It’s a PR team’s worst nightmare – a media relations crisis. Of course, it’s also what you signed up for, and you know what to do to handle it and get your organization or client back on track in the eyes of the public and shareholders.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy and certainly doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park. Public relations can be a successful and rewarding career, but there’s no denying it’s stressful. This is definitely the case in a media relations crisis.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at just how stressful a media relations crisis can be and the steps you and your team can take to de-stress both at work and at home.
Preparing and planning ahead
One of the biggest reasons why media relations crises can be so stressful is that you’ve probably spent intensive time strategizing a campaign, only to have it fall apart because of a mistake that was made. Other times, unforeseen circumstances can result in a PR problem. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep planning and preparing. In fact, the more you prepare, the less likely a crisis will happen, and the easier it will be for you to implement damage control quickly.
However, in addition to setting yearly goals and strategies, planning for a media relations crisis is just as essential for PR teams. Think of it as having a “top priority” safety plan in place. Hopefully, you’ll never have to execute that plan, but having it in your arsenal will reduce stress on you and your team and will allow everyone to fulfill their role and strike quickly when responding to a crisis.
One of the best ways to create a PR strategy is through brainstorming sessions. You can improve those sessions by:
- Setting criteria and boundaries
- Giving plenty of notice
- Assigning ‘homework’
- Considering your team’s strengths.
While many of your brainstorming sessions will be smaller in scope and scale, it’s worthwhile to have a larger meeting annually to create a solid communication plan. Your yearly strategy will outline goals and help you avoid the pitfalls of planning. You’ll feel more prepared to take on your PR strategy and likely to feel less overwhelmed if or when a crisis does strike.
Fostering a stress-free work environment
If you’ve been in the PR industry for any length of time, you might be chuckling right about now. public relations and “stress-free” don’t often go hand-in-hand. But if your team is constantly on edge, you’re more likely to make errors. Stress is one factor that often contributes to human error, potentially making an existing media relations crisis even worse. Thankfully, you can help to reduce human error in the workplace by automating tasks whenever possible, increasing oversight, and improving communication between team members
You can also work to foster a less stressful environment, even when you’re dealing with a media relations crisis. Delegate tasks to keep from overwhelming certain individuals. Encourage breaks and promote a healthy work-life balance even in the midst of chaos. Make sure your team understands the value of their physical and mental well-being.
Finally, make sure everyone understands their specific, individual roles when it comes to responding to the crisis. You might have some people dedicated solely to social media monitoring and others trying to “humanize” the problem and connect with physical audiences. When everyone understands their position, they’re less likely to focus on the chaos of the big picture.
Managing stress at home
When you’re facing overwhelming circumstances in your career, stress management at home becomes even more essential.
If you’re feeling stressed and you’re noticing some of the warning signs like headaches, digestion issues, and other unexplained aches and pains, start by focusing on some of your basic care needs, including:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating a healthy diet
- Practicing mindfulness and focusing on the present.
It can also help to have an outlet to discuss how you’re feeling. Some people benefit from writing in a journal, which allows them to let out their thoughts rather than keeping them bottled up inside. Sometimes, simply getting your worries out on paper can make a big difference in how you feel.
However, if you’re really struggling with the stress of a media relations crisis, don’t feel like you have to bear the weight of it on your own. Consider reaching out to a trusted teammate for their support or to a therapist or counselor. They can help you determine the root cause of your stress within you and help you establish healthy management techniques that you can use at home and in the office.
If you’re in a leadership position, you have the opportunity to lead by example. Encourage your team to take care of their mental health at work and at home, no matter what crisis you might be facing.
While no one wants or expects to experience a media relations crisis, it does happen in the PR world. Being prepared will help, but knowing how to take care of the mental well-being of your team is what will make a difference in how quickly you all move forward.