Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, and though there were plenty of great resources shared – we’re all a bit guilty of forgetting about it after the fact aren’t we? Every time there’s a notable moment or an awareness day, week, or month, mental health is spoken about in abundance, but the truth is, feelings don’t change after that. This is why, on this blog, I like to arrive fashionably late. Forcing us to continue thinking about things after the conversation has died down is my thing now. Though it’s great to raise awareness of mental health (and I’m by no means disputing that we should have these kinds of events), we’d also do well to remember that it’s a very real issue, all year round. So, here’s my two cents on the conversation, and some things any PR person should remember when working in the industry. These are drawn from my own experiences, but from those that I know in the sector too.
5 Things To Remember About Mental Health In PR
Remember If Something Doesn’t Seem Right, It Probably Isn’t
One of the most crucial things I wish I knew when starting out my career, was the importance of identifying red flags, and knowing that if they’re present – then I need to change the situation. That doesn’t always mean leaving your job, but it could mean addressing concerns with someone else in your business. I wrote a whole blog on red flags in PR which surprisingly (and sort of sadly) resonated with an incredible number of people, you can read all of the warning signs I listed there, but to name a few if you’re…
- Being expected to get on with things without ANY guidance
- Being expected to start early and finish late
- Being expected to be available 24/7
…Then you’re probably in a situation that isn’t going to suit you in the long term, and one that may (much like it did with me) have negative impacts on your own confidence and passion for the industry. Mental health recognition is so important in the workplace nowadays, and I really loved a talk by Jane Hunt at BrightonSEO where she admitted some mistakes made in the past and shared key steps that her agency JBH is taking now, such as not working with clients that don’t suit the culture of the company. That’s huge for me and they’re an excellent example of the kind of PR business that seems ‘right’ for me.
Remember You Don’t Need To Be Always On
I would FLING the phrase ‘always on’ into Room 101 if I could, it’s one of the worst buzzwords to come out of this decade. Nobody should be expected to be always on, all of the time, and if anyone wants that of you – they’re wrong. Not only is this approach probably going to be incredibly damaging to anyone’s mental health (even the toughest of us get burnt out) but can you really expect to do your best work in the day if you’re consistently absorbing the news, thinking about your clients and work, and not taking any time to recharge and reset? I doubt it. Being attentive and in ‘work mode’ 24 hours of the day is sure to take its toll on your mental health, and even though we all work in different ways and I know many people still enjoy being reactive and active even after their working day has finished – please know your own limits and don’t wear yourselves out because you think this is the only way to be successful in PR. It isn’t.
Remember That Consuming The News Can Be Tiring
In PR, we’re expected to know what’s going on every day in the media, and that’s fine – many of us have ways of managing that. However, with a global pandemic, a war in Europe, and a cost of living crisis in just the last two years alone – absorbing that kind of content all day will take exhaust anyone. So you need to know the best ways to approach this, and remember that you don’t need to be taking it all in, all of the time, in order to be a ‘proactive PR’. Some of my advice would include:
- Focusing only on news that relates to your client – do you need to be trawling the BBC World home page, or could you just check in with more niche publications instead?
- Actively separating yourself from what you’re consuming, e.g. if you’re taking in the news during your 9-5, if you want to give yourself a break after that, why not take the apps off your personal phone and skip the evening broadcast shows to mentally retire from the day from all that content?
- Use an app like Feedly to input all publications relevant to your client into one RSS feed so you can quickly flick through headlines that you know should be relevant, as opposed to having to wade through masses of negative news to get to where you need to be
- Get punchy bulletins from other places, for example, you can sign up for ‘news in brief’ daily roundups from various papers and helpful people on Twitter such as Will from Rise At Seven often share handy tweets covering what’s going on in the week ahead that can be used for PR
And in a talk at BrightonSEO, Kat Nicholls of Happiful actually covered absorbing and writing about difficult topics in a talk, some tips that she shared were:
- Planning in breaks and actually taking them
- Setting and communicating boundaries
- Finding non-work activities to switch off
Remember You’re Never Stuck In A Situation
One of the things I will tell anyone who reaches out to me is that it really is an employee’s market at the moment, and I don’t know of any agency that isn’t actively hiring, or who hasn’t been hiring over the last few months at least. The demand for our skills is soaring at the moment, and for this reason, employers want you. When I was going through a particularly rough path, I remember feeling as those I didn’t have any options. I stuck out a bad situation way longer than I should have and this ultimately wore me down even more than if I’d have gotten out early. Guys, for the sake of your mental health, if something doesn’t feel right for you then you have options. You’re not trapped. There are plenty of businesses offering different things for different people, so if you need a better work-life balance, a different location, or even want to try out another sector, there’ll likely be something out there for you. Put your mental health first and everything else can come second, if something’s not serving you, move from it if you can.
Remember There’s So Much Help On Hand
And finally, the wonderful thing about the PR industry is that you’re never alone, not ever. Whether it’s making use of resources that have been shared from industry pros, or just having someone to talk to – I guarantee you’ll find something out there to support you no matter your situation or your challenges. I for one always have my DMs open for anyone who wants to talk if their mental health is taking a turn (or even if you just want a chat). You could have the best job ever and still have dodgy days where you don’t feel yourself. It’s no secret that the PR industry is a tough one. Difficult clients, lots of pressure and an issue with switching off are all sadly not uncommon. However, you should try and remember, if you can, that you’re allowed to put yourself first, and saying no or setting boundaries doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job, or that you’re not passionate enough. There are always going to be people or organisations out here to help you in the PR industry, so if you feel you need them – don’t hesitate to reach out. Suffering in silence is a thing no more!