Don't go near HR: How to beat the post summer blues!

Did you have a lovely summer holiday? Well it’s all over now! Before you hand in your notice, we asked PROs for their advice about how to gear up for a busy autumn in PR.

From Rebecca Peel, PR and outreach specialist at digital marketing agency Hallam:

Plan, plan, and do more planning! “Teachers don't just turn up in September and do lesson planning on the day – they plan in advance. It's worth getting ahead of yourself, while the time is quieter and journalists and clients are on holiday over summer.

“September is when the Christmas, Black Friday, Bonfire Night planning comes into swing, and it's easy to just sit back and wait until it happens. But if I'm not organised I'm stressed, which can cause a ripple effect. Make an effort to put aside just an afternoon in August to plan for the next few months. What key dates are there? When do you need info from your client by? When do you need things signed off by? What media will you need to target and when do they start running christmas content? Plan now – you'll thank yourself later.”

From Maxine Ambrose, joint managing partner of agency Ambrose Comms:

Don’t panic! “We don’t really have much of a summer lull in business (and I don’t take time off myself, because I’d rather hold the fort so that team members with school-age children can have proper family holidays), but we always try fit in some end of year planning during August. It is a great time to reflect on the year so far, what is working and what is not, both for the agency and for clients, so that we are all in a strong position for the rest of Q3 and Q4. As far as day-to-day activities are concerned, it is important to avoid ‘oh no, it’s almost September’ panic that can happen after the August bank holiday. So, for instance, making sure that clients have everything ready for September events, or starting projects that are going to need to be turned around quickly come autumn, makes a lot of sense.“

From Jules Herd, founder and managing director of comms consultancy Five in a Boat:

Don’t lose your mojo. “Use that summer down time to work out your own business, be that marketing it better, looking at your new business pipeline or resource planning.”

Book up you clients. “Make sure you book in some face time with your clients when they get back. It enables you to set your priorities together and reignite your relationship.”

Be patient. “Whilst some businesses go quiet over the summer, many c-suite execs don’t take time off until September. Be prepared that, whilst work might be busy, big decisions might not be made until October.”

Be prepared for hard work. “Q4 is a critical time for the majority of businesses. Late nights, early morning calls, what may appear to be unreasonable demands and short deadlines are all to be expected.”

Keren Haynes, joint managing director at agency Shout! Communications:

Hi-jack the news.“A busier news agenda than normal this summer means the ‘Silly Season’ has been less ridiculous than we might have expected and this tone sets the agenda for the autumn. Any PR campaigns are most likely to be competing with a General Election, in addition to the next Brexit deadline. Planning round these dates is crucial, but there is always, within broadcast news, appetite for alternative stories too. So don’t despair! A good top line and a willing and available spokesperson will still deliver. Preparing your clients to take part in last-minute news hi-jacking opportunities is another effective way of pulling in the coverage in a hard news environment. 

From Poppy Lewis, creative director at agency Aduro Communications:

Stay in holiday mode. “I often find a break means I come back to work buzzing with ideas because the down time has allowed my mind to wander as I switch off from the day to day, so try and stay in that relaxed ‘holiday mode’ as long as possible to help spark creativity, whether that’s finding a sunny spot to work from or catching up in person to reduce screen time spent on emails.”

Mine your holiday for ideas. “Take inspiration from your break and use it to approach a creative challenge from a different angle. Experiencing a new culture, seeing beautiful sights or learning something new can help give you a new perspective on a brief or task.”

Use your fresh perspective. “Use the break as a chance to look back over your work with fresh eyes on your return and really challenge yourself – is there a new twist or build on an existing idea that can take it to the next level?”

From Fiona Harris, managing director at PR firm Relevance International:

Look after your brain. “We get paid to use our brain, but so often we do not fully understand how to optimise its performance? Here are my top tips for autumn to achieve peak brain performance, allowing us all to gain a competitive edge by understanding and improving the physical condition of our brains. This also encourages positive leadership and best practice, adding value to all areas of the workplace and workforce, not least in reducing absenteeism which represents a huge cost to employers. My top five tips are:

  • Eat well with plenty of variety to get the best neuronutrition
  • Try to achieve restful, restorative sleep, ideally eight hours each night
  • Drink plenty of water, the brain loves to be hydrated
  • Take time to be mindful and remember to breath from the belly, deeply
  • Fuel your brain with plenty of oxygen with daily exercise.”

Public affairs tips

For those who work in public affairs, there are particular challenges. Stuart Thomson, head of public affairs at law firm BDB Pitmans, says: “It’s time to take a deep breath before the real political action takes place later this year. The sheer range of possibilities facing us means that those in public affairs need to take a number of steps to gear up for the autumn.

“The demands on us all will be large and leadership teams will be looking for help to navigate the undoubted uncertainty and risk.

“So we need to:

·     Work out what the scenarios and timings will mean for your organisation’s priorities

·     Consider policies for potential inclusion in the party manifestos

·     Think about runners, riders, supporters and opponents

·     Map out your planned engagement and activity, such as the party conferences, and think about how they could be impacted

“There is, of course, also the small matter of preparing to leave the EU. So it’s about scenarios, planning and using the opportunities that could arise. Don’t get left unprepared!”

Remember, you chose to work in PR because you love it, so what if the summer is over? At least you are working hard in a career you value. If this isn’t true, then perhaps you should hand in your notice!

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