S3 E1: PR Personalities and Managing Mental Health

The first episode of series three sees two of our PR team tackle the stuff that matters; mental health. Abi Bennetts and Richard Paul get vulnerable and talk about their own experiences and things they do to improve their working lives, as well as typical personalities you encounter in the PR world.

Have a listen or read the transcript below.

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0:00:06 – Stephen Baker

“Hello and welcome to the Digital PR Podcast. I’m Steve Baker and my co-host, Lou, is off doing the rather more important job of raising a tiny human, but the show must go on. We’re in between seasons at the moment, but thought we’d give you all a little treat by bringing back our mini episodes. Throughout June and July, we’ll be jumping into all of PR land’s hottest topics, as we always do, and hearing from members of the Propellernet PR team on everything from pitching to personality types. So get the kettle on, get those headphones charged and make sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss any of our episodes.”


0:00:39 – Richard Paul

“Hello and welcome to the Digital PR Podcast. For this episode, we’ve got something a little bit different, and so we’ve got myself, Richard Paul. I’m the Creative Director at Propellernet and Abi Bennetts, PR Director at Propellernet. And we’re going to be talking about a subject that’s close to both of our hearts really around mental health, anxiety in digital PR and wrapping all of that together, like PR personalities, because there’s a lot of those in the PR industry. But what a good place to start, really, because, Abi you’ve actually done some research around the subject and it’s actually something we’ve actually not spoken about together. So it felt like a perfect way to kick this off, knowing you’ve done talks on the subject and things like that, but we’ve actually not spoken about that together, so it felt like a perfect way to kick this off.

“You’ve done studies on this so I wanted to ask, one, why you wanted to do it and two, I’m really interested in what you found out about these PR personalities and how that ties back to the subjects of mental health anxiety burnout, things like that.”


0:01:43 – Abi Bennetts

“Yeah, definitely really excited to be talking about this topic today. As you say, it’s a topic that’s close to my heart and something that I think we don’t talk enough about in the industry. The study I did was for a talk at an agency event last year and stemmed from my experience of going through burnout. 

“About three years ago I was signed off by doctors and left a digital PR agency role that I really loved because I was just completely burnt out and my mental health was not in a great place. I realised I hadn’t really been looking after myself properly and, as a result, my mental health was just really really suffering. So I took some time out and then managed to get a role at Propellernet. Ever since then I’ve been more sensitive to noticing that so many people in our industry do go through challenges with their mental health. 

“A lot of people in our industry suffer with burnout. So it really got me thinking I’d like to explore the  reasons behind why we might be at risk of suffering burnout more than perhaps people who work in other industries. I wanted to do a bit of an experiment. A study to find out why that was. Looking into it a bit further I did find that this is an industry-wide problem. There is a report that’s done every single year which is called the Global Agency Landscape Report, and it says that over 55% of agencies reported that preventing burnout is their top challenge every year. So it just goes to show agencies around the nation are really trying to stop their employees from having these challenges with mental health and getting burnt out. 

“But at the same same time there’s still all these people who are really struggling to get that work-life balance. They’re really struggling to maintain good mental health while working in the industry. I think there’s a few reasons for this. I think firstly our roles, particularly as digital PRs -it’s quite like an ‘always on’ role. We have to be tied into the news. We have to be always thinking about ideas for campaigns. And that does mean that it’s quite hard to switch off, particularly if you’re passionate about your job, which I think is something we’ve spoken about before, Richard – about being  person who loves their job and loves the creative side so much that you’re always thinking of ideas. You’re always thinking of new things that you could bring to your role and to your campaigns and for your clients. But actually that does mean you’re then left feeling like quite exhausted and then your mental health suffers as a result. So I think that plays into it quite a lot. 

“I think working in agencies, you often get higher workloads. Agencies are really quick moving. It’s a competitive industry and particularly at the moment it’s getting harder and harder for people to get those links and get that coverage. So I think people feel like they have to work more. So there’s all these reasons that play into why we might be suffering more with burnout and mental health challenges as an industry. But one thing I anecdotally noticed just by chatting to friends in the industry, was that there are a lot of similar people working in digital PR. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed this as well from past roles even our own team at propellernet. We’re all really similar.”


