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PR: Top Stressful Career? Maybe You’re Doing it Wrong-

Stressful jobs - April Lynne Scott blog

Yesterday CareerCast created quite a stir with the release of their annual list of the most stressful careers (see the full list below). On the list were enlisted military and military generals, firefighters, airline pilots, police officers, CEOs, public relations executives…

Wait. What? PR execs? This, coming at a time when PR’s own professional organization has led it into an identity crisis by setting out to (again) redefine the profession? Ugh. I simply can’t take it anymore.

A little history:

In the early 1900’s Edward Bernays (some say the founder of public relations) originally defined PR as:

“A management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organisation with the public interest, and plans and executes a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”
He spoke of publicists as:

“An applied social scientist who advises a client on the social attitudes and actions he or she must take in order to appeal to the public on which it is dependent. The practitioner ascertains, through research, the adjustment or maladjustment of the client with the public, then advises what changes in attitude and action are demanded to reach the highest point of adjustment to meet social goals.”

In 1978 the first World Assembly of Public Relations Association re-defined PR as:

“PR is the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest.”

Finally, in 1982 the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) again re-defined PR as:

“Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

PRSA’s definition is certainly more concise than Bernays’ version or the World Assembly’s definition, but essentially all saying the same thing – right? And now we await (anxiously, I’m sure) the release of yet another definition from the PRSA’s Public Relations Defined initiative (#PRDefined).

As an aside: Bernays also said

“PR is not publicity, press agentry, promotion, advertising, or a bag of tricks, but a continuing process of social integration.”

Hold on. Did he say “social integration?”

Maybe you’re just doing it wrong:

Clearly, PR professionals have brought this stress on themselves. Sure there are people who don’t understand exactly what it is a PR executive does each day. Not to mention low budgets and high expectations, crisis communications and being on call 24/7, juggling clients and media (both of which can be rude), the perception that PR as a profession is dead and the digital unknown looming around us. Yes, it is true. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world of public relations these days.

Social media and digital communications have changed not only this profession, but nearly every profession known to man. This should not be a stressor, but an opportunity to acquire new skills and new perspectives. In many ways new media has made PR more relevant than ever and should strengthen communications and relationships leading to less stress in the field. We need to move forward into the future by “continuing the process of social integration” (Bernays could not have known how appropriate that statement would turn out to be).

As PR professionals we arm ourselves with cellphones and laptops and media lists, not machine guns or fire hoses… and I have never held someone’s spleen in my hands or sent someone’s son or daughter to war. So to list the profession of public relations (identity crisis or not) in the same group as any of these is just too much.

CareerCast 2012 List of the Most Stressful Careers:
1. Enlisted Military Soldier
2. Firefighter
3. Airline Pilot
4. Military General
5. Police Officer
6. Event Coordinator
7. Public Relations Executive
8. Corporate Executive (CEO)
9. Photojournalist
10. Taxi Driver

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