around PR jobs)

Well, so is the multiple back and forth to make minor changes to a press release. What would take the client five or 10 minutes to do so, will take up to hours and sometimes even days, because “hey! we paid the agency to do so, and writing a few hundred emails is a lot easier than making a one-line change in the press release. Isn’t it?”

This comes across as a long rant against clients, granted, but these reasons are why PR is one of the world’s most stressful jobs.

What are other issues you as PR professionals face? Share your thoughts with us below.

 
Rayana Pandey
Editor
Marketing Magazine Singapore
An international business journalist, Rayana has been in Singapore for eight years and loves everything about the city-state - well, almost, with hor fun and popiah topping the list. A part-time actor and a social volunteer, you’ll find her out and about either on stage honing her public speaking skills or back stage volunteering for the National Day Parade or Chingay. Travel, meaningful conversations and meeting new people keep her going.

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