0:05:07 – Richard Paul

“Oh, definitely. “Yeah, it’s like you start talking to somebody like you and you think, you’re just like me! Yeah, I think there’s so many similar personalities in the industry.” 


0:05:17 – Abi Bennetts

“Yeah, it’s weird, isn’t it? And it did make me think maybe there was this personality trait we all share which makes us really good at our jobs and why we love doing what we do. But it’s also, at the same time, this trait which does leave us at risk of suffering with mental health issues and perhaps more prone to suffering with burnout as well. So I wanted to look into that. I have a background psychology and did psychology at Uni, so this stemmed from my interest in that as well.

I did a very mini study where I surveyed over 100 digital marketers. Over half were digital PRs and the others in other digital marketing roles spanning SEO and paid etc, and tested them on this big five personality trait, which is called ‘Conscientiousness‘. And this is essentially the personality trait which reflects the tendency to be organised, goal directed and hard working. So basically this trait of wanting to do well, really striving for big goals and going after what we want, which a lot of the people that I’ve worked with in my career in digital PR, I find that to be true, so really felt like that resonated. 

“But people who have high levels of conscientiousness also suffer really badly with high levels of perfectionism. So much so, that this can bring out counterproductive behaviours. 

“Obviously lots of high levels of anxiety comes with being a perfectionist, so it does mean that we’re more prone to burnout and people pleasing. So I did this personality test and, lo and behold, it did show that these digital marketers all showed above average scores in this Conscientiousness trait.

The test scores out of 40, over one in 10, and scored 35 out of 40 on conscientious traits. So showing up highly in this  personality trait of being really hard working and goal directed. And on top of that, 67% considered themselves a perfectionist. Which confirms what I had been thinking – that we all share these traits and that’s great. But the flip side of that is that we are potentially more at risk of suffering from these perhaps less helpful behaviours of being a perfectionist and being quite high in anxiety.


0:07:46 – Richard Paul

“That was so interesting and resonates massively with me. I’ve always found myself to be a massive perfectionist and I agree. I think being in the industry of keen beans there is that side to it where it may be something we all have to navigate a little bit within ourselves. 

“But then there is obviously the positive element to it. It’s great to be a hard worker. It’s really good to be a keen bean and to want your work to be as good as possible. So how can these traits of ourselves be useful to us ?”


0:08:31 – Abi Bennetts

“I do think this trait that a lot of us do share is like our superpower, which sounds really cringe, but it is one of the things that  makes us great at our jobs and it’s the reason why a lot of great digital PRs  get the amazing results they do. 

“I think, particularly in our industry and with our work, a lot of it is self-directed, so there’s no end point to how much you can do on a particular idea or a campaign, like there’s always more pitching to do or there’s always more cool ideas to come up with, and so I think when you have that  self motivating trait of just wanting to to do as best as you can and do as much as you can, that’s obviously amazing and such an asset for you know, anyone who’s part of a digital PR team so I think that’s like a really positive trait to have. 

“I think, in order to manage that effectively, there are a few things that I would probably or I do implement in my career now, which I think we’re going to talk about a little later on in the podcast, but I think, yeah, really leaning into those  traits of being like super organised and, you know, being able to juggle lots of clients or lots of stories. That’s a really, really good skill to have. So it’s definitely not a bad thing to have this trait. I think it’s just being aware of when that amazing trait then is not working for you in the way that it is  productive or good anymore.”


0:09:54 – Richard Paul

“Yeah, I think that’s great advice. I agree as well. I’ve had times where I’ve done myself down for being like you’re too much of a perfectionist or whatever. But it’s actually a good thing and it’s about knowing when to give yourself permission to switch off now. So, yeah, great advice. Also within that, we all tend to share a lot of similar personality traits in the industry, but then even at Propellernet and within the PR team, we do also talk a lot about how all of us are different. In a way, it’s great to have different people in a client team and we can all bounce off of that as well. So knowing that there are these differing, clashing ones, as well as all sharing some of these traits, how would you recommend balancing them in a team and making sure people do play to their own advantages if they are different in some ways too?” 


0:10:52 – Abi Bennetts

“It’s so important that any team, not just the digital PR team, but any team is a mix of different backgrounds, different ages, different experiences and different personality traits. 

