Surveys Show Pandemic Burnout Hitting TV Journalists and Advertising

man experiencing burnout, head on hand, string at laptop

Whether you produce news segments or the advertising in-between, your industry is suffering from significant burnout, two recent surveys found.

Researchers at College of Social Work (CoSW) Self-Care Lab at the University of Kentucky conducted a national survey of nearly 2,000 broadcast journalists’ self-care practices as COVID-19 has come to dominate lead stories they work on, in addition to their personal lives.

In a survey of over 1,300 marketing, PR and advertising employees and a subsequent report, market research firm Bastion db5 in partnership with agency vet Tim Anderson, found top stressors included work-life balance, job security, ageism and fair pay.

The CoSW journalist survey focused specifically on pandemic-caused burnout, while Bastion db5 and Anderson’s research honed in on more long-term employee dissatisfaction in the advertising industry.

Unsurprisingly, 93 percent of television journalists said they have covered stories related to COVID-19. A correlation between self-care and COVID coverage is likely. “The majority of participants engaged in moderate levels of self-care before the pandemic, but their self-care routines significantly decreased during COVID-19,” a release from the University of Kentucky read. The survey asked respondents to rank their level of self-care both professionally and personally; their “professional” self-care scores were on average lower than “personal.”

The university’s CoSW researchers used survey results to offer recommendations to the exhausted journalists working with tighter budgets and smaller newsrooms even before the pandemic compounded downsizing. Jay Miller, dean of the CoSW argued that the survey findings indicate “we must ensure that journalists are supported in the work that they do—that includes fostering work environments conducive to practicing self-care.”

What does increased journalist burnout mean for PR pros? For reporters you’re on a first-name basis with, consider simply checking in, as you may already be doing with friends and family. In terms of newer media relationships, it might be worth taking a more patient and measured approach; sending one follow-up email instead of two, for example. For cold outreach, ask what you can do to make a reporter's job easier before you pitch—whether it’s providing quick access to an exclusive source, sending a link to high-quality visual assets, or confirming the journalist’s preferred format.

Lest we forget professional communicators and marketers are also burning the candle at both ends, the Bastion db5 survey respondents saw their industry as one with little upward movement, stuck in workplace practices of the past—60 percent of respondents don’t think their company is “evolving with the times to meet employee needs” quickly enough.

Half of the C-suite executives responding to the survey believed that they were doing much better at addressing employee concerns, compared to 24 percent of employees that felt the same. Some respondents described feeling “demoralized” and “anxious,” and 44 percent did not feel their company provided a clear path to raises or promotions. In response to these findings, the survey's authors encouraged agency executives to “consider how your firm can support [employees’] personal evolution in positive ways,” as well as ensuring pitches and client needs do not override annual reviews and professional development.

The bottom line: Journalists and professional communicators are experiencing burnout, stress and low morale. Being more attuned to the needs and experiences of those on the either side of the camera may help to alleviate whiplash, and hopefully help us all slow down and take a breath—yes, despite the ever-increasing pace of the 24-hour news cycle.

Sophie is senior content manager at PRNEWS. Follow her @SophieMaerowitz.