Staying Cool Under PR Pressure

When you work for a PR agency in New York, things can heat up even when it’s not the thick of summer. Whether you’re at an agency, in-house, or working with a PR firm, the business tends to put the pressure on.

How to beat the heat: Tips for staying cool when the pressure is high. 
So what are the keys to keeping one’s cool under any circumstances?

Prioritize, and address the most urgent issue first. This is a tip from an air traffic controller. It’s easy to get flustered when a number of pressing matters are vying for your attention. Perhaps that reporter you spoke to yesterday has three follow up questions and her deadline is in one hour. Meanwhile one of your team members has questions about an important document you’re working on that needs to be sent out ASAP. What’s more, the industry event you’ve been charged with leading is right around the corner, with dozens of details yet to be worked out. Learn how to distinguish the urgent from the important, prioritize, and bring your focus to each one in turn.

Stage a mental dress rehearsal. When facing a high-pressure presentation or perhaps a sensitive media interview, take a cue from a cancer surgeon in Dallas, who mentally runs through all the details of a procedure the night before, playing it “like a movie in my head.” That same strategy worked for swimmer Michael Phelps, who learned to “play the tape,” as his coach told him, internally visualizing the steps of a successful race day. This included imagining how he would respond to problems such as gear malfunction. So one day, when his goggles filled with water during an actual Olympic race, he was prepared. Phelps famously closed his eyes, counted the strokes he estimated it would take him to complete the race, and swam blind (setting a world record!) Vividly envisioning the scenario as you want it to play out is a powerful tool to keeping one’s cool and focus under pressure.

Focus on “wins” to avoid getting buried. “Staying positive” can sound trite, but it’s actually important to keep one’s outlook bright when facing pressure from all sides. Did you land an epic media placement using your cunning media savvy? Did you turn a potentially negative PR situation into something that made your brand look good instead? In the face of mounting pressure, savor the small (or big) wins that made you proud, and use them as fuel to get to the finish line in the new tasks you’re facing.

Use your support system. With some smart thinking and a little luck, you’ve made the right choices and have surrounded yourself with a strong team. When the pressure is on, don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek clarification. A solid communications team knows the key to success is to help one another out when in need.