“And we definitely have it, as you say, on the Propellernet team, which is so nice because I think you just get so many different perspectives and so many different lovely relationships with people that you might not necessarily always be like drawn to from the off, like personalities don’t always attract each other from the off, but I think it’s so nice when you’re able to get a team that works so well together, which is such a nice mix of different personalities. It’s important to  try and get a mix of introversion and extroversion and so really making sure that you’ve got those people who are happy to speak up and are quite confident and maybe more socially driven, but then you also do have those people who are a little bit quieter and happy to sit back and observe and take things in. And I think there is this whole discussion about whether you know PRs should be extroverts. A lot of PRs naturally are, just because I suppose it’s quite a social job. You’re obviously talking a lot with journalists. 

“A real obviously key strength of being a good digital PR is about communication, but I do think there’s obviously so many amazing digital PRs and amazing people generally who are more introverted or a mix of the two. 

“I think more and more people are saying that they are a mix of both, being extroverted in certain situations and introverted at the same time. 

“Yeah I think getting that mix is really important so that you can really get those different perspectives and just have a range of voices in your team. I think as well, something that’s quite nice to think about is like the different types of emotional people on your team, so whether you have people who are more logical and are thinking about the facts and the data and what’s happening in real time. And then you have some people who are more emotional and go with their feelings, go with their gut. I think, again, having both of those working together on a project is really really cool and just enables you to get different perspectives and just have a nice mix. So, yeah, I think it’s definitely important to have that mix of personalities and just getting people to name their own strengths and what they think are their personality traits that they want to really lean on, so that they can express those in their day to day roles.” 


0:13:24 – Richard Paul

“Yeah, I think you’re so right. That thing of the mix is so important, isn’t it? And you mentioned in there, like some people may feel that they should be? 

” I 100% had that earlier on in my career, looking at other people. I’d class myself as an introvert and I’d looking at the extroverts being like I should be more outgoing. But it’s just people being people. And I think managers in a team and people within the team realising that no, I bring this to this team and I think that is perfect…

 “It’s so good having that mix of personality, mix of strengths and weaknesses in the team, like it’s so essential, isn’t it great? Shout out alongside that and like within your study you mentioned it, you mentioned it right at the start actually a topic we both wanted to touch on was burnout in PR and digital PR marketing in general. It’s something you see spoken about a lot. Like you’ve suffered from it, Abi. Was it the catalyst for you doing the study? I’ve had it. We are definitely prone to burnout in the industry. And what? What are the factors that you think play into digital PRs getting burnout and the things that could maybe tip us over?”


0:14:38 – Abi Bennetts

“I think there’s a lot of different factors that play into it. To be honest, I think one of the big ones, which I’ve already touched upon a little bit, is this whole idea of there’s always more to do, or at least that was the thing that I felt really strongly when I was first starting out in my digital PR career. I didn’t really have any boundaries personally around, like no, I’ve done enough for today, like I’ve done that pitching, I could do more pitching, but I don’t have to do more pitching. So that self-directed workload I think is hard to manage if you’ve not been in a job or a role where someone managed that for you. I suppose because I started my career out in a digital PR agency and then have just worked my way up in a couple of different agencies. But I think without that experience of really learning, like no, enough’s enough, I’m logging off, I’m having those boundaries. I found that really really hard to grapple with and I was striving for these results from my clients. I was wanting to progress personally, felt like I was quite ambitious at the time, really wanting to push things at work, but that meant that I didn’t really have that mindset, basically, of being able to switch off, because I always felt like there was more to do. So I think that’s definitely a thing that I now keep in mind, particularly when working with junior members of the team, who might not have had much experience of working in an agency culture. So I’m trying to share my experience and really reiterate that no, enough’s enough. When it hits half five or whatever, it’s time to log off, because that was something I struggled with personally. 

“I think generally high workloads, particularly if you work in an agency. Everyone knows agency life is crazy and that’s what we love about it, but it also does mean that sometimes, particularly in busy periods, it is high workloads and there’s a lot to juggle and there’s lots of different tasks as well, so it’s not like you’re just doing one thing, the same thing every single day. It’s a lot of different things like account management and ideas and pitching and writing, and I think that does actually take quite a toll on your brain. Like I really do get to the end of some weeks, like a busy week, and I just can’t even speak or think and I’m like what’s going on? And then I’m like, oh, if I actually looked back at all the things I’d done that week, it’s not that surprising that like, yeah, your brain just gets exhausted. So I think you do have to factor that in and make sure you have these  protective routines and boundaries around your work-life balance and stuff like that so that you don’t burn out and so that your brain is  protected from not getting worn down by the day-to-day. So yeah, I think that’s like a key one really for a lot of people who are working in agencies in particular. 

