As someone who got his career start working in public relations agencies, I’m very aware of how crazy things can get when multiple deadlines are looming and all resemblance of work-life balance get thrown out the window.
When you’re juggling 20+ clients on one hand and even more journalists on the other, it can be tricky to sit down and reflect on how well you’re doing with balance in your life.
Having said that, I’m very fortunate to know a number of highly talented and successful PR & communications professionals who were nice enough to have a chat with me about how they manage to achieve work-life balance in their very busy worlds.
Greer Quinn // Managing Director of Forward Communications
I’m quite structured and unstructured at the same time. Ideally, I like to start the day with a 6am hot yoga class. Next best option is a 5:15am boot camp class or jog before I get the kids up and off to school.
My working day begins with a chai tea while I check emails, news of the day and social media, while responding to anything urgent.
I schedule my deeper “thinking” or creative work earlier in the morning. This tends to take the form of writing stories, strategies, scripts or developing tailored workshops.
From mid-morning to midday, I attend meetings with clients or collaborators and conduct recorded phone interviews. During the afternoon, I’ll do admin, edit and submit quotes/proposals.
If I’m catching up with one of my freelance creatives, I try to make it a “walking meeting”, whether they’re with me in-person or on the phone.
Damien Pashby // Group Account Director at Ogilvy
Generally, I’m up at 5am for breakfast and to check in on emails from overnight then into the gym by 5:30am. From there it’s off to office and starting work between 7:30 and 8am with coffee in hand.
My days in the office are quite varied with no two days same. Working hours are generally spent in meetings – it’s an unfortunate reality of the industry and especially being a suit.
Either taking a brief or presenting creative work to clients, briefing or reviewing work with our creative teams, workshops, production reviews, project status meetings or simply catching up with our client leads to discuss the state of their business.
There’s a fair bit of travel throughout the day from office to office, so time spent in Ubers is really just a chance to catch up on the most urgent emails (and checking in on NBA scores).
When 5pm or 5:30pm hits, my focus shifts onto the rest of the emails that have stacked up throughout the day.
Whilst this can easily drag into the night, I really try to be out of the office by 6:30 or 7pm and straight home to my wife so we can walk our little Staffy, Luther together at a decent hour.
Evenings are generally spent with a bit of dual screening, Netflix on the TV and scanning emails on the phone and a worn-out dog encroaching on my personal space.
Michelle Palmer // Co-Founder & Director at Modern Currency
My day is so varied, every single day.
Kick off with a new client meeting where we strategise the best marketing communications tactics to take which suit the business best, then I will spend an hour setting up some digital conversions ads for a client on social media channels.
I’ll approve invoices, I’ll answer calls with clients and team members, review our profit and loss and check our budgeting, pay some bills, chat with my business partner (and friend) about our future company marketing or just laugh about something random.
Take a call from a client who I love who makes me laugh about something they’ve experienced that day, tidy up the kitchen (Grrr! Does every workplace have kitchen gripes?!) drink coffee (mmm coffee!), speak to my husband about what we will eat for dinner, read and reply to emails, write and proof some contracts.
That is my day!
Caroline La Rose // Program Director at Hotwire
I wake up at 6am, quickly skim through my work emails and Slack to see if anything needs urgent actioning. Next I’ll do a news sweep and flag anything relevant to the team. I then quickly make a to-do list mentally while I’m still lying in bed, it helps me get prepared for the day ahead.
My kids usually wake up at around 6.15am and that’s when I go into uninterrupted mommy-mode for the next 45mins. I feed them breakfast, get them ready for daycare while I get ready for work.
I leave the house at around 7am. Depending on my workload, I usually use my 1-hour commute to do some emails, check my calendar for any meetings, write down my to-do list by order of priority and get some work stuff out of the way.
I’m usually in the office by 8.45am. I make myself a cup of tea and ‘eat the frog’, whatever that might be – a quarterly PR plan for a client, a thought leadership article, or a new business response to brief.
I’m more productive and focused in the morning, procrastination gives me anxiety.
Between 11am and noon, I’m usually in meetings (internals as well as client meetings and/or calls) and I assist the team with various requests for help, support or advice.
By midday, I’m usually starving, so I grab lunch – trying very hard to bring my lunch every day. Eight times out of 10, you’ll find me eating at my desk only because that’s the only time I have to get menial/life-admin tasks done such as booking my son’s swimming lessons, sending the grocery list to my husband etc.
I generally use my afternoons for client work, business management related tasks and planning for my next day’s meetings.
As much as possible I try to leave the office by 5.30pm, unless I have late calls with Europe-based clients. Once home, I help my husband get the kids ready for bed, have dinner and unwind.
Ngaire Moyes // Senior Director, Brand Marketing and Communications at LinkedIn
Given the international nature of my role, I do a fair bit of travelling around the region and also to our California HQ in the US. When I’m in London and working from the office on a Monday, I commute in, and once there, a typical day would involve grabbing some breakfast from our café, before settling down to the day’s work.
This might include a meeting with my EA to review my schedule for the week ahead, a staff meeting with my direct reports many of whom are based in different countries and dial in via video conference to discuss the key priorities for the week.
