All these motivational blog posts and recommended New Year’s resolutions sound great.

But when someone asks, “How’s it going?,” wouldn’t you like to have a sincere answer other than “Busy (forced smile)?”

You’re still neck-deep in emails after the holidays, and Slack is lighting up while you’re trying to finish that strategic plan which was due in December.

This contradiction is so endemic within PR life that we don’t even realize how jacked up things are.

We’re told we should always be striving for excellence and self-improvement.

But we’re also told to put everybody else’s needs and deadlines before our own:

Gotta take care of the client or support what the bosses want. We’re a service business, after all. If I don’t get back to them fast, they’ll find someone else who will.

[How to escape this never-ending trap – free webinar next week.]

For instance, I was reading a PR book on a plane with lots of great ideas and examples in it.

But right in the beginning, in the acknowledgments, the author writes: “This is a 24/7/365 business . . . For years already, my family has known that my version of life-work balance is skewed by my work being the CEO of a hyperconnected, always-on agency.”

I deeply respect the work the author has done to build her agency. But her assertion that being tethered to work all the time is an absolute requirement for PR success is false.

In fact, I’m going to make the case in this post that you’ll be more effective for your bosses and clients when you push back on this kind of thinking.

It’s Not Them, It’s You

First, you have to accept responsibility for putting yourself in this position.

You’re a people pleaser, right? Public relations must attract the highest percentage of people-pleasers of any profession.

I’m definitely one (fingers crossed Gini likes this post, right?).

And that’s okay.

But you’re not anyone’s servant, like a waiter, who exists only to take orders and carry out requests.

You’re a specialized expert who creates effective solutions to business problems. So carry yourself like one.

Use Tech Tools to Defeat Distractions, Not Add to Them

Email. Texts. Social. Slack.  These are all innovations which we could be using to make our lives more efficient.

But instead, we let them run amok and clutter our life with incessant distraction.

If you keep responding quickly every time somebody pings you, what does that train them to expect? That you’ll always be at their beck and call.

And the smartest and most effective among them start to wonder, What do you really do all day if you’re always responding to emails and texts?

When you build your day around “keeping on top of your inbox,” you’re letting other people set your agenda for you.

Remember, you’re an expert. So take control of your day, ignore your inbox, and solve real problems.

Protect Your Time to Think

Everyone is hyper-stimulated these days. And as a communications pro, you feel an obligation to be constantly plugged in.

There’s always some news breaking that could affect your company or clients.

While other people kill time by checking the news or social media, for you, those things are your lifeblood!

But, virtually anyone can “stay current” and be “always on.”

If that’s the way you define your professional value, you are fast becoming a commodity.

There are legions of fresh college grads every spring who would love to get paid to push emails around and update social media.

Your distinct value as a knowledge worker comes from your ideas and your creative execution of those ideas.

Make Important Decisions

Think about the most successful people in business.

Do you really think people evaluated Steve Jobs on the quality of the memos he wrote? Or that people derive value from some financial projections that Warren Buffet ran on Excel? Of course not!

People judge Steve Jobs on his track record for deciding which products to develop and when they were great enough to ship. And Buffet on which companies he chose to invest in.

Now, maybe you’re not the CEO of a huge company (I’m certainly not).

And we both must do actual work to merely stay above water in our current roles (after all, I wrote this post, didn’t I?).

This is a principle of degrees, not absolutes. But think about this for a minute.

How much more value could you deliver to your employer if you exercised a knack for knowing which stories will perform well and which won’t? Which messages will resonate? Which otherwise dumb thing your organization shouldn’t do that would end up in a controversy?

Making those decisions is where your real value is – not responding to people’s requests all day.

Simplify Your Work: Too Good to Be True?

Well, that all sounds great, Michael, but it’s just not my reality. I wouldn’t last two days if I thought and acted like that.

I know that’s what you’re thinking. I’ve run into that limiting belief many times in the five-plus years I’ve been teaching this to PR folks.

For example, I was in the final stages of securing a booking as the keynote speaker for a large PR conference.

The organizer asked about my topic, and I explained it to her. She said flatly, “That doesn’t work. We’re in a service business.”

We couldn’t come to a compromise, so someone else gave the keynote on a less-transformative topic.

But this stuff does work.

Here’s what Jessica Krakoski, Managing Director, Cave Henricks Communications, said after applying these principles:

I’ve earned the opportunity to work on the big stuff, and now my boss knows that I’m going to nail it no matter what. So she lets me work from home whenever I want. She gives me complete autonomy over how I structure my day because she knows that I know how to get results.

And Ken Li, Senior Director of Public Relations, CG Life, gradually applied this mindset until he was able to buy a farm in Indiana. He then sent this email to his agency colleagues:

I’ve literally bought the farm. From now on, I’ll only be in on Tuesdays.

 Jessica and Ken made significant investments to get access to that training.

But for the first time ever, I’ll be delivering it for FREE on January 10, 2019, during my live webinar:

Work Smarter, Not Harder in 2019: Get Beyond the Daily PR Grind to Get Better Results WITHOUT Being Tethered to Your Phone 24/7

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • How to change others’ expectation of you from “responsive” to “effective.”
  • Specific phrasing for your emails and conversations with others to set boundaries in a way that builds respect, not annoyance.
  • Ways to create space for the creative side of your brain, which is why you got into PR anyway!
  • New simple tech tools that reclaim your time and attention for your most important activities.
  • Research results that will finally prove why other knowledge workers around you are happily shooting themselves in the foot every day. (Return to this when they think YOU’RE the crazy one.)
  • Why these changes will mean BETTER service for your employer or clients.
  • Empirical results my paying clients earned by implementing these proven techniques.

Attendance for this live webinar is complimentary for the first 500 attendees, so register now and log in early to secure your spot.

And I especially love it when the Spin Sucks Community joins in, so I hope to see you there!

Photo by Rachael Smith on Unsplash

Michael Smart

Michael Smart trains PR teams on how to be more effective. His recent clients include General Motors, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and Georgia Tech. He is regularly rated among the top speakers at the industry's largest conferences.

View all posts by Michael Smart