“And then there is this concept which I don’t really know how you solve necessarily and you might not agree with this, but I do think there’s something around the agency culture you get so tied into. The emotional element of being in this agency you love, that you really like and respect the people you work with, you want to do well for yourself but you also want to do well for the agency and your colleagues. 

“So I think for me there was like this huge element of guilt, of not doing enough and wanting to people please. So I think that element of it was a real key thing of not feeling like I could log off, when actually it’s that concept of no one’s thinking about what press release you’re writing, they’re just thinking about getting through their own to-do list. So again for me,  getting to grips with that was quite like a key thing and being like nope, it’s all fine you can log off, you’re cool.” 


0:18:24 – Richard Paul

“I so agree with that. I think one of the things for me that I’ve been burned out and I’ve seen burnout and it’s a worry of mine. It’s like you say, you’re working on something, I’m worrying about what other people are thinking of me when comparing to the rest of the team.

“A good agency is filled with people who are great at their jobs at the end of the day. I think it’s natural, especially like you mentioned the personality traits earlier of wanting to please and wanting to do great and you work to be perfect to be like, oh, this person over here is smashing it, so like I’ve got to work harder and it’s so true. 

“I agree with that self-determined workload as well and that real need to call it a day and that and no, to call it a day is, yeah, it’s just so important. I mean, you covered a few of those there, actually, but I just wondered if you had any other like nuggets of advice with people that are struggling or have struggled and obviously, like you say, it can be in peaks and troughs, so it might be a time in the future they get really busy again and would struggle with like burnout and these behaviours of comparison and things like that like. 


0:19:57 – Abi Bennetts

“yeah and it’s something I now take quite seriously, and if I feel like it’s slipping, I do have to have a stern word with myself to be like no, we’ve got to put these things in place because otherwise things are going to get out of hand again. So I’d say one of the biggest things for me is setting rough working times. For a lot of people since Covid, they’ve been able to work flexibly, which I think is amazing and so great and I love it. But I think also having a rough idea of like, okay, I’m going to start at nine, so that means, you know, half five or quarter to six latest, I am logging off and I am doing something else. I think it’s a good way to set boundaries, because if you don’t have that  boundary in place, you could just work till seven because there’s probably stuff that you’re gonna want or need to do. So I think just having an idea of that time, even if you’re saying to your friends or your partner like I’m logging off at half five today, I think is really useful in just getting those boundaries in place for yourself. 

“I schedule my exercise classes quite often for after work, so I have to go. I have to leave the house at half five to get to this exercise class, otherwise they charge me 15 pounds if I don’t turn up. So that’s quite a nice motivator to get everything done on time and regardless. Obviously there are the rare occasions where you have to work late and you have to get something done, but 9.5 times out of 10 you can log off and nothing is that important and you go off to your exercise class. So yeah, I think scheduling something in so you then have to shut down and log off I think is really useful. And then working on your communication around workloads and being able to say no, which is obviously a huge one if you do relate to being a people pleaser and I will say like no one’s gonna hate you for saying no to not writing a press release or saying I don’t actually have time this week, like that’s really gonna stretch me. That is like a normal thing that happens day to day and I know for some people that’s like a huge struggle and it still is something that I struggle with sometimes as well, but I think it’s so key in being able to manage your workload and just feel more comfortable in your day-to-day work life. So I think that’s like a massive one and particularly if you’re just starting out in the industry or in a role, I think it’s a really important skill to have. 

“And then the final thing I would say is to just look for a company which has a good working culture. I think the place that you work and the culture around that communication of mental health and being able to feel like you can take time out or work flexibly or whatever it is when you’re going through a period of low mental health, is so, so important. And I would really say to look to those senior people as well within your organisation to see if they’re setting that good example of like they’re not working till three o’clock in the morning. They are  taking that time to to look after themselves and look after their own mental health. So I think you know, nowhere’s perfect, but I think looking for a company that has those really good  structures in place is so important and will make all the difference, and I do think we’re quite lucky at Propellernet that we do have that, so I do feel very supported in my own mental health at this point in my career, which is really nice that’s great to hear, like great you’re at that place as well, because, yeah, I’ve definitely had that. 


