Stress management in the PR industry

PR manager ranked No. 5 as one of the most stressful jobs in 2013

Looming deadlines, hectic daily schedules, constantly connected to your phone are standard in the PR industry. So, it’s no surprise PR managers ranked as one of the most stressful jobs in 2013. “For the third straight year, public relations has landed on CareerCast’s annual list of the most-stressful jobs in America. For 2013, public relations manager is No. 5 on the list, inching up two spots from last year.” (via PR Daily) Though PR professionals face many stresses, there are ways to manage.

net_efekt / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Tips on how to manage stress in the PR industry

  • Change your setting. If you work in an office setting, try working at home once a week if permitted. If you work remotely, switch up your location once a week.
  • Disconnect. We’re all guilty of having our electronic devices attached to our hips, but it’s healthy to disconnect from your laptop and mobile devices every so often.
  • Take a lunch break. According PR Daily’s Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey, 69 percent said they eat lunch at their desks on most days. It’s important to take a lunch break and disconnect from everything even if it’s just for a short time.
  • Take a 15 minute break. Take a 15 minute stroll around the block or take 15 minutes to exercise each day. Taking some time to exercise can greatly reduce stress.
  • Use your vacation time. It’s important to take time for yourself. Taking a few days off can help you feel refreshed and ready to tackle the next project.
  • Bring your dog to work. According to an article in The Huffington Post (Slide 2), research shows that pet owners have lower blood pressure.

Which tips will you incorporate into your hectic work schedule to stay stress-free?

Photo credit: net_efekt / Foter / CC BY-NC

Instagram, Community and the Monetization of People

With the recent uproar over Instagram’s proposed terms of service changes, I think it’s time to talk about what social media is and isn’t. Perhaps it’s also time to talk about changing social media’s status from golden calf to useful tool.

As a lover of Instagram, I was unhappy with the proposed changes (at least how they were first written). However, this is not because I expected the service to always remain free and unadulterated by advertising. I enjoy nothing about advertising. Still, I understand social media services are businesses, and as such, are in the business of making money. Instead, I was upset that “users” (the widgets formerly known as “customers” or even “humans”) were being treated as the product. In fact, the entire “Instagram community” becomes a product to be sold. Our digital presences are becoming little more than chattel.

Arguably, this is a paradigm many social media services function from; that is, the customer as both product and consumer. I believe this is a large problem with how social media services are monetized and how customers react to that monetization.

Social networks and their customers need to stop conceptualizing social media services as communities. Facebook is not a community, and neither are Twitter and Instagram. Rather, the communities are the groups of people that use these services to gather, share or discuss.

left-hand / Foter / CC BY-ND

Think of a small-town pub. In the evening, people gather there to talk to one another, sing karaoke and drink. Devoid of people, the pub is just a building. Full of neighbors, it is a community (or a part of it). Amazingly, people pay to be there, buying drinks and food and tipping their servers.

The web is no different. Facebook doesn’t get to be a community just because it calls itself one. It is actually many communities, comprised of real people of infinite complexity who exist in relationships that shift and change.

I think this is why some social media advertising schemes might rub people the wrong way. If the aforementioned pub used fine print to retain the rights to photos you snapped while within their walls, you might be a bit uncomfortable. If they copied the photos and then used them in ads that would pop up in the middle of the table while you were chatting with your friends, you’d probably stop going there. However, you gladly comply with the expectation that you spend money while you’re socializing. In fact, you may even put quarters in the pool table while you’re there.

This is where social media services have it wrong. I will pay for the privilege of being there, and I’ll bet many other people will, too. We will spend a little more to get a little more (like a pool game). We, the customers, just don’t want you to make money off of us in ways that feel icky, like using our photos to create “customized ads.”

This “ick factor” is related to those early, misguided attempts by some brands to enter the social media sphere. This is something with which all public relations pros are quite familiar. Uninitiated brands treat Twitter and Facebook like free advertising space instead of a town square. People don’t want to encounter ads next to pictures of cousin Sally’s new puppy.

As PR pros, we are quite comfortable illuminating for our client the distinction between an acceptable and unacceptable social media post. This should also be true when it comes to discussions of social media monetization. It is not enough to say “it’s a business” and call detractors naive. Success is not predicated on disrespecting your customers. In fact, many argue success has more to do with understanding your audience.

Some social media services and users get it. For example, Twitter successfully employs advertising, with appropriate and unobtrusive sponsored tweets. I find Google search ads acceptable for the same reasons, and I don’t think they’re exactly struggling for cash.

I think we all need to accept ads as a part of our social networking experience. However, there are other models that work for services where ads can be a distraction. Flickr, which has somehow come through this Instagram debacle as a bit of an underdog champion, seems to have understood this for a while. They charge a reasonable fee for enhanced accounts that give professionals more tools and services. New social network App.net also gets it. They are ad-free and instead charge a monthly membership fee.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that fee or subscription-based social media would require a shift in thinking for most consumers. But I think part of the reason we don’t want to pay for social media services is because we think of them as the communities themselves, not a forum for communities. From that perspective, charging for the privilege of using the service seems cynical.

However, we must remember neither Facebook nor Instagram nor Twitter owns our communities. From that perspective, paying for the service seems to be the most direct, least cynical-seeming approach to monetizing social media. Monetize the service, not the people. Social networks aren’t communities; communities are made of people. Social networks are tools, and people have been paying for great tools since the beginning of recorded history. Social media services should be the products bought and sold, not the people who use them.

What does community on social media mean to you? What would you be willing to pay to use Instagram or Facebook, or do you prefer ads? Tell me in the comments.

Photo credit: left-hand / Foter / CC BY-ND

The Picture – or Rich Media – Is Worth 1,000 Words

For the public relations practitioners out there, let’s take a poll: How important do you think visual elements are to journalists?

A) Very important.

B) Not important at all.

If you answered A) Very important, then your views align with 80 percent of the journalists polled in a recent PRESSfeed survey who said it is important or very important to “have access to photographs and visual images.”

While your answer might have matched up to journalists, nearly half of the PR practitioners polled said visuals in news stories are not important at all to journalists.

Of the surveyed PR professionals, 45 percent said visuals were unnecessary in news stories. Another 39 percent said the same for press releases. Even considering the wording of the survey and how answers might have been perceived, these results demonstrate a stark divide between journalists and PR practitioners regarding the value and need for visual content.

As social media trends continue to embrace highly visual platforms, such as Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, I ask: how could the polled PR practitioners not answer in favor of visuals paired with news content?

Although journalists have controlled the media straps for decades with article placements, PR professionals have their hands firmly on the reigns regarding social media content and engagement. The polled PR practitioners should have considered the volume of pictures and video populating all social media pages as they were clicking in answers to the PRESSfeed survey.

PR Newswire also conducted a study demonstrating the increasing number of press release views where visual content is added. In that study, press releases with photos, video and other media receive 77 percent more views than text-only releases – a lesson PR practitioners know – or should know – instinctively, and need to consider when filling out future surveys on the subject. Get the picture?