A survey released this week suggests PR is the second-most-stressful occupation in the US, behind only commercial airline pilot in the high-pressure stakes.
The survey suggests PR pros work an average 9-hour day and that “this highly competitive field and tight deadlines keep stress at high levels for specialists.” It also notes that “some PR officers, also, are required to interact with potentially hostile members of the media.”
Fair enough, and presumably this is what elevated PR above senior corporate executive, photojournalist, newscaster, advertising executive, architect, stockbroker, emergency medical technician, and real estate agent in the top 10. Although, as someone said when I tweeted this story out yesterday, whether that makes PR more stressful than being a nurse, soldier, or teacher in an inner-city school is a moot point. And this week provided further tragic proof of the dangers of photojournalism with the deaths of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros in Libya.
Hence, the annual survey by online jobsite CareerCast should be taken with the pinch of salt reserved for many survey stories that get far more coverage than they deserve. However, it does raise a serious point about our industry.
Stress is an important issue and there is no doubt that people in PR work extremely hard - especially in the agency sector. Walk the floors in a typical agency at 8, 9, or 10pm on a regular night and you'll likely see lots of people still working, either on pitches or just keeping up with client work.
Then there's the stress of dealing with crisis communications when all hell breaks loose and it's a 24/7 working environment until the hiatus abates: although, actually, many PR pros really come into their own in those situations and relish the opportunity to play Red Adair.
And there's the pressure of shaping decisions that fundamentally direct the course or strategy of a business or organization. That's what comes with being at the top table and it's a welcome stress that the PR industry has aspired to for years and is now embracing.
So, yes, we work in a high-pressure and stressful industry and we rise to those challenges professionally and with energy and enthusiasm.
But let's not kid ourselves we're landing planes on the Hudson, guiding aircraft onto the runway in the middle of the night with the air traffic control team asleep in the watch tower, or saving someone's life after a car crash.