(image at weknowmemes.com HERE)
I work with PRs every single day – literally not a day of my working life goes by without some contact from individuals or agencies and one thing that has become really obvious is that they’re all exhausted. I can see many changes that have taken place in how beauty PR is executed over the years, but recent times are the toughest ever.
I’ve written before that expectation from brands is off the scale, while payment from brands is at the other end of the scale. What strikes me is that the major change is admin. PR used to be a rather free environment, in which brands employed an agency and pretty much let them get on with what they do best – getting coverage. But now, coverage isn’t enough. The remit for PRs has widened out to such a point that I don’t think there is a beauty PR job that isn’t actually a job and a half. Pulling lates (and I’m talking 11pm/midnight) is pretty much standard – expected even. And yet, what PR relies upon is vibrancy and energy to transmit the brand message in the most appropriate way. If someone is too tired to enjoy their job, it always shows.
If brands are asking PRs to not only be the front-face of the brand to press but also to be a stats magician capable of filing weekly reports for each brand they work for as well as monthly reports for each brand, then they need to sit down and have a little look at themselves.
A good PR will have great press relationships, understand a targeted campaign and how to reach the exact audience the brand needs and wants. If they’re doing that – and as the print publications and on-line roll out, it’s completely apparent that they’ve done their job – why are they being asked to add hours of admin both weekly and monthly? PRs don’t really have the freedom to do their jobs any more. I wonder sometimes what happens to these reports that keep more and more PRs at their desks way beyond their allotted hours? Do they, like, just go in a file or something? Are they required because someone else has to prove their worth within a company and have plenty of paperwork to pile in front of the chiefs? PR has functioned really well without extensively detailed reports and data every week for as long as PR has been a thing.
The more I talk to individual PRs the more I realise what a problem it is – so many are looking for new jobs not for promotion or more money but for a work/life balance; some want to leave altogether. Overwork is the new norm; and I single out beauty PRs because it’s the industry I know best. It’s not good practice, it’s not healthy and if I see one more brow etched with exhaustion trying desperately to bring their game-face at yet another unnecessary launch that nobody wants to go to, I’ll scream. Or call out the brands. If we lose all our good PRs then who will suffer? The brands, of course.
It’s really time that the beauty industry had a long, hard chat with themselves about what one job can realistically entail. Midnight home time is unreasonable, overwork as standard should never be the norm and across-the-board exhaustion is not a good beauty look. It’s actually rather heart-breaking to watch people chase their beauty career dreams so determinedly and enthusiastically be worn down to such an extent that every day is an exhausted struggle against a mountain of work that never gets any smaller. I’m sure I’m not the only one to see that happen in front of their very eyes. We need some brand-led changes to happen, and soon.
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Very insightful article. It’s a change that has been going on not just in beauty PR and not just in PR either. We are all considered to be multi-taskers and to be willing to go “that extra mile”. But it’s easy to lose focus amidst all that “extraness”. We gotta get back to the essence.
Absolutely loved reading this. It’s something I’ve never really realised within Beauty as I don’t have regular contact with PR’s although I can definitely relate still. I think the pressure to work harder is spread over a range of career paths now – my Father left his job in a Solicitor’s office as they were putting extreme pressure on him and now he’s experiencing exactly the same in a lesser paid job.
I really think that a lot of people forget how much effort people put in and the constant need for ‘more’ is getting ridiculous. So well said!
Great post, Jane. I have noticed lately from some press releases and from some PR contacting me about brands and such have the tone of tiredness. They seem to contact everyone in the hopes someone will write up a post even if the blog is not really related to their product. I have also noticed the emails are sent after the work day is over which must be hard because I know I would rather rest and just chill in front of the TV. Social media has made not only work but the individual doing the work to be available 24/7.
