This Thanksgiving, PR Pros Should Embrace The Break

Thanksgiving morning, 1998. I rolled out of bed, stumbled down the hall, and fired up the desktop PC. A few minutes later, the sweet buzz and crackle of the 28.8-modem indicated I was online.

While the rest of the country’s thoughts turned to the Macy’s parade, football and stuffing, my sights were set on launching a sound card to the gaming community—a few keystrokes started the PR industry’s first blog-centric campaign.

It seems I was a bit ahead of my time. Twenty-four years ago the thought of voluntary remote work on a holiday was unheard of. This Thursday, most PR pros likely are reaching for their phones before a coffee, automatically checking email and robotically pulling up a dozen social accounts.

Sorry to have been part of the generation that started this. My “The Big Lebowski”-watching, “Destiny’s Child”-listening fresh-faced self never would have imagined us working as much or intensely as we do today.

Nor would have my we’ve all re-centered ourselves during a global pandemic—never again self. Yet, here we are.

PR and Stress

Any number of surveys and loosely constructed studies name PR pro as one of the most stressful jobs. In many cases, we bring it on ourselves—there’s a love of trying to tame the chaos. Although we can’t completely control the world around us, we can choose how to respond.

Some turn to working up a sweat. At the recent PRSA International Conference in Fort Worth, TX, the hotel gym was full at 6 a.m. It was a ghost town 90 minutes later.

Others look to mindless on-screen entertainment, even if that behavior binds us even more to our digital masters.

Here’s another option that’s about a quarter century overdue. Throw it back, press pause and put our professional lives aside for a few days. Let’s embrace the turkey break.

Even a single day’s rest brings physical and emotional healing. It reduces stress and has been shown to boost moods. Toss in a healthy dose of creativity gains and post-respite productivity gains, and it’s a wonder we don’t build in restorative periods more often.

Hiding is OK

Do me a favor. Relocate your email's Out-of-Office function (I swear, it still exists), type in something pithy and make sure it kicks in with plenty of time to spare. Ask your roommate, spouse, or better yet, a devious child, to hide your laptop for 24 hours. You can keep your phone, but spend copious time in that corner of your house where the cell carrier and Wi-Fi gods have conspired to deny you service. It’s OK to hide.

I hear what you’re whispering. “But, Mike, I’m too important to my organization to go off the grid.” No, you’re not. Even Walmart is remaining closed, for the third Thanksgiving in a row. If it can give up millions in brick-and-mortar revenue, you can hang it up for the same amount of time.

Growing up, I’d spend this special time of year among my small family in the far reaches of northern New York. My sisters and I watched the snow fall and listened as grandmother expounded on how it was impossible to stay awake after indulging in a few gravy-laden slices of her slow-roasted bird.

And while that tryptophan-ingesting tale won’t stand up to modern science, I’m choosing to willfully ignore the truth. Nothing looks as good as a late-afternoon, post-meal nap this Thursday...with no phone, email and worries, if only for a few blissful hours.

Give thanks to all that has made your life like no one else’s. Yet give yourself a little gratitude, too. You deserve it. Unplug and unwind and I’ll see you on the other side.

Mike McDougall, APR, Fellow PRSA, FAAO, is president of McDougall Communications , contact him (mike@mcdougallpr.com) for a sample of out-of-office auto-replies sure to bring a laugh but not the dreaded “if urgent” text

[Editor's Note: Enjoy more of Mike McDougall's Thanksgiving columns, including 2 in 2020, here: 2020, 2020, 2019]