0:23:20 – Richard Paul

“It’s a journey, isn’t it? Especially, I think it can help sometimes when you have maybe worked at a company, it’s not so good, because then you really know you’re like, okay, things are better. It’s a journey to get to the point where you’ve learned a lot about the things that work and don’t work for you, mainly how to manage that. But yeah, it is great to get to a good place with it. 


0:23:41 – Abi Bennetts

“A hundred percent. So you mentioned that obviously you’ve struggled also with stress related mental health challenges in the past. I was wondering if you’d be happy to tell us a bit more about that.” 


0:23:54 – Richard Paul

“Yeah, I’ll try and keep it short because there’s quite a lot to be honest and over, like, I guess, working in the industry or just general life. 

“Over the 35 years I’ve been on the planet, there’s been a lot of them. There is, first and foremost, working at places that are not good for your mental health. I’ve had experiences with those, especially one in particular which I’d say was a particularly low point of my career, and working at a place where it was just really not good for my mental well-being. Like it is you, you know it when you’re in it, you’re like you know it is really having that effect. 

“I was like crying in the shower before work and stuff like that. It was a horrendous thing to go through and actually ended up just I got signed off and then I quit the job. I was just like I cannot do this anymore. So that was definitely a big point. Career wise. 

“That obviously just plays into those stress-related challenges that you have. But then I guess there’s some things with myself generally that have played a part in my career, that I’ve got to a better point with. There’s a few of them. Since I was born, I’ve had eczema and skin related issues. Those things can make you very anxious in terms of being around people at times. 

“Marketing is a role where you’re around a lot of people, especially in an agency, meeting clients and stuff like that. And obviously when you have a skin flare you want to shut yourself off from the world. You don’t want to be present and you don’t want to be around people, so that can really play into the stress and make work harder. I’ve had a lot of that. 

“And then again, probably working in marketing wasn’t the best choice for somebody where I’ve got social anxiety as I mentioned earlier. I’m an introvert. So again in a role where you’re giving presentations, you’re meeting people, you need to make small talk and stuff like that is hard. I’m an anxious person and was a very anxious young person, which obviously added a lot of stress to my day-to-day, because these things would spike that stress and anxiety massively. It was like, I’ve got this big face-to-face meeting coming up. It would just set the jitters in me. It would be really anxiety inducing. It’s a journey to overcome some of those things and to be able to deal with them too. 


0:26:39 – Abi Bennetts

“A hundred percent. Thank you for sharing that and I think it’s very relatable that a lot of people will obviously go through these challenges of anxiety or depression or whatever it is, and then have to show up and be their best selves in front of clients and colleagues and it’s so stressful. So, finding a way to navigate through that is, I think, really challenging. But at the other end I suppose it is possible and you will have those days where you feel super anxious and you just don’t want to talk to anyone. But it is workable and you can work in this  career or role while also going through stuff like that. So you touched upon it before. But do you think you relate to those traits of conscientiousness? Do you think that that has had an influence perhaps on like anxiety levels and the way you think about work and how you show up at work massively?”


0:27:33 – Richard Paul

“And I think, like, like we said earlier, for better and for worse, like, yeah, I don’t. I guess I’ve got to that place where I see it as like there’s been major positives to this. There’s certain things of it I need to deal with. But yeah, I’d like to mention I’d massive the perfectionist side of things massively resonate to me. I mean, like I say about skin issues and like I think just my anxiety is generally when it comes to work, is wanting things to be perfect do you know what I mean. 

“It’s that thing a bit like, oh, I’ve got this flare up and other people throughout my life wouldn’t even notice, but for me it’s like the biggest thing in the world and it is that perfectionism. You go to a meeting, you stumble over one word and then it’s the worst thing ever. Maybe it plays into the perfectionism side of it and just being a massive overthinker as well. And then I’ve managed to find ways to to tackle that, because it’s something that I’ve had trouble with. I mean like after this, I’ll be overthinking what I’ve said, do you know what I mean?” 


