Dialing Down the Stress

We saw an interesting survey the other day, which said that “public relations executive” is the eighth most stressful profession today.

It ranks behind military personnel (being shot at!), firefighters (running into burning buildings to save lives!), airline pilots (with the lives of hundreds of passengers in your hands!), as well as police officers and a few others.

Sitting here at our keyboards or on our phones or in meetings, we PR people – whether corporate or working for an agency – just don’t seem to be exposed to bullets-flying levels of stress. But our stress, as the survey notes, comes in a different form: the looming deadline.

Deadlines are nerve-wracking; there’s no denying that. When you’re trying to get a client connected immediately with a reporter who is right on deadline, or finish up a document that has to be submitted by 5 p.m. on a Friday to avoid missing a big opportunity, there is a ticking-time-bomb sort of feel to it.

But for many of the stress-inducing situations that arise in PR and marketing, there is an easy answer. Plan ahead.

There’s a tendency today – thanks to all this wonderful instantaneous technology that surrounds us – to conclude that because we can do things so quickly, we have the luxury of waiting until the very last minute. That really only works if everything goes perfectly smoothly, which rarely happens.

So as PR people, we need to emphasize to our associates or clients the need to get things done not just on time, but even a bit early. Enough to allow time for review and careful consideration to prevent the mistakes that inevitably occur when we are too rushed.

That isn’t a message that will always get through. Some people will understand and cooperate, while others will still consistently send you things at 4:58 that you absolutely, no-wiggle-room, need by 5. Or worse, they send it even later and completely spoil a good opportunity.

For that latter group, you may have to resort to a tiny bit of subterfuge, giving someone a deadline that has extra time built in, so when they are late – as they probably will be – you still have a bit of breathing room.