How I Manage: ADHD In The Always-On World Of PR

You might think that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be an advantage for the typical tech PR person. After all, in the right stimulative environment, ADHD can contribute to drive, enthusiasm, and even passion for one’s job or career. Yet, like many things, it can be complicated.

Through the transition into remote work I have become more aware of how my own ADHD impacts my day-to-day life (thank you, TikTok!). And, in the always-on world of PR, it’s easy for someone like me to become overstimulated and overwhelmed. So, as a leader and manager spearheading ad tech PR at one of the top ad tech PR agencies, there are a few things I keep in mind to stay on track. They might also be helpful to others who happen to be like me. 

Listen to your body’s signals 

Tech PR is fascinating, but it comes with tight deadlines and daily stresses. Like any other professional services business, we answer to clients as well as our own individual managers. Yet we’re also working in a news-driven environment, which sometimes adds even more pressure to the work day. I’ve come to accept that I can no longer push past the signs that I need a break. These signals – feelings of anxiety, fatigue, and aggravation – inhibit my productivity. If I ignore them, I could risk the reputation I’ve worked to uphold. Whether it’s a walk around the block, a social media break, or a few peaceful minutes petting my dog, I can recharge my dopamine level to adjust my mood and resume producing high-quality results for my clients.

When stuck, try delegating

This is good advice for anyone, but it particularly applies to someone who tends to procrastinate. It’s easy (and sometimes comfortable) to intentionally create stress by letting tasks pile up to incentivize productivity. This might give me the pressure I need in the short term, but it will likely lead to missed deadlines and burnout. And, as a manager, I’m responsible for not only the success of my accounts, but that of my team members. Strategic delegation and communication has helped me build trust and generate growth opportunities for success.

Change up processes

Agency PR tends to move fast, especially if you’re juggling several projects for different clients. I make LOTS of lists. They range from tasks I need to complete, to things I plan to discuss in a meeting, to conversations to have with colleagues. To ensure I stay engaged and up-to-date on all relevant matters, I tend to change up my organizational processes. From handwritten notes on graph paper to digitized lists on my computer, alternating my methods lets me feel refreshed and ready to tackle my tasks. 

Say what you’re thinking – it likely needs to be heard

In PR, we’re expected to counsel our clients about comms matters both large and small. We’re not paid to tell them just what they want to hear. Sociologist Judy Singer notes that while those with ADHD are sometimes impulsive, “even their impulsivity can be an advantage…because they’ll say things other people are afraid to say.” As a day-to-day strategic point of contact for my clients, I have the responsibility to clearly communicate expectations and provide real-time support. Sharing my thoughts, and delivering them in an appropriate manner, drives trust and accountability. 

Treat your bad days kindly 

The PR agency business is a naturally collaborative one, and in tech, it’s fairly diverse and non-judgmental. Still, the environment can be punishing if you’re hard on yourself. Due to the stigma surrounding ADHD and similar disorders, I’ve often felt the need to downplay my struggles, especially in a corporate setting. However, as a manager, I’ve learned that embracing bad days and leaning on others for support is actually a sign of strength. As I continue to grow both personally and professionally, it’s important to acknowledge my bad days, make space to process them, and seek alternative ways to manage. 


PR Pros, Time To Unwind!

Feeling stressed? Not enough hours in the day? You’re not alone. A few months ago, PR manager came in at number 5 on a CareerCast survey listing the most stressful jobs in America. – PR jobs vary, but most certainly aren’t the lives of wining and dining that some imagine.

While unpredictable situations, crazy deadlines, and great client expectations play a role in our day-to-day stress, you can’t let it get the best of you! Here are some ways to unwind at work.

Get out. That’s right, go for a walk. While it’s hard to even think about leaving your desk on a busy day, sometimes the best thing you can do is step away and take a walk. Whether you head to a nearby Starbucks or just the building cafeteria, changing your physical surroundings can help clear your head and remind you that there’s a whole other world outside your work environment.

Manage your email. For me personally, there’s nothing more stress-inducing than a chaotic Inbox. At the end of each day try to spend some time sorting and filing the emails from the day. This helps with organization, and it’s a good way to make sure you didn’t miss an important note. Plus, you’ll start the next day in a calmer frame of mind.