0:28:47 – Abi Bennetts

“Oh, 100% yeah. I’m not sleeping tonight. I’m thinking about everything I’ve said, that’s it!” 


0:28:53 – Richard Paul

“But it does come down to that it’s a good thing. It shows that you care and it means something to you. Again it’s just being able to manage that.” 


0:29:12 – Abi Bennetts

“But yeah, I agree. Going back to those personality types, they resonate with me massively and what would you say are the top ways that you try and manage that now in your day-to-day?” 


0:29:24 – Richard Paul

“I think first and foremost it’s just recognising that you’re doing it and being okay with that.

“I think when you come to a place where you recognise that behaviour, I’ll be like mate, you need to calm down, like you’ve done this with other stuff in the past and it’s been totally fine and I think that’s it. Like I say, stumbling over something in a meeting, five, ten years ago, it would eat me up inside, but now I’m just like that’s totally fine and I’m at a place where and I guess that is it if I had my advice it is just being able to realise. I guess that those thoughts are maybe at time’s a bit silly and unwarranted because no one else cares about you stumbling over a single word in a presentation like nobody does.

“And I think it’s just realising some of these thought patterns and maybe they are you at times making a mountain out of a molehill really. You don’t really need to be doing that and just having to  joke with yourself. It’s mindfulness or just just realising that you’re doing things and putting that in a place and being able to think I’m gonna move on from it. I’ve acted like this before. 

“It’s not hurt me, like stumbling or anything like that and I think I guess on the perfectionism, like a lot of the points you made earlier, I would give the same advice too if you find yourself working too late because you feel you need to prove yourself or everything needs to be perfect, you need to find that cut off point and to be you know what is good, like I could spend hours getting into excruciating detail to make this slide the best it can be, or something it’s just not needed, like you do need to be able to move on and call it at some point.” 


0:31:39 – Abi Bennetts

“Totally agree with all of that. And, yeah, I think recognising the thoughts is so important and when you’re in that head space of feeling really anxious or feeling down or whatever it is, you can’t see the woods for the trees. Sometimes it’s so hard to step out of yourself and be like no, this is actually just anxiety, and almost labelling what it is can help so much sometimes. So, yeah, I totally agree with that. When it comes to work now, it sounds like you’ve got tips and tricks and techniques to manage your mental health perhaps a bit more effectively, what would you say? Do you have any red flags that pop up that you’re like, hmm, okay, mental health could be a jeopardy here, like it might be on the downward spiral? What are those red flags that pop up for you?” 


0:32:26 – Richard Paul

“Yeah, there’s a few. I would say well, like a busyness in general, but I put it as like taking too much on either socially or work wise, like you mentioned earlier, I think like the power of saying no is a big thing to be able to learn, because previously, like again going back to being a people pleaser and all of this stuff and wanting to be the best person, or maybe looking to others and being like I need to be, like that would get me to be saying yes to every single possible like social things of work or outside of work even. It’s something I’ve had to learn to get better at. Is that you say yes to all of these things, but for me and my personality type just burns me out so much and yeah, it’s just not good. 

“So, yeah, being able to say no and that and that is a red flag for me. I think, yeah, if I’m like, basically I look at my calendar, I’m like if there’s too many things in a week, I need to drop some of them or say no to some of them.” 


0:33:33 – Abi Bennetts

“Honestly, yeah, I relate to that so much. I think if I look at my calendar and I’m like I’ve got a plan every single night this week, I’m like, hmm, am I feeling OK, I don’t think this is a good thing, but yeah, I think it’s almost like a distraction thing, or for me at least, it’s almost like you want to distract yourself from those like uncomfortable feelings. 

“So I’m like, I’ll just see my favourite people and do fun stuff, when actually I’m so anxious and not good within myself, that it’s not even fun anyway. I think that’s so true and important to be able to be like, no, maybe I should just have like a quiet couple of weeks, lay low, and then I’ll be back to normal, exactly.” 


0:34:16 – Richard Paul

 “There’s loads of opportunities to be like you know what, I don’t need this in my life. It is a red flag where you could burn out if you took on all of these things.