Excellent article! I did PR for 2 years after getting frustrated with the lack of opportunities for journalists – it took 2 years of relentless slogging for me to promise myself I would never go back. Being a Freelance Journo and Blogger now I love what I do, but I could not do half of it without PRs. It can be such a thankless task in so many ways, which is a shame because all of the PRs I have met have been absolutely lovely and very passionate about the brands and individuals they represent. Midnight home time? #hellno
I see this happening with lots of jobs – more time is spent having to justify yourself and prove what you’ve done rather than actually ‘doing’. It’s painful to watch such talented people turn themselves in knots desperately trying to ‘evaluate’ every move they make and it’s such a waste of their real talents. When are companies going to realise that they are the ones losing out on that talent if it can only be used as a small proportion of the job? It really worries me to see so many people burnt out and despondent.
I think this is an issue not only in the PR world, but in all aspects of the economy. There’s less profit being made, less money to be played with and far more demands placed from every angle – I just think it’s more visible in PR due to the nature of the job and the high percentage of the working day being face-to-face with people.
I left my previous job to go freelance because the amount of pressure placed on individuals and the lack of a social life – it was expected that evenings and weekends were filled with report writing and client liaisons. I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon unfortunately.
this kind of post is the kind of post I like this blog for. you don’t just talk beauty and products. you talk about the whole industry and tell it like it is. Kuddos for that!
Good post. PR agencies and ad angencies have always been tough environments to work in. The admin has always been there (I worked in a london agency for over 12 years and loved it but it was all-consuming and sometimes life-consuming work) but most smart PRs hid it by saving drafts and sending them on the following morning. There’s always an angle isn’t there? It’s a business that’s about communication and vibrancy and yes it is tough to feel enthusiastic all the time, particularly when you’re working long hours. Personally, I enjoy freelancing now but I have to say I had some of the most wonderful years working at the wheel – it just shoudln’t be forever in my opinion.
It’s not just PR. I work in procurement for a local authority – I cannot remember the last time I took a proper lunch break, I check and answer emails well into the evening and I’m looking at yet another Saturday spent working rather than relaxing. I’m by no means the only one either. We’re losing staff and aren’t allowed to replace them because budgets have been cut so everyone is expected to do way more than can be squeezed in a 37hr week. I’m physically and mentally tired all the time, I feel depressed more days than not and it’s affecting my relationship with my husband. I can’t leave, though, because we rely on my salary, which a lot of members of the public think is “cushy” and “excessive” but in reality doesn’t reflect the long hours I work or the pressure I’m put under and is barely enough to keep us afloat while the job centre spends months losing paperwork and dithering over whether to pay my husband’s claim after being made redundant. I’m trapped and I hate it.
I think it’s time the country as a whole took a long hard look at the lack of work/life balance happening everywhere these days. I think it’s going to result in a mass mental health crisis, and imagine what that will do to the economy! Sorry, felt the need to vent!!
Ooh I found this so interesting to read, more so as someone with limited PR Experiences x
I was surprised by this post, because I honestly thought, not many journalists/bloggers care about this. I’ve been working at a PR agency in Germany for 5 years now and it is exactly as you describe and I am not working in beauty PR but FMCG and corporate. I knew what I was getting into when I chose PR, but I have to say, the long hours and for an acedemic job relatively low pay are frustrating at times. Im my opinion companies want all the reporting and stuff to make PR somehow measurable/accountable and more comparable to marketing. It is the numbers that count, but unfortnately a good image can’t really be measured in numbers, so we write reports after reports….
I have to say I don’t know much about the world of beauty PR, but I totally agree with you. You can’t have someone burning the candle at both ends – in the office and the public face of a brand if they’re pulling 18 hour days. That’s more than the best makeup in the world can remedy.
I, myself, am studying to get into PR business, but reading this I must say I am not appalled. I am rather intrigued, because if people see what the PRs are actually for then brands will notice it too. Energy and knowledge is what makes a good PR in my opinion, among other things. And if there is no personality in what we do, then simple giving out fliers will do the same.
