lifestyle PR + digital media

How PR and SM pros can combat professional burnout

December 19, 2019

The end of the year is a natural time for self-reflection—a time to look at what we want our lives to look like in the coming year. Add to that that we’re entering a whole new decade, and you’ve surely read a lot about stepping into 2020 on a positive note, including from us

In thinking about the new year—and the potential onslaught of new business and client campaigns that are necessary for agency growth—is the potential for burnout. If managers aren’t careful, it can cause burnout for their team. 

First, let’s think about what causes burnout for public relations and social media pros. A few big ones jump to mind: 

  • Clients who ignore boundaries. You probably know the type: the client who texts and emails you at 1am, who calls you during after-work hours with thoughts that absolutely could have waited until morning. It can really be anxiety-inducing to know your inbox will be filled when you first wake up. 
  • Too big a workload. We know how draining it can be to have too much on your plate. Sometimes, like when a team member leaves the company, a larger workload is tough for managers to avoid. But if heavy workloads go on too long, they can lead to burnout. 
  • Client campaigns that don’t succeed. Any PR practitioner knows how big a component luck is to a successful PR campaign. Of course, a ton of hard work goes into any good campaign, but when it comes to PR, a big news day can mean that the segment you worked hard to schedule gets cancelled in lieu of other news. That’s really frustrating and can cause extra work for PR pros.
  • Little recognition for team members’ contributions. Feeling like you’re working constantly for a manager who doesn’t acknowledge that work can be exhausting AF. 

Some of these examples are tough to avoid. But you can counteract burnout, whether it’s happening to you or you’re a manager overseeing burnt out employees. Here are a few ways: 

  • Set boundaries. Having these conversations can be hard - especially with clients whose MO is to demand a lot, at all hours. Our tip? Frame that client conversation from the perspective that you’re looking out for your team’s wellbeing, and that giving them hours off will positively impact their work on the client account. Ask that they consider whether what they’re asking for could wait until the morning. 
  • Pitch in.  Seeing our team members stress over a huge workload is tough, especially if you, too, have a big workload. But helping out, especially if the reason for the heavier workload is before of a finite project, is crucial, both to the wellbeing of our teams and for team camaraderie. If the workload continues to grow in perpetuity, it’s time to ask management to think about making additional hires. The capacity to hire additional team members may be far off, but planting the seed in management’s mind is a first step toward cutting the rest of your team down to a manageable workload. 
  • Be realistic about scope. For the leadership team, it’s crucial to be realistic about how much your team can accomplish in the allotted time. Will what you’re promising the client mean your team will have to stay later and work longer hours? Of course, some times are heavier on workload than others—that’s the way it goes with agency work. But it’s key for leadership not to over-promise to clients and then expect their team to pick up the slack. Being honest with a client will make for a happier, less burnt out team—ultimately leading to better results. 

What are you doing to combat professional burnout in 2020?