“So the best thing is often to say no. Other things for me as well in my day-to-day currently where there are red flags and I could see myself getting stressed is again too many calls, too many slack messages, things like that, and just trying to manage that. With slack, I just turn it off, get rid of the thing for a little while and and then too many calls. It is being confident enough, I guess, to say like am I needed on this call? Do we need to have this call now? And just questioning it a little bit. If you’re again looking at your calendar and being like I really identify with the memes that are like you’ve got a call in and then the hour or two before the call you were thinking about the call, it’s like yeah, that resonates to me so much. So it’s like, if I look at my day, and especially when I guess there’s calls that are easy and fine, like and they’re nice. 

“But then there are calls or meetings. That would spike the anxiety a bit so it’s like if you’ve got loads in it’s, yeah, I guess, being confident enough to try and manage, manage that really  yeah, I’d say they’re the the red flags. I see there’s obviously loads.” 


0:36:13 – Abi Bennetts

“I’d say that sits outside of just being general red flags in a company, but in my day-to-day and how I guess manage my own stresses, that they would be like key ones for me. I think it’s so interesting and definitely relatable, and it’s on the individual, I suppose, to learn what those red flags are and really be able to recognise that you know a certain behaviour or feeling is actually gonna forebode a turn for the worse. 

“But yeah, I think it’s. It’s very cool that you feel able to communicate now when those red flags come up, that you can take action so that that’s not going to affect your mental health  later down the line. So we touched on it briefly and it’s essentially a bit of a controversial one about the topic around working in environments where you’re not you’re not feeling supported with your mental health and they do exist. Everyone’s worked in an agency where they haven’t particularly felt supported or they’ve felt overloaded with work and had struggles with their mental health. What advice would you give to someone if they are currently working in that environment where they don’t feel supported with their mental health?” 


0:37:19 – Richard Paul

“Yeah, I would say like, number one is to try and identify if there is someone in that workplace that you can talk to about it. Because it’s so important to not bottle it up and just carry on and I think that then would be one of the biggest red flags of a company if you’re, if you’re working somewhere and you don’t feel that there’s anybody you could talk to there like that is. 

“It’s such a red flag for me being like, okay, this is really not a good company if I don’t feel comfortable to talk to anyone about these challenges that I’m having, and so, first and foremost, I’d try and identify somebody that you could talk to. Beyond that, you’ve identified an issue within the company you’re working in and that it’s not fostering great mental health. So obviously, I think this comes down to whether you feel up to it with the challenges that you’re dealing with. But if you are, you could be that catalyst for the change, like you could be the person to speak up and say these things. There’s certain things in the way we’re working that just aren’t good, and you could be the person that helps make that change. 

“So that would be amazing if you are in a company. I know it’s not possible in every single one where it could be a terrible place to work, and you really don’t feel that could happen, but if there’s an opportunity for that and you feel like you could be the voice for that and and you know that other people are probably feeling the same- and amazing and I guess my third and final piece of like advice on on this would be to get out of it. 

“Like and it’s maybe not the best advice, but like I like to say, I’ve had it myself and it was a scary time and because I quit a job, I needed to cover my rent. 

“It could have meant I had to just move out of Brighton and move back home to my parents. Like it was not a great time, but it was like I needed to do that for myself, felt like I could get another job and luckily I did.” 


0:39:17 – Abi Bennetts

“And it’s so cheesy.”


0:39:18 – Richard Paul

“I believe everything happens for a reason. It worked out and I do think, making that leap if something is really not good for you. 

“Yeah, making that leap if something is really not good for you, yeah, and there’s no one you can talk to. There’s no ways you can make it better in that company. Get out of it. Like there’s so many more important things than your work and I totally understand, like it was for me. I needed the money, but you’re way better off than getting into such a dark place where things get even worse. Like I would say, if there’s nothing you can redeem in any way. There’s better companies out there. Leave and so you’ll get. You’ll get something better 100%.” 


0:39:54 – Abi Bennetts

“Yeah, such useful advice I’m sure a lot of people will find valuable. I completely agree. I do think like, yeah, you need the money and sometimes when you’re so wrapped up in that work, I think your whole identity and personality can become like what you are and who you are at work. So leaving that, particularly when you don’t have anything lined up, which was very similar experience that I had, is so terrifying. But there will always be something new and something that’s better placed for you or better suited for you. So, yeah, I think that’s better placed for you or better suited for you. So, yeah, I think that’s really really great advice. 

