Earlier today, CareerCast released the results of their annual survey of most stressful jobs in the United States, with public relations executive listed as the seventh most stressful job: 1. Enlisted military soldier
3. Airline pilot
4. Military general
5. Police officer
6. Event coordinator
7. Public relations executive
8. Corporate executive (CEO)
10. Taxi driver
Looking at this list, I refuse to view the public relations profession as a truly high-stress calling.
Chalk this up as another case of making a mountain out of a molehill.
Throughout a career that’s spanned more than 30 years, it seems that the public relations profession as a whole – if it’s even possible to apply such a sweeping label -- has been good at creating causes. Early in my career, it was “PR for PR”, probably best referred to as “The Shoemaker’s Kids Syndrome.” As time progressed, the campaign shifted to “getting a seat at the executive table.”
Today, it’s about how our work is going to shorten our longevity and unduly deprive professional communicators of an ultimate quality of life, however that might be defined.
Aside from our professional cousins – the “event coordinators” who actually reduced our stress-out factor a bit by taking the number six slot – I feel a bit like a guy wearing wing-tips to a reunion of the Village People. Soldiers, public safety personnel and pilots all make sense to me, as well as taxi drivers… though, by extension, that should include those who ride with taxi drivers.
Prior to visible events, such as the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl while on assignment in the Middle East, I might have questioned photojournalist, but no more.
But, public relations professionals?
We do not cure cancer. We don’t routinely rescue babies from burning buildings. We do not make decisions in an operating room at 3 a.m. Our job is to support those who make these sorts of decisions… and thousands of less significant ones… every day.
I believe that most of us prepare for our career with solid textbook teaching, and then build on this core with strong life-lesson ‘continuing education’. We are called upon to take actions that have real implications for our employers or, in the case of LPR, clients. For example:
Yesterday, we announced a change in media relations practices on behalf of one of our clients -- a decision aimed at improving their business by reducing noise and focusing on what’s important in their business.
For another client, I helped revise messaging on a major policy change that previously had not been well received by the company’s most important audience.
“Off the clock,” I recently tag-teamed with my public relations professional/daughter in helping very close family friends manage communications in the murder of their daughter, a case that continues to be under investigation by authorities.
In each case, our job was to make things better. It’s what we’re paid to do.
A word to the students who read the article in either extreme horror as to their career choice or thinking they had just signed up to be a modern day mercenary. Our job is to work our way up into the role of trusted advisor to one or more organizations, where we take steps every day to manage and mitigate the issues that otherwise put us in front of a global microphone at times of challenge or disaster. While prudence says we should prepare as if an organization’s very existence depends on us, practice says we should surround and be surrounded by colleagues in a wide range of disciplines and areas of subject matter expertise.
Dismissing the silliness of ranking our jobs at the same stress level as others on this list, the one aspect of the article I appreciate is the opportunity to thank those who truly risk their lives for the safety of us all. They deserve all the appreciation for a well-earned label of stressful career.