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5 Common Obstacles Publicists Face and How to Tackle Them

We may technically work at desks, but public relations is not your average desk job. I’m convinced that the famous quote “Man plans, God Laughs” was first spoken by someone who worked in PR, because it defines our industry to a T.

Every night before I leave the office, I put together a to do list for the next day, and every morning by 10 a.m. that to do list is shot to hell. What makes our job so exciting is that you never know what to expect and no day is just like the other, but the down side of that is it’s hard to predict what challenges you’re going to face. Often, when an obstacle comes up, not only do you have to tackle it – you have to tackle it immediately. There’s just too much to do to waste time stressing over how to solve a problem.

PR is often listed as one of the most stressful careers, and with good reason. There’s no shortage of obstacles to conquer as a publicist. Below are five common obstacles that have plagued me throughout my career and the tricks I’ve learned to successfully overcome them.

  1. All your deadlines pile on at once. Step one: breathe. Sometimes, no matter how good you are at time management and staying ahead of deadlines, the cards fall against you and EVERYTHING is a priority and EVERYTHING must be done now. While going into the bathroom and crying out of sheer terror of all the work you have is tempting, it’s not going to solve anything. In my experience, the best thing to do is to simply reach out to your teammates and ask for help. Drowning in work doesn’t do you any good, and it doesn’t do your clients any good. This may just be a Fish thing since we’re the epitome of #SquadGoals, but every single time I’ve spoken up and asked for help, I’ve received it. PR is a stressful industry, but true pros don’t let the pressure get to them. When everything piles up at once, buckle down and get it done, and after you cross that final item off your to-do list reward yourself with a glass of wine (or a bottle, we won’t judge).
  2. Your client wants to announce news that isn’t actually news. Just be honest. Our clients don’t just hire us to get them publicity; they hire us because we’re experts in our field. They want our expertise and they trust our guidance. Explain why the news simply isn’t newsworthy, and always come back with a solution and offer another idea to garner them the publicity they want. Once they have that clip report full of coverage that’s the bomb.com, they’ll be happy you guided them in the right direction.
  3. A reporter gets sassy. It’s easy to forget that reporters are people too. Unfortunately, if we catch them at a bad time or they’re having a bad day, we can be on the receiving end of their sassy side. That’s why it’s so important to have thick skin if you want a career in PR. Simply ask the reporter when might be a better time to reach them and move on to the next one. For every sassy reporter, there are 20 more who will be appreciative of you bringing them a story idea and sources. Try to avoid this by being cognizant of when their deadlines are – if you call a reporter at 4 p.m. on deadline day, you deserve to get sassed. Do your homework.
  4. One word: writer’s block. I regularly suffer from this debilitating condition. There have been one-too-many times where I’ve caught myself staring at my computer trying to come up with a single headline only to realize 30 minutes have passed and I’ve got nothing. The best thing to do in this trying time is simply to close Microsoft Word and give your brain a break. Straining your mind to come up with brilliance is step 1 to not coming up with anything brilliant. Back away from the computer, make a cup of tea, switch to a new assignment – do just about anything other than try to write. When you revisit that writing assignment at a later date, more often than not you’re able to knock it out no problem. This is why it’s always best not to leave writing for last minute – there’s nothing worse than being an hour away from a deadline and being stuck on sentence one. The #1 way to tackle writer’s block is to give yourself enough time to let your creativity start flowing.
  5. Working with a limited budget. “Spend as much as you need to make this happen,” said no client ever. In an ideal world, we’d have bottomless budgets to fund all of the out-of-the-box, fantastic PR initiatives we come up with, but that’s just not reality. Whether you’re working with zero dollars or a million dollars, it’s our job as publicists to make it happen regardless of funding. There have been countless times where we’ve presented an idea to a client and they’ve come back with, “We love it, but don’t have the budget for it.” The key is not to get discouraged, brush it off and start back at square one. At Fish, we love hosting office brainstorms and channeling all of our cumulative brainpower to help us go back to our client with an even better idea that’s within their budget. And not to toot our own horn, but we always find a way to make it happen.