“So, just thinking about living with mental health struggles sometimes and there’s these things within work that can be really stressful and anxiety inducing, but are actually really important for our growth. And, yeah, just great experiences that might feel like they’re spiking your anxiety or your stress or  a risk to your mental health, but are a great experience. Do you have any examples of these that you’ve been through in your career to date?” 


0:40:59 – Richard Paul

“Yeah, definitely. I mean I guess one for me, like thinking about social anxiety and things like that is public speaking, like it was a big side, and I think work life in general, like a lot of jobs, have it where it was, one that I really early days was not into, wanted to avoid and everything like that, but was something at the same time I was up for. I’d love it if I could feel comfortable doing that. So that’s a situation for me where I did end up putting myself out there, did my first public speaking thing and I would say, like my advice here for anyone who feels the same is to do it in a way that’s comfortable for you.. 

“So I guess a weird element for me is that I feel more anxious with people I know in the audience. So I chose a speaking opportunity where no one I knew would be there, so it’s just completely me. So if it all went wrong, it was just for me and an audience of about 100 people, so it’s a decent size audience. But I took that on and so happy I did. So I remember, my first job out of Uni, I got asked just to do a talk in front of five people and I outright refused, I could not do it. 

“But have got to the point where I wanted to speak in front of 100 people. It’s a journey to get there, but I would say to put yourself out there and go for it, because the benefits I then got from it it going well were really good. I got loads of good feedback and I’ve done it since and I’ve continued to progress on that to a point where I’m at a good place where I’d happily do it. I’d still get anxious about it, but it’s a side of my role in my life that I feel good about now. 

“So I definitely think, while there’s these anxieties and work and and stresses that need to be managed, I do think at times like putting yourself out there and doing something that is outside of your comfort zone can pay massive dividends and and I really saw that with doing that first speaking role.”


0:43:06 – Abi Bennetts

“Well, I think we’ve come to the end of the podcast. It’s been such a great discussion, covered so much around the topic of mental health in the digital PR industry. Before we sign off, I wanted to ask you what your top number one tip would be for managing stress in the digital PR world?” 


0:43:26 – Richard Paul

“I guess one thing I would say is and you mentioned it earlier, Abi, is to get a distraction, like when it comes to work as well. Like because I do think other people might disagree with this, but I think in life, work is great, it’s hugely important, but it should not be the number one thing in your life. And I think one thing that can just really help take the edge off of stress and this feeling of needing to always prove yourself, comparing yourself to others and working really late is having some  distraction. So whether that’s a little side hustle, taking up a new hobby for me and I didn’t get the little guy because of this, but was having a dog. The second I got a pet I don’t feel like I’m tied to my desk. Having an extra element to your life, whatever that is outside work that you can think about, that you can shut your laptop and go on to think about, that I just think can make things so much easier and really take a lot of the weight off you. Like I say, I didn’t get a dog for that reason, but I’ve just taken a lot of the weight off just because there’s another thing in my life I’ve got I care about and I’ve got to put my mind to, so everything isn’t just solely centred on on work, and I think that just massively helps manage stress. You’ve given loads of great advice. What would yours be?”


0:45:22 – Abi Bennetts

“I think that’s great advice. By the way, I think one takeaway people should take from this is if you want to have good mental health, get a dog. I think my number one tip is something that Kirsty Hulse said that the times where you feel the most that you can’t take a break, are the times where you should take a break the most. 

“So what that means is when you’re having a super, busy, stressful day, back-to-back calls, lots of work to do, and you’re thinking I just can’t take a lunch break, I’m just going to work through my lunch break. Those are the times where you need the break the most, and it feels so counterintuitive for me to go out on my little lunchtime walk, get a nice coffee, saunter around for 45 minutes when I’ve got like the most wild to-do list waiting for me back at home. But every single time I’ve done that, my stress, anxiety, mental health has been so much better for it, and I’m also way more productive after having done that as well, because I often find on those days, that is when I’m most likely to spiral and feel, you know really  bad and get really anxious. And that’s when you know your work suffers for it as well. So, yeah, I always try and keep that tip in mind and would recommend that for anyone experiencing a stressful day.” 


0:46:48 – Richard Paul

“I could not agree more with that. And yeah, so that brings us to the end of the podcast. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll be back soon with another episode of the Digital PR Podcast.”