The four-day workweek.
For many, it’s a pipe dream. But, for an increasing number of people, it’s quickly becoming a reality.
In fact, just a few weeks ago a friend and former client negotiated her four-day workweek. And, from what I’ve heard so far, it’s worked out incredibly well for her.
And I think it’s a trend that’s going to grow even more in the months and years ahead.
A few reasons:
- People are completely burnt out (especially in our industry)
- Priorities are shifting (young parents looking to spend more time with their kids, for example)
- Not everyone wants that VP job (is the money worth it? A lot of people are saying no)
But, here’s the big question for us: Does the four-day workweek work in PR and digital marketing?
Because there are challenges.
1: Companies, largely, aren’t ready to embrace the four day workweek
Yes, I know there are some companies (mostly smaller) than are embracing the changing nature of work–but let me tell you, most big companies aren’t in that group. Most big companies still believe in the “butts in seats” philosophy. 40+ hours a week. At the office. That’s the reality. Now, agencies are probably a little more lenient here than companies would be, but those companies represent a lot of PR and digital marketing jobs right now.
2: The “always on” nature of our business doesn’t lend itself well to taking Fridays off
Look at it from management’s perspective: You hire a PR or social media manager. After a year, she asks for a four-day workweek. You want to work with her because she’s a star employee. But, giving her a four-day workweek means having to backfill on Fridays with other staff. Which, in some cases, might mean training those other employees to cover for the PR or social media manager. Not saying this is impossible–just saying it’s a barrier.
3: Take a day off, get passed over for promotions and other opportunities
“Out of sight, out of mind.” That’s the phrase, right? Couldn’t be more true in this type of situation. You’re out of the office one day a week–might not seem like a lot, but that one day can be the difference between you getting that promotion, and you getting laid off. See point #1 above–companies, largely, still value the “butt in seat” mentality. Makes a big difference when there’s no butt in that seat for a full day each week.
I want to start by making one thing clear: This is not a post designed to bash PRSA or the APR.
I was a PRSA member, committee member and board member for years. I earned by APR years ago. I might not be a current member, but I’m a huge PRSA supporter.
And, I earned my APR years ago. While it was stripped from me when I let my PRSA membership lapse (we’ll get to that in a moment), I am a big supporter of the APR, too.
But, I do have a beef with the APR rules.
My concerns revolve around two key areas:
- The rule that once you’re no longer a PRSA member, you lose your APR designation.
- The rule that you cannot sit on a MN PRSA board without the APR designation.
Let’s tackle those one at a time:
1: Once you’re no longer a PRSA member, you lose your APR designation
Found this one out the hard way about 7 years ago when I decided not to re-up my PRSA membership. The current MN PRSA president (I’ll leave names out of this) gave me a call. She said someone had called and said I needed to remove my APR designation from my web site and marketing materials. I wondered why–she said once you are no longer a member, you lose your APR.
I’m still a little surprised this is the policy of an organization that prides itself on advancing the PR profession.
Here’s what I don’t get:
- What’s the upside of revoking former member’s APRs? What good does this do for PRSA? It’s always felt like a lure to keep members (read: you have your APR, now you have to remain a member forever or we’ll revoke your APR). Sorry, that’s just the way it comes across.
- If you revoke former members’ APRs, does that make them less of a professional? Of course not, right? Then why revoke it? Does it lessen the value of those who are members and have the designation? Of course not. Then why do it?
- Isn’t one of the goals of the APR program to advance the PR profession? If so, revoking former member’s APR designations probably isn’t the smartest move. Why? Because now you’ve instantly frustrated former members who were once (and many still are) huge advocated for the profession. These people have spent years in the field. They’re well respected. They’re senior-level. Some are icons in the field. Why would you want to frustrate these people? Aren’t these the type of people you want representing PRSA–whether they’re members or not? I would say unequivocally, yes.
I understand a professional organization like PRSA needs members to survive. But, I also understand that membership doesn’t work for everyone at all points of their lives.
Let me throw out an example. A fellow solo here in Minnesota (again, leaving names out of this) is a friend, former client and a recent APR. She’s a big advocate of the APR and I believe she heads up the APR committee here in Minnesota. And, like I said, she is also a #SoloPR. What if, down the road, business dries up for her (hypothetical)? What if revenue comes to a halt. What if she had to cancel her PRSA membership as a result? She would then lose her APR. Is this person any less of a PRSA supporter? No. Does she still embody the qualities of an APR? Yep. Will she still advocate for the APR? My guess–yep. This scenario is a very real one and could easily play out for any number of people across the industry. And, it highlights perfectly why this rule should change.
