Why The PR Industry Is a Wicked Industry

Why The PR Industry Is a Wicked Industry

Why The PR Industry is a Wicked Industry – And How to Survive It


highly stressed in PR industryPrior to retraining as a business psychologist, my background was in PR in all sorts of guises. I worked for a PR agency, ran my own agency, both with a flash office in London., with staff , and then as a virtual business using freelancers. I’ve worked in-house within travel and tech,  and also ran my own practice as a PR and marketing coach, helping business owners learn how to do their own PR and marketing. I’ve also written two PR text books.

The point is that I have seen the PR industry change a great deal. Now, with my work as a mentor for the PRCA, and my coaching practice for those in the PR industry, I am seeing more and more changes that are coming faster and faster.

I talk elsewhere on the site about Wicked Industries and PR is definitely one of them. A Wicked Industry is one that has the following:

  • Fast moving and subject to many changes
  • Clients that often don’t understand the nitty gritty of what you do
  • Driven by deadlines that may change at a moment’s notice

The Wicked PR Industry

All the above are hugely prevalent throughout the PR industry, especially if working in agency or freelance. The PR industry’s strong connection to the media means that it is driven by deadlines, as well as constantly changing with the arrival of new websites, influencers, and journalists. We also see the demise of publications new and old, and journalists move on. This means we are constantly having to make and build new contacts. Of course, social media is also evolving at the same time. Keeping on top of that is yet another added layer of pressure.

Clients often don’t quite understand the sheer amount of work that goes into getting them coverage. Communicating this adds more to our workload. We may sweat for hours over getting coverage for our clients. Yet, sometimes a big news story means it gets reduced, or it just doesn’t happen. Then all they see is that lack of a result, not the time we have put in.

Mental health and PR

stress in a wicked industryThe result is a constant level of stress and ambiguity – a Wicked Industry.  Some people thrive under these conditions – they are what makes PR so exciting after all. However, long term this can also be wearing. Many of my clients report feeling demotivated and extremely stressed, or seeing it in their own staff. An article in PR week cited results from a recent study: “9 per cent say they “have struggled with their mental wellbeing” and the mental wellbeing score of 44.6 is below the UK average of 46.2.”

It also goes on to say:

“Other sources of stress are meeting deadlines (45 per cent in PR vs 18 per cent UK average), demands from clients (41 per cent in PR vs 18 per cent national average), being under-appreciated (41 per cent PR vs 13 per cent national) and poor work/life balance (40 per cent PR vs 19 per cent national).”

What is the solution?

It’s hard to see how these pressures are going to change. Deadlines are part of the job, and clients…well clients will always be demanding as long as they are paying the bills.  One of the interesting things about Wicked Industries is that the change has to come from us and within us. In other words, we need to be able to:

  • Cope better with stress
  • Build our resilience
  • Maintain boundaries
  • Adopt practices that support our mental health

Finally, we need to appreciate and watch out for each other. This is something that we can culturally embed within our organisations. One way I do that is to work with PR company owners, managers and leaders through my coaching programme, Build a Fairy God-Parent firm within a Wicked Industry

I’ll be addressing some of the above in future blog posts, but if you’d like to find out more about my coaching programme, or the workshops I offer to help your PR company, please do get in touch.


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