The average PR professional prides himself or herself on being able to solve complex issues, or at least put a heck of a spin on any given situation. Whether it’s coming up with strategies to help a brand in trouble or helping a client set themselves apart through the next big idea, the pride of the industry insider is to be able to say, "I got this."
In most cases, whether people agree or disagree, love it or hate it, the work of PR executives is heard, seen, and felt all around us every day.
Here are the questions: how do the people behind the scenes – the ones who make a living making magic happen for others – deal with critical issues and matters in their own lives? What happens when a person doesn’t "got this?"
This can cover anything from addressing work-related issues to dealing with difficult people, but what I’m talking about is a little different. Mental health and wellbeing are topics being covered more commonly, often in cases where the outcomes are tragic. From bullying among young people to the rising rate of suicide among just about every demographic, news stories come and go as frequently as the moon rises and sets.
"Check on your strong friend," has become a trending re-post across social channels. There is an interesting layer when you think about all this related to the PR industry. These are the folks who have it all together, the ones who are relentlessly curious, constantly resilient, savvy at problem-solving, and rarely take no for an answer. This includes the professional services leaders who package and present themselves with poise and confidence. If you’re not on top of your game, you’ll never make it in this town. It’s one of the unwritten rules.
I am not an expert on mental health and anxiety, but I have worked with enough professionals in the industry, and had my own journey, to garner the experience that gives me the credibility to say it can be a lot to manage. Pleasing clients out of fear they will go elsewhere, stressing over the acceptance that the expectation is to work both 9-5 and 5-9 to get the job done, or any other perpetual actions that fall under the "this is how things go" act.
I’ve seen new talent struggle to get a foot in somebody’s, or anybody’s, door. I’ve encountered people at all levels who work tirelessly to prove themselves worthy of getting recognized and promoted for being the best or the brightest. I’ve stood alongside new moms and dads returning to work and trying to balance what once was an expected norm with the changing dynamic and excitement of becoming a parent and wanting to show up for family. I know firsthand how juggling all the demands of client, administrative, personnel, and financial governance can lead to the neglect of doing the things for myself that were once a part of my staple regimen.
My goal is simple: I want to encourage every agency and client organization to have candid conversations and provide resources that support what it takes for their people to take care. Self care is more than manicures and nice shoes. This is inside-out stuff I’m talking about: total wellbeing that allows people to show up their best and in turn give their best.
Here are three very basic ways to engage:
Schedule an open conversation about mental and emotional wellbeing with your entire team;
Redefine what mental health days mean and make them mandatory;
Check on your strong friend or colleague.
Like many others, this industry will benefit from mental and emotional ease. Create a safe space for people to be themselves not by simply talking about it but by being about it. This lends itself to a culture that is not burdened with perfection but makes way for truly fostering and bringing out the best in people.
Take care of yourself and take care of each other.
Rashada Whitehead is president and chief transformation officer at KGBerry.