What, me worry?

Stress CareerCast.com has just confirmed what many of us in the wonderful world of public relations already knew: we work in a highly stressful field. In fact, according to CareerCast.com, PR is the SECOND most stressful occupation in America, landing just behind commercial airline pilot. 

In its rankings, CareerCast evaluated 11 different factors such as: work environment, job competitiveness, physical demands (I'll say. Laptops must weigh, what? Two pounds or more? Talk about heavy lifting), deadlines, on-the-job dangers (our men's room would certainly qualify) and even the job's growth potential.

Zeroing in on PR, Publisher Tony Lee said PR people are '….completely at the mercy of their clients and buyers.' He notes that '….the average PR person's success or failure depends on the actions and decisions of clients, creating a stressful situation because their performance is in many ways out of their hands.' To which I say, 'Amen, brother.'

But, CareerCast really only scratches the surface. Sure, there's a lot of stress in PR, but it varies widely. For example:

– There's far more stress in corporate PR jobs because, for the most part, PR is seen as an 'overhead expense' and, along with human resources, is always the first to be downsized in lean times.

– Big holding company PR firm cultures exude far more stress for myriad reasons that include, but are not limited to:

A) Having to simultaneously serve multiple masters (the holding company CEO, the client and the various predators circling the agency's shark-infested waters looking to consolidate their power bases).

B) Having to walk away from countless new business opportunities because of existing conflicts.

C) Trying to stand out from hundreds, if not thousands, of peers. Being a small fish in a large, politically-charged pond is no fun (I know. I experienced it first-hand at Hill & Knowlton in the early 1980s).

That's not to say that life at an independent, midsized PR firm is a bowl of cherries. Far from it. But, we do exercise a far greater degree of control over our fates. And, in periods of growth, I can't think of a better place to be.

All that said, it took me many moons to figure out I needed a personal escape valve to deal with stress. That valve now includes ice, rock and mountain climbing, cycling, running, stand-up comedy and gyrotonic (check out the latter, btw. I highly recommend it for stress reduction).

PR is stressful. But I'd never equate it with piloting a commercial airliner. While some agency leaders may think they make life and death decisions every day, they don't. There are no 'Sully's' in PR who have miraculously managed to land a jet in the middle of the Hudson River. Our occupation just isn't that bad.

Nor is PR as stressful as some of the occupations rounding out CareerCast's Top 10 list: photojournalist, emergency medical technician or newscaster.

And, I wasn't too impressed with the web site's 10 least stressful jobs either. Dental hygienist, occupational therapist and chiropractor finished fifth, ninth and tenth, respectively. All three require a thorough knowledge of the human anatomy and, while not akin to open heart surgery (and, no one can convince PR is more stressful than operating on someone else's heart), things can go south very quickly if one of these health care providers either injures a patient or, worse, happens to be practicing their craft when the patient goes into cardiac arrest.

So, thanks for the PR profession shout-out, CareerCast, but I suggest you either 're-cast' your methodology, examine the 'real' life-and-death occupations within the medical field and do a better job of segmenting the PR profession. While I wouldn't want the stress of running a global holding company PR firm or reporting to a hard-charging, unpredictable Fortune 500 CEO, I'm really enjoying my life in the independent midsized world.

I have stressful days, but I've yet to find myself on final descent into Reagan National Airport only to discover the air traffic controller is fast asleep. Now, that's what I call stress.

10 thoughts on “What, me worry?

  1. I delight in, cause I found exactly what I used
    to be having a look for. You’ve ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  2. Well said, Stacy. I couldn’t agree with you more.
    In some of the companies where I’ve worked in the past as in-house PR, many of the senior execs (be it in Sales, Finance or other depts.)felt that any of them could handle the press on their own without the benefit of my professional expertise.
    However, whenever the crap hit the fan, they would come running to me to clean up their mess. Only when PR pros are licensed like lawyers, doctors, or even CPAs, will we get the respect we deserve for the role we fill.
    But I’m not holding my breath.

  3. Valid points indeed, Stacy. But, I still question that PR is top 10 worthy. Here’s one occupation that does (and was left off the list): NFL coach. How’d you like millions of rabid fanatics second-guessing your every move for 16 weeks in a row? Now, that’s what I call stress.

  4. I think PR deserves to be ranked in the top 10, but not for the reasons the survey suggests. Some of the PR pro’s stress comes from a lack of understanding of and appreciation for our profession. A doctor, lawyer or fire fighter may be in more stress-inducing situations day-to-day, but it’s commonly acknowledged that they are in stressful industries (in a doc or fireman’s case, life or death situations). They benefit from that acknowledgement and are appreciated (except for lawyers, but that’s a different story).
    PR does not benefit from the same understanding or recognition. Therefore what is often strategic, critical work to a business’s health is seen as simple, or is mis-assigned. That can certainly lead to stress–especially when it means constantly justifying why you’ve chosen a strategy or why PR should be “at the table.”

  5. You bet, Julie. And, we PR types like to deceive ourselves into believing we’ve ‘….earned a real seat at the table.’ A select few have. But, the vast majority await the executioner’s sword the very next time the corporation experiences a down quarter.

  6. It has always amazed me that corporations consider PR an “overhead expense” that is a necessary evil in good times, yet the first to be ejected in lean times. (The very fact that PR is lumped together with HR boggles my mind).
    A corporation’s entire existence (and profitability) depends on their reputation, yet they have no respect for the professionals hired to manage it.

  7. Thanks for the comment, Jessie. I’m sure broke college student deserves a top 10 ranking. You should also post a comment on the survey site.

  8. This post was really informative, especially for us rookies out here. I wonder where “broke college student” would fall on a list such as this…

  9. Valid question, Ghost. Since Sully appears to be a very detail-oriented guy, I’d like to think he’d excel at the weekly assignment sheet meetings.