Is PR the second-most stressful occupation?

Recently a CareerCast survey named "public relations officer" the second-most stressful job of 2011.

Recently a CareerCast survey named "public relations officer" the second-most stressful job of 2011, ranking the profession ahead of various other high-pressure occupations including photojournalist, newscaster, and EMT.

Between balancing deadlines, effectively advising strategy, building and maintaining media and client relationships, achieving results, working long hours, meeting client expectations--the stress that comes along with the highly multifaceted PR occupation makes sense.

Much of the pressure in PR is tied to the struggle to find a work-life balance while working with a 24/7 news cycle. The need to always be on call to deal with whatever situation or crisis comes along is daunting for many.

“With the 24/7 news cycle and conversation cycle, we never stop,” says John Forrest Ales, director of global brand PR at Hilton Hotels & Resorts. “We can't plan for everything. We can have the best plan ever but in actuality we only have a small portion of control over the day.”

Alison Brod, founder and president of Alison Brod Public Relations, agrees and says the profession often does not get enough credit for being as high-pressure and demanding as it actually is.

“Everyone wants a response immediately,” Brod says. “The demand for immediacy is so over the top right now”

As opposed to internal pressure, Brod says that the client is usually the greatest producer of stress for a PR professional. The constant possibility of something going wrong and the fact that many clients do not have a deep understanding of the media are among the reasons why the job can be so intense.

“Every morning can be a fresh nightmare,” Brod adds.

All levels of PR professionals involve different responsibilities and workloads, but stress does not seem to be confined to certain positions within an agency or corporation. Tom Coyne, president and CEO of Coyne Public Relations, says people at all levels are subject to time urgency and odd working hours, which are among the most frequent contributors to stress.

“As you grow in levels you kind of graduate to different types of stress,” he says.

But all things considered, is PR really more stressful than jobs in of the other fields, such as a stockbroker, an EMT, or even a doctor? The consensus among many PR professionals is that it is not, mainly because a passion for, and solid understanding of, the job can balance that stress and minimize its toll.

Dushka Zapata, EVP at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, understands that PR can be stressful, with its long hours and the constant possibility of new demands and challenges at any given time. But she also feels that as long as someone enjoys the job and has correct support in place to deal with challenges that arise, PR positions should not be particularly stressful compared to other careers.

“If you have the right team and a good knowledge of what you need to do, PR is very dynamic, varied, and exciting, she says. “I would not classify it as one of the most stressful jobs.”

Along those lines, Coyne likens the profession, with its ever-changing roles, responsibilities, and demands, to riding a rollercoaster.

“There are long climbs, steep drops, and thrilling twists, he says. “The best PR people learn to enjoy all parts of the ride.”

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