2: You cannot sit on the MN PRSA board without an APR
I know this has been a point of contention for a long time within MN PRSA circles. And, I know there are a fair amount of people that agree with me–that you shouldn’t need an APR to sit on the board.
The pro-APR folks will tell you that we need APR candidates because they’re typically more senior, it shows their commitment to the industry, and it shows their commitment to PRSA.
I tend to think, if you use that logic, you’re going to miss out on a whole bunch of more-than-qualified people who could be leading MN PRSA in the next 5 to 10 to 20 years. In fact, here is just a short list of people I think would be OUTSTANDING board members down the road, but people who don’t currently have their APR (and therefore would not be considered): Sarah Reckard, Crystal Schweim, Mike Keliher, Alyssa Ebel and Maggie Habashy.
Now, I realize not everyone wants to sit on the PRSA board, but why not widen the net a bit? Having sat on the board years ago, I know how shallow the pool of local APRs is. So, why wouldn’t you open it up to all folks? Consider the facts:
1) You have a professional organization struggling to find qualified people to sit on its board
2) You have an opportunity to extend the PRSA brand further into the PR community
3) Fewer people are getting their APRs (this was true years ago, guessing it’s probably true now as well)–meaning the pipeline isn’t exactly full for MN PRSA.
I don’t know, seems like a pretty easy decision to me.
I want to close this post by saying again, I don’t write this to attack PRSA. I write it because I want good things for PRSA and the people who are a part of it. And, I think these are two of the more odd rules I’ve seen instituted across PRSA that, over the years, have impacted the reputation of the organization. And, I think both represent opportunities to make PRSA a better organization in the future.
Time for a change PRSA. Ease up on the APR rules. It’ll benefit us all–and, more importantly, the PR profession–in the long run.
I think there’s a a bit of a misconception in our industry.
That you need to be aggressive to be an effective consultant.
I’ve noticed it from the beginning (at least MY beginning). It’s not a rule that’s written on a chalkboard or bulletin board anywhere. Or in a text book.
But, that seems to be the general consensus.
Talk forcefully in client meetings.
Always be sure to share a strong opinion.
Always speak first.
Always be selling.
Or, risk being labeled “ineffective.”
But, I have a different viewpoint. While some of the traits above should be a part of any consultant’s makeup (having strong opinions is one of them), I reject the notion that you need to be aggressive to be a great consultant.
Because I’m living proof.
Aggressive is probably about the last word anyone who’s ever met me would use to describe me.
But, I’m hardly passive. I’m probably more “Minnesota Nice” than anything.
In reality, I’ve found a middle ground, and a way to be somewhat successful.
Because being aggressive isn’t the only way to consult.
My approach? Easy–I try to embody four simple qualities each day:
Be a great listener
Probably no big surprise here. But, asking the right questions is key to any consultant’s success. What I’m talking about is serving more in the role of psychotherapist–because that’s been a key role I’ve played with many different clients over the years. You see, sometimes clients just want to talk. About work. About colleagues. About life. And when they do, I’m there to listen. How does that help me? Think about your best friends–aren’t they also good listeners? Isn’t that what makes a great friend? Same goes for a good consultant.
Relates directly to the psychotherapist role. And here’s the great thing: By serving in that role, you learn a whole lot about your client. What makes them tick. What pisses them off. What their passions are. And then, you can find ways to work better with them, avoid making them angry, and provide encouragement throughout the day.
Be a good person
No one wants to work with an a++hole. No one. So, just don’t be one then. There’s one mantra my wife and I preach to our kids all the time: Treat others as you would like to be treated. Pretty simple, yet people continue to break that rule day after day.
Be easy to work with
You know who people DO want to work with? Good people (see above) who are E-A-S-Y to work with. Why would you want to work with someone who is difficult? Who challenges you at every turn? Who gossips and talks about others behind their backs? I’m not sure I know anyone who wants to work with a person like that.
My two cents and approach. You?
Earlier this week, I gave a presentation to a group of employees at a local client. The topic: Enhancing your reputation online in today’s digital age.
It’s not a topic I talk about a lot, but I was doing it as a favor to a friend–and, it turned out to be a lot of fun.
Of course, one part of the presentation talked about LinkedIn. And one employee asked question that got me thinking: “What do you think of endorsements on LinkedIn?”
