PR Insight 8 minute read
Daney Parker, Editor, PRmoment.com
We all know that life should not be all about work, plus having a well-balanced life means you will be more effective in the office when you are there. We ask PR folk what they spend their free time on that helps them to recharge their batteries – and also offers valuable skills that help them in their jobs.
Helping other people will ultimately help you says Ed Coke, founder of reputation consultancy Repute Associates: “I volunteer with a charity that helps combat loneliness amongst elderly people. One hour a week, I’m a befriender: I visit an old man struggling with his health. It’s just him and me chatting – no agenda, no ‘next steps’, ‘action standards’ or corporate BS. It helps me appreciate what real people get concerned about, what really matters and how to talk to another person in simple, human terms.
“As a researcher, this helps me speak more clearly with clients and colleagues, and to focus on asking the right questions. It’s gold dust for me, and a lifeline for him – a pretty good arrangement when all’s said and done.”
Grow your own
Grow your own plants to nurture yourself says Eliza Nicholas, account manager at marketing agency Kindred: “I’m an urban gardener, which means I’m making the most of my small city garden by growing plants and edibles. For me, gardening provides a means of reconnecting with nature, regardless of how far I am from the countryside. Spending time outdoors, sowing, growing and tending to plants is extremely therapeutic and provides headspace from busy city life. I predominantly grow vegetables and herbs, as I love the process of serving and eating produce I’ve created myself. Not only is it very satisfying, but it tastes significantly better, costs next to nothing, and ensures I waste less plastic by avoiding supermarket packaging. My goal is to grow all the fruit and veg I eat and become even more sustainable, which will involve careful planning and very creative use of a small space.”
Don’t just listen to podcasts, says David Fraser, founder of PR-for-SEO agency Ready10, make your own: “I started podcasting in 2011 – I’m a Queens Park Rangers (QPR) season ticket holder and they’d just been promoted to the Premier League. Podcasting was having a renaissance and I noticed that almost every team in the league had one, but QPR didn’t, so I phoned up the guys behind the Arsenal show, asked them how they did it and it went from there. Nearly seven years later, we have around 5,000 regular weekly listeners and have recorded nearly 300 shows.
“On a personal level it’s been an absolute blast. I have met people I would never have had the chance to, interviewed some of my heroes and I’d like to think we have added to the overall fan experience. On a professional level though, it’s also been of huge benefit. Hosting a podcast really forces you to think on your feet and get a message across in a confident, clear and entertaining way – all things that are useful in this line of work. I’ve also learnt a lot on the technical and production side during a time that the format has exploded, meaning that I can often pass on my knowledge and expertise to clients.
“It certainly helps me perform better at work and also recharge those batteries – running my own agency is brilliant and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it can have its moments. So getting to let off some steam by sitting infront of a mic once a week and sounding off about about something I love is a great way to switch off.”
Unwind with yoga
Two people extol the virtues of yoga. Steph Bennett, senior associate director at communications agency Battenhall, describes how teaching it, as well as practising it, is rewarding personally and professionally: “Having had an on-off relationship with yoga for about seven years, I reconnected with my practice when I started training for the London marathon about eighteen months ago. I became so fascinated by the physical and mental benefits I actually decided to do my teacher training and spent a month in Bali qualifying over Christmas. Now, not only do I have a regular self-practice that I do on any given day to either energise, wind down or reset, I also host weekly classes for the company. The rewards both personally and professionally are incredible for me and the team.
“Yoga allows you to let go of everything around you and makes you focus on exactly what you are doing in the moment. It calms your ‘monkey mind’ and physically makes you feel amazing by simply using your breathe and movement to getting your body working as it should. The impact of it has is nothing but positive. I’d highly recommend yoga of any kind as a way to unwind and feel great.”
Keren Haynes, joint MD at Shout! Communications, describes how standing on your head can help to clear your head: “When I first started doing yoga the one-and-a-half-hour lesson seemed interminable; I just couldn’t focus, thinking about everything I had to do for work (and home) later that day. I’m not sure how long it took before I could truly concentrate, without distracting myself with my own thoughts – probably months. Really I’m a once a week yoga girl, whereas to really benefit you should practise daily. But even dipping in sporadically has fantastic benefits. I’m not just talking about being a bit more bendy and a little less stiff, although of course that helps; I’m talking about coming out of that class with a really clear head. And sometimes you need that. In PR we live in a very buzzy and immediate world – we rarely have the chance to stop and stare… yoga, just for a little while, helps you do that. So back in the real world you’ve got a little bit of serenity and energy to fall back on. Nothing like a headstand to get you going!“
Channel the magic of nature and music
Getting outside and listening, and playing, music are bound to inspire you says James Taylor, consultant at PR agency Roaring Mouse: “I’ve represented clients in the neuroscience space, so I’ve got a good understanding of how important rest and relaxation are for inspiring optimal performance in industries like PR, where good ideas and a positive frame of mind are so vital.
“I relax by exercising and playing music. I’m training to run this year’s Chesterfield half marathon and I love to walk in the Peak District. It’s such a beautiful part of the world that you can’t help but become more relaxed by getting lost in nature.
“Your unconscious brain can come up with fantastic ideas if left to its own devices, so I’ll often go for a short walk at lunchtime, sometimes making calls on route, but more often than not to clear my mind, change the scenery and allow my mind time to think.
“I’m also learning to play the guitar and try to get a few minutes practice in at the end of every working day. Music is a wonderful way of taking your mind off your to-do list. Learning new skills in one area helps the brain absorb new information in others too.”
Detox from technology
To switch off you must actually switch off your devices says Danielle Hibbert, project director at PR agency Clearbox: “We have an Inspiration Package that allows every employee to take three paid days off per year (in addition to annual leave) to do something that inspires them, whether that’s skydiving to get the adrenaline pumping, a big hike to clear the head, or heading to a yoga retreat to relax. The catch? All technology must be shut off. No emails, no social media, no calls – a chance to digitally detox and immerse yourself in the moment. My next day is in June which will see me take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge.
“Creative activities outside of the office definitely helps improve my job performance as well as being good for my general well-being. Having also moved house this year, I’m throughly enjoying decorating and styling each room in my downtime – it is still creative but allows me to totally detach and recover from a busy day.”
Whether you are drawn to more active outdoor pursuits, or are inclined to more passive lying-on-the-sofa types of relaxation, it is important to completely forget about the day-to-day stresses of PR office life if you are to be in a fit state to deal with them again when Monday comes around.