An interesting article with good comments below it. I agree that many jobs these days have demands that mean a 9-5pm no longer exists. With the PR industry, I can give a bit of insight, having been in it for far too long! I do believe it is right for brands to request measurement of success – otherwise, PR cannot be justified internally if it is not providing value for money and the desired results etc. The reports are therefore a necessity and do help to shift perceptions that we are professional and have commercial awareness (not a bunch of fluffy bunnies!). They have always been part of our job. The workload issue is usually down to the management of the agency you work for, or your Director in-house. In my experience, lack of capacity planning (you are left juggling too many accounts and there are not enough hours in the day to deliver the campaigns), quoting incorrectly for the job (ie not enough time is allocated at the offset), or inadequate staff training result in the long hours. Add to that a fear of losing your Beauty client – and with that can come possible redundancies because the agency cannot afford to lose the fee – well, you can see why most PRs are on a knife’s edge most of the time! The culture of the agency or the in-house team makes all the difference. I have experienced good and bad places to work. When I had a supportive boss, yes I still worked long hours but was rewarded for it and was a happy Pr. When I’ve had bad bosses (just not trained to be good manager of people and clients, I should add), I still worked long hours but was miserable. These days, I am a freelance consultant so I can manage my own workloads and I love it. Lots of us ‘older folk’ do eventually trade out. It is sad that the industry loses its experienced talent though. I had to drop out of agency life when I became a mum because the long hours weren’t sustainable. Juggling a Pr career with motherhood….that’s another whole can of worms!!!!!
From my proxy experience of this industry through a friend who is a senior figure in the industry and myself a marketing exec the problem is relatively simple, but,common sense is not as common as you’ve been led to believe.
These beauty brands are naive about the job at hand. They do not understand the channel, the ideology of its purpose and the intricacies involved, nor do they understand what a good healthy client-agency relationship is. They employ agencies to do a job that they themselves are not skilled enough to carry out, they search for months for someone qualified enough that fits within the right price bracket. Then they quickly forget about their incompetence, assuming they never needed the help of a seasoned professional and decide to then go against the grain, wasting their own time and the time of the agencies they employed all because of their egos. Naturally this creates havoc, unorganised chaos which is mostly felt by the agencies in my humble opinion The brand managers role is to simply guide the agencies about the brand and its principles so that they understand it when putting campaigns together. Once they’re both singing from the same hymn sheet then a campaign should be smooth, the agency and client ‘should’ work in harmonic unison. Brands are too quick to forget why they employ agencies and do not understand how the relationship works.
In part its due to errors on both sides. The agency for not putting their foot down, fearful of losing business in what they’ve been led to believe by senior management, who, wishing to retain the level of productivity for the sake of short term positive gains, is a hostile and volatile sector of the marketing world and big brands for not doing their homework and employing qualified people, all rounders, who understand the basic principles of most marketing channels.
In a nutshell, it comes down to talent and the lack of it. Cheaper doesn’t mean better.
Brands need to do their due diligence with their staff. Agencies need to assert themselves more, not being scared to use reason and logic and say no when no needs to said.
I’ve worked in PR since I left university and I knew vaguely what to expect when I got into the industry. I work at a London agency now on FMCG brands and the workload is intense up and down the chain. It can be thankless, but sometimes when you get that amazing piece of coverage, there’s no bigger pat on the back than the one you give yourself.
I see most of my colleagues sit hunched over their desks from early morning to late evening but I think sometimes you need to be a bit more firm – aim for that work/life balance and do stuff in your free time you enjoy because ultimately it’ll make you more well-rounded. And if you have unreasonable managers, then PRs need to push back otherwise it will just be all-consuming, and you’ll no longer be able to see what amazing clients you work for, or the great media relations you have built.
Hi Jane, I have been working in PR for a few years now (not in cosmetics unfortunately, but I can dream!) and really found this interesting. One question I have for you though is; do you see a difference between in-house vs. agency PR’s that you deal with? Would love to know what you think, especially if I do ever take the plunge into the cosmetic side of things!
No, I don’t see a difference at all.. I think this pressure is across the board. All the in-house PRs I know are working just as long hours as agency. x