The employee (an attorney) was asking because she doesn’t have any and was wondering if that would hurt her reputation.
My first question: Why don’t you have any endorsements?
Her response: My professional organization doesn’t allow it.
As in, the Texas Bar Association!
Wow–that’s pretty surprising, right?
That got me thinking: We all know these LinkedIn endorsements are kind of goofy. People who have never worked with us endorse us for skills of all kinds. In many ways, the endorsements mean nothing. I’m hardly the first person to make that statement.
But, worthless endorsements is one thing. UNETHICAL endorsements? That’s something different.
However, I think that’s what we may have in the PR industry as well.
I got to looking and we may have a similar issue on our hands in PR. Just look at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Code of Ethics (I was grilled on the code when I earned my APR years ago, so this came back to me fairly quickly).
In the section titled “Free Flow of Information”, it states:
Core Principle Protecting and advancing the free flow of accurate and truthful information is essential to serving the public interest and contributing to informed decision making in a democratic society.
Key terms: “Accurate and truthful information.”
It goes on to say:
A member shall:
- Preserve the integrity of the process of communication.
- Be honest and accurate in all communications.
- Act promptly to correct erroneous communications for which the practitioner is responsible.
- Preserve the free flow of unprejudiced information when giving or receiving gifts by ensuring that gifts are nominal, legal, and infrequent.
Key phrases: “Be honest and accurate in all communications” and “act promptly to correct erroneous communications for which the practitioner is responsible.”
By reading those statements, you could reasonably come to the conclusion that many endorsements on LinkedIn are unethical.
Case in point: Many of the endorsements that I’ve received over the years come from people I’ve never worked with directly and probably don’t know all that well. So, if you think about it, those endorsements really aren’t any indication of my skill or ability (most, in my case, are probably largely based on writings on this blog). That said, many of the top “skills” I’m endorsed for really are my key strengths: Strategic communications, social media marketing, blogging, public relations are all in my top 10.
But, this may be a very real issue for us all (and PRSA, as it relates to the Code) to consider.
Are LinkedIn endorsements unethical when they don’t hit on your key skills, and/or when they’re given by someone you’ve never worked with before?
Definitely worth a discussion. What do you think?
Let’s face it, we’ve all been guilty of the following scenario:
Friend asks you: “Hey, (insert name here), how have you been?’
You reply: “I’m soooo busy. I can hardly see straight right now.”
OK, so maybe you don’t exaggerate that much, but you’d probably agree that the answer to “how are you?” is “so busy” about 90 percent of the time, right?
Why is that?
And, isn’t that a terrible way to answer that question?
Let’s break this down a bit. I know this sounds mundane, but I’d like to outline why I think this is a horrible answer to that question.
1–We’re all busy. So just stop with the busy glorification.
It’s been said many times before, so I’m not going to beat this to death. But, please stop talking about how busy you are, because we’re bored with it. Your busy doesn’t trump my busy. It doesn’t trump anyone’s busy. We’re all busy in our own ways.
2–It really limits your conversation.
So, if you’re actually trying NOT to start a deep conversation with a friend or colleague, I guess, by all means, you should say “I’m so busy!” However, if you actually do want to talk to people, saying “I’m really busy” is about the same as saying “I’m really busy, so if you don’t mind, I have a lot of things to do right at this moment, so I’m going to go do them ASAP.” On the other hand, if instead of the “busy” line you picked out one thing you’ve been up to lately, that might spur the discussion in a whole new direction. Try it out the next time you chat with a friend. Let me show you. Friend: “Arik, how the heck are you?” Me: “Fantastic. I have shingles. I landed a new client that may lead me to a once-in-a-lifetime golf opportunity. And, I just got back from the Dells with my kids.” All sorts of topics from there!
3–And if you’re a consultant, it’s ABSOLUTELY the wrong thing to say
After all, if you keep telling friends and colleagues you’re so busy, guess what they’re going to think. You’re too busy to refer new business to. And I can tell you, that’s NOT what you want people to think. You want people to think you’re busy, sure, but not so busy that you’re not taking on new work. It’s a fine line. Work it.
4–Last, but not least, it’s just plain lazy.
See #2 above. By saying “I’m busy” you’re either telling people to bug off, or that you’re super lazy. Either way, not great for you. Find another avenue.
So, here’s my advice: Give my idea in #2 above a try. Pick out a couple SPECIFIC things that are going on in your personal or professional life recently and expand on those instead of relying on the “I’m so busy” line.
Report back in one month with your findings.
I’ll be waiting…