It’s not the first time I’ve heard this. Or to be more exact, seen it.
I was checking my Facebook news feed and saw a friend and fellow PR colleague had posted a link, “5 Most Stressful Jobs,” courtesy of one Cindy Perman of CNBC.com (here’s the actual link: http://www.nbcnews.com/business/5-most-stressful-jobs-1B7822274).
Nodding in forlorn agreement, I noted that, once again, PR made the list. There have been other such lists, naming PR to the “top 10” most stressful occupations, so this came as no surprise to me.
As Perman notes, “…the minute something bad happens – you're the first one they call. It could be 10 a.m. on a Saturday night or Christmas Day. If it's bad, it's your problem. Not to mention, it's a fairly thankless job. Clients may thank you for getting them on the front page of The New York Times (if it's good news), but before you can tie your running shoes on for a victory lap, they want to know: "What about The Wall Street Journal?"
In this regard, being in PR is a bit like being a pro baseball player. Great, you just hit a grand slam that won the game! But what are you going to do for me tomorrow? Of course, in PR, you generally don't have 50,000 fans cheering your name when you hit the homer, nor do you get 6-7 figure commerical endorsements or 8-figure salaries. Go figure.
Interesting to note that two of the other five occupations to make the list include jobs in the military. True, I’ve never had anyone shoot at me, but the day ain’t over yet.
Perman adds that the job is “completely in the public eye.” Ain’t that the truth. I was watching Bowling for Columbine recently, the Michael Moore movie about the Columbine High School shooting tragedy, and was reminded of something that occurs in just about every Michael Moore expose: it’s almost never the CEO or top executive that gets grilled, it’s the poor PR person who has to take the abuse.
But that’s our job, afterall…to be our client’s advocate, to ensure the CEO doesn’t get tossed under the bus. Fortunately, most PR people look good with tire tracks on the backs of their suitcoats. That's what I tell myself, anyway.
Yet despite our sacrifice, there’s been research that indicates many CEOs don’t put a high value of the professionalism and judgment of PR people, feeling better about their CFOs, COOs, and C-whatevers. Further, they believe they are just as qualified to handle PR issues, questions and problems as the PR person his or herself.
Can you feel the love, eh?
Why is that? Several reasons. One, you don’t need to have a graduate degree to do PR. The CFO can trot out his or her MBA. Me, I was a creative writing and English literature major with a master’s in liberal arts. Mindset? If you didn’t have to attend a special graduate school to do your job, your job can’t be that hard to do. This reason likely played a part in why modern PR pioneer Ed Bernays lobbied so hard for years for a special certification for PR professionals, akin to doctors and lawyers.
Two, many people don’t understand just what PR is anyway. Too many corporate types believe “PR” stands for “press release.” It doesn’t. Nor does it stand for Puerto Rico. Fortunately, this mindset has begun to change, but we’re not there yet.
Three, our efforts in PR are often intangible. This is why, I believe, corporate types still put their faith and funds into advertising because, well, they can SEE an ad, a TV commercial, etc. They can see it, control it, know when it’s going to run and have given it approval, knowing it will appear just as they want it to because they paid for it.
In PR, you can’t guarantee a dang thing. You might be told that your story about how your company’s 200th anniversary will appear on the front page of the Baltimore Sun, but then a hurricane hits or somebody important gets shot and, well, all bets are off. Reporters aren’t on the payroll so who knows what exactly they’re going to use from your CEO’s interview? Results can be varied and unpredictable, two things CEO-types abhor.
I also find this scenario disheartening as I see the looks of disappointment upon my students’ faces when they learn just how “thankless” PR work can be.
In our increasingly narcissistic, all-about-me, and did I mention, it’s all about ME society, the idea of taking on a job that involves making OTHER individuals and organizations look good, often goes over about as well as a lead sandwich.
So, it takes a special personality to want to do PR. Yes, it’s stressful, but maybe a better word is, exciting. It’s unpredictable, it’s rarely routine, it offers some wonderful opportunities for creativity, whether it’s writing an article or orchestrating a major fundraising event or doing something like developing a documentary and a historical exhibit as I did for a client many years ago.
I’ll say this about PR: it’s never dull. And if there’s one facet of it you don’t like—research, stuffing envelopes, studying survey information—there’s probably something you will enjoy, like working with media, training executives how to handle an interview in a crisis, coming up with fun and interesting ways to promote your client’s new product, service, what have you. And not every occupation can say that!
Bad girl Bynes
Amanda Bynes was arrested after throwing a bong out a window.More crazy antics