From there my day might include a review of our social impact strategy for example, an interview with a candidate for a role on the team, a monthly global brand team meeting to review the latest creative for a campaign we have coming out soon, a quick catch up on a live PR issue and hopefully a bit of time to respond to email.
If I’m lucky I might finish my day off with a cardio dance glass at the gym (which always puts me in a great mood!) before commuting home, having a late dinner with my husband and some very brief time with my kids to hear about their day before getting them off to bed. I might get an hour of Netflix before bed or respond to a bit more email.
Ashleigh Bonica // Senior Account Executive at Edelman
It sounds cliché but it’s very hard to describe what a day is like as everyday can be so different. If my day isn’t swamped with meetings, I’ll usually spend the morning creating a to-do list and going through emails to ensure I can have a productive a day as possible.
I’ll usually then follow this with drafting and sending out tailored pitches to media. If we get great feedback on a story, most of my day can be spent liaising with media and organizing the logistics for interviews with our client spokesperson.
More recently, I’ve been planning for an event, so my day usually consists of collaborating with influencer talent managers to create briefs and concepts, liaising with the event manager to confirm all the logistics for the event space, working with my team to ensure briefs, guest lists, props are all under control and then of course, cross checking the budget!
Rebecca O’Rourke // Executive Director of Communications at KWP!
It’s starts early, usually with my four-year-old acting as my alarm clock! I am then into my first round of stakeholder negotiations with the kids, doing the working parent wrangle and getting them ready and off to school.
At KWP, there is never a dull moment and no two days are the same, and that’s just how I like it.
Often, I have meetings in the morning with my team and clients and then spend the rest of the day planning workflow, overseeing new business pitches, creative brainstorming and working with the wider teams on communications strategies.
I check in with our clients, discuss proactive ideas, and ensure we are delivering our communications plans and outcomes. The day may end with a client or networking event and then I’m off home to put the kids to bed and prepare for the next day.
Jaime Nelson // Managing Director – Strategy & Marketing Services at Hotwire
A typical day in my life involves waking up at 5am and heading to the gym . Exercise allows me to take the time to reflect and set myself up for the day ahead. I then drive my two kids to school which is an absolute priority. This time is spent connecting with the humans who love me unconditionally and keep me up to date with pop culture!
I travel one hour each way for work so in the car I am usually listening to a podcast or making phone calls.
I’m definitely a morning person so I try to plan super brain-intensive activities at the beginning of my day.
For example, these may include business strategy meetings, client proposals, staff 1:1 catch-ups and client meetings. By the afternoon, I am starting to slow down a little and spend my time focusing on keeping the agency ‘machine’ up and running.
Ishtar Schneider // Account Director (Health) at Edelman London
As you know, there isn’t really a “typical” day in the life of an agency PR person – that’s one of the things I love about our industry, it always keeps me on my toes!
My days usually start with a podcast on the commute into the office – I’ve been loving some Radiolab ones and The Dropout about the rise and fall of the Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes.
Then it really depends on what campaigns we have on at the minute – I might be:
- working with my team to sell in a story about research into the benefits of horseback riding therapy for children with autism
- working on a creative approach to drive increased awareness and action on diseases like tuberculosis
- showcasing healthcare innovation in Africa.
I’m also involved in the Edelman diversity and inclusion (D&I) task force – about 25 different representatives from across the London office – who are helping drive forward our initiatives that aim to make our agency more open and inclusive for people from all walks of life.
We have some great initiatives in place and it’s been really inspiring to see leadership “walk the walk” – I was incredibly impressed to see one of my colleagues receive a promotion while on maternity leave.
My team is about 50 people so it’s a really fun, collaborative environment to be a part of. My afternoons are usually the best time to regroup with my US-based teams and clients – so I’m usually on a number of Skype calls keeping things moving.
Julia Schembri // Head of Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability at Kimberly-Clark
Wake. Coffee. Chaos. I’m winning when the coffee comes before the chaos! More often than not, the day starts with me negotiating outfits and shoe options with my 4 year old daughter, while getting my 2 year old into her clothes and a fresh nappy (Huggies of course!).
Daycare drop off is touch and go – sometimes tears and clinging, sometimes kisses and smiles. The latter always means a better start to my work day. I drop the car back at home, breathe, then enjoy my 7 minutes of exercise for the day (gulp!) as I walk to the bus stop.
My 40 minute bus journey on my way to work is kid-free bliss – scanning emails and the news headlines of the day. I get to Milsons Point, take another deep breath in as I take in the amazing view of Sydney Harbour, feel thankful for where I work and then get stuck into the day.
Meetings about overnight issues, a conference call with the global sustainability team about new initiatives, a brainstorming session with my team planning content for our internal and communications external channels.
The end of the day is always a mad rush to finish what I’m working on and get on the bus for home. I use this time to think about what I achieved and start my list for the next day. The ‘welcome home mama’ hugs are most definitely the highlight of the day.
My husband has sorted dinner by the time I walk in. Then the chaos begins again – eat, play, bath, books, bed, breathe again, a token tidy up of the house, then crash onto the couch. One last look of the emails for the day. Relax.
Before you go…
If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here.
If you never want to miss one of our conversations about work, life & balance, subscribe to our newsletter.