Some outside the industry will inevitably view these findings with scepticism. 'PR? Hard work? Surely it's just about taking journalists out to lunch,' we hear them sneer. But the survey shows just how big this perception gap has become. Eighty-eight per cent of our respondents – a cross-section of in-house officers and agency staff – described their job as either fairly stressful or very stressful. And almost half said the amount of stress has noticeably increased over the past year.
The reasons are clear. Communications directors and agency heads alike are taking on more responsibility and more work – no bad thing as UK plc takes PR ever more seriously – but at the same time they are under growing pressure to justify every pound spent.
The 24/7 nature of today's media world requires ever more lateral thinking and rigour – again a major opportunity for the PR profession – and yet 'efficiency' and 'margins' are the mantras we hear from on high.
Of course these issues are hardly confined to the PR business. We see the same pressure being applied to journalists, who are being asked to tackle fast-moving topics on ever-reducing resources.
Indeed, the long-hours culture appears to be widespread in the media sphere, as well as across British business – the UK's unique take on modern capitalism. Some people will thrive in this culture.
Others will burn out. Or simply take a career break.
But it should be particularly worrying for senior managers that the most stress appears to be felt by the middle and junior executives. In an industry that has a major problem with retaining talented younger staff, it is an issue the top brass cannot afford to ignore.