While it’s true that most adults keep up with the news in various ways, psychologists have been noting a surge in news-related stress.
Enter the phenomenon of ‘doomscrolling,’ where being continually exposed to bad news can negatively impact mental health.
To combat this, some experts recommend limiting news consumption to just one block of time per day for improved mental wellbeing.
That’s great advice for the average Joe, but for PR professionals, reading the news is our livelihood.
How else can we keep our finger on the pulse of trends and breaking stories without diving deep into daily news?
This World Mental Health Day, let’s explore how PRs can beat news-induced nervousness and safeguard our mental health while excelling in our craft, as well as how we can avoid contributing to the problem as an industry…
Acknowledge Negativity Bias
It’s no secret that bad news sells.
The if it bleeds, it leads mentality that has long dominated the newsroom only feels more and more prevalent in today’s news cycle.
Just take a look at some recent headlines:
One recent study confirmed the bad news sells theory by comparing the click-through rate of negatively worded to positively coded headlines. The results found each additional negative word in an average-length headline boosted the click-through rate by 2.3 percent.
With such a sharp increase in clickability, it’s clear why publishers are putting out more negative content. But why are we as readers drawn to bad news knowing it stresses us out?
It could be that humans are simply wired to be more receptive to bad news. Psychologists believe we may have a predisposed negativity bias that makes us pay more attention to negative information than positive.
Understanding this, we PR experts might find ourselves tempted to ride the wave of negativity in the hopes of increased media coverage.
Yet, finding harmony between negative and positive narratives not only preserves our mental well-being but also casts our clients in a favourable light.
After all, who wants to pen gloomy articles every day?
See Through the Headline
Any PR will tell you headlines are designed to be attention-grabbing to secure the most clicks. Usually, this means tapping into readers’ emotions, be it fear, anger, surprise and – occasionally – joy.
But over-sensationalising stories for clicks can easily lead to fearmongering with just one inflammatory headline.
As PRs, it’s our job to see through the tricks of the trade and recognise that what often makes a great eye-catching headline is not always the full story. Especially when it comes to generating reactive work off the back of trending news stories.
Instead of blindly accepting headlines as gospel truth, it’s our responsibility to conduct our own due diligence. We don’t want to be accidentally linking our clients with incorrect information, nor should we be fuelling the fire of headline hysteria for other PRs.
It’s equally important we lead by example and headline our articles to be informative and factual as well as emotive.
We can’t always control how a journalist will interpret and tweak our content, but we should aim to avoid sensationalising our own work from the outset.
Limit Social Media Time
Social media is an invaluable tool for digital PRs to seek out the latest trends.
But we all know just how addictive social media can be. Some experts even consider the addictive nature of excessive social media comparable to substance abuse.
And particularly if you’re searching for trends or topics outside of working hours, it can be tricky to turn off the part of your brain that just can’t stop scrolling.
However, according to mental health charity Mind, looking at your social media for prolonged periods can heighten anxiety and depression and can even cause difficulty sleeping.
Navigating the fine line between staying receptive to ideas and switching off completely can be a bit of a juggling act for us PR pros. Sometimes, those lines blur and you catch yourself activating your PR brain when all you wanted was to unwind and relax.
One trick I’ve learnt for myself is to keep a note section on my phone of any potential ideas, particularly when looking at social media.
While I won’t actively seek ideas outside of my working hours, if I happen to stumble upon a great idea during my leisurely social media scrolling, I’ll make sure to jot down a quick note for myself to review when I’m back at my desk.
PRs may also want to consider setting up separate, work-focused social media accounts to encourage a better work/life balance. Use these work accounts to flag media requests and scour relevant trends without impacting your personal feeds.
Establish Working Boundaries
Following on from this, PRs should consider setting firmer professional boundaries where possible to aid mental wellbeing.
Screaming Frog is proud to respect the work/life balance of its employees and strongly discourages work outside of office hours, giving us frogs a much-needed rest after a busy day of consuming news.
Make self-care a non-negotiable part of your routine. Schedule regular breaks throughout the day to stretch, take a walk and simply get away from the news for a while.
Amidst all the doom and gloom portrayed in the news, it’s crucial to remind yourself that the world isn’t solely about negative headlines. So, consider taking the time to incorporate quick mindfulness exercises which can help you stay grounded, maintain a positive outlook and ultimately reduce stress.
Remember, a balanced and refreshed mind is more effective and creative in the fast-paced world of digital PR.