Shout about it. Maybe you shouldn’t literally shout, but grab a co-worker with whom you feel comfortable and talk the problem out. Sharing client dilemmas, reporter struggles, and other daily problems with someone else helps relieve pressure.

Lighten up. It’s easy to take things too seriously. Instead of feeling down and out about a media hit that didn’t pan out or an event that hit some speed bumps, consider what went well, too.

Work out. Some people swear by evening workouts. Activity is a great way to vent your aggressions, and the more challenging your class or routine, the harder it is to let other worries creep in.

What are some of your tips for de-stressing at work?

6 Reasons Why PR Is Stressful

One of my more colorful bosses was a communications exec with a very distinguished military background. His career included not only senior posts at the Pentagon, but two tours of duty in Vietnam, as a paratrooper. When things went wrong and I went crazy, he’d sometimes pat my shoulder, smile indulgently, and say, “It’s okay. No one died.” Coming from him, it was more than a cliche, so I tried to adopt that mindset. But, let’s face it, the agency life doesn’t exactly promote a calm, Zen-like attitude.

According to CareerCast, PR is the 7th most stressful occupation of the year. Stories of hellish deadlines, ridiculous expectations, and crazy hours are legion. But is PR really more stressful than other “non-combat” occupations? Or do we just love to think so? After all, it’s not life and death.

And yet, our profession offers some stress triggers that may be unique to the practice of public relations, or at least more significant than other service professions.

We serve many masters. Any client service business has special demands, but foot soldiers on the front lines of media relations have to answer to clients, direct supervisor(s), and, very frequently, members of the press. The goals of these three are often in conflict, yet we need to please all in order to be successful.

We trade control for credibility. The very magic of earned coverage is that its not within our control. The dynamic media environment we work in has only dialed up the risk – and the stress – of an unpredictable outcome.

PR is still poorly understood. Advertising professionals create something tangible, usually previewed by the client at key stages of production. Corporate counselors can be likened to lawyers, yet attorneys aren’t usually asked to guarantee results, and the cost of switching is fairly high. In contrast, client expectations for the PR process, timetable, and actual publicity results are often unrealistic. And, yes, this causes stress on both sides.

It’s based on billable hours. At many PR firms, you’re only as good as your billability, which can change from month to month. Both factors – pressure to prove one’s value, and lack of consistency – can pile on the stress.

Inside, it’s a staff position, not a line position. Billable hours go away on the corporate side, but there PR officers often deal with the fact that their function isn’t always considered integral to the bottom line. Many clients tell me they feel like mini-agencies who serve different corporate divisions, yet they don’t enjoy the esprit de corps of an agency. This results in the worst kind of battle fatigue.

PR is in transition. Well, what industry isn’t? Yet, the rise of social media and the speed with which new platforms, strategies, and tools must be mastered and adopted is only accelerating. More competition for mindshare, more opportunity, steeper learning curve….and more stress.
War is hell. And most of us wouldn’t have it any other way.

Is PR Really That Stressful?

There was lots of discussion in PR circles  this week about CareerCast‘s annual list of Most Stressful Jobs, because public relations has moved into the #2 spot. That’s right, PR officer beat out photojournalist and even emergency medical technician, among other gigs, and was second only to airline pilot (where’s air traffic controller on this list?) I can’t speak for colleagues, but I wouldn’t want to swap my stress level with that of an EMT.

Among the reasons we’re so stressed, according to CareerCast, is that PR pros must often speak in front of large audiences, and that we sometimes “are required to interact with potentially hostile members of the media.” Huh? For most of us, that last bit is more amusing than accurate. Sure, the publicists among us face rejection on a daily basis, as do many others in related fields, but it’s not generally a hostile situation.

So, the list and the methodology, if there is any, are definitely open to debate. But there’s something about PR that creates a special dynamic.  Experts tell us that true stress occurs when you lack a degree of control over your circumstances. In PR, we serve many masters. Most of us have a direct boss, but our ultimate bosses are our clients.

And unlike other creative services firms, our deliverables often depend on the decisions of members of the media, with whom we have a strange and symbiotic relationship. Is that any worse than the typical journalist or ad executive? Maybe not, but it does contain an extra layer. The adage about the difference between PR and advertising comes to mind: “Advertising you pay for; PR you pray for.”

Do you agree that PR is stressful? What’s your biggest source of stress at work, and how do you deal with it?