PR Roundup: Chestnut and Nathan’s Divorce, PR Job Stress, 2024 State of PR

Joey Chestnut & George Shea mark JULY 4 2016 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest centennial

This week's PR Roundup looks at a teachable influencer moment from Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs and Joey Chestnut, the current state of PR pros mental health and Muck Rack's latest State of PR report.

Joey Chestnut and Major League Eating's Endorsement Confusion

What happened: One of summer’s all-American traditions may never be the same. 

On June 11 competitive eater Joey Chestnut and Major League Eating, organizer of the July 4 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, chose to part ways. Chestnut, the 16-time Hot Dog Eating Contest champion, accepted an endorsement deal with Impossible Foods, home of vegan links. 

George Shea, host and promoter of the annual in Coney Island contest, told The New York Times that Chestnut’s partnership just didn’t work. 

“It would be like back in the day Michael Jordan coming to Nike, who made his Air Jordans, and saying, ‘I am just going to rep Adidas too,’” Shea said. “It just can’t happen.”

Shea also said Nathan’s and Major League Eating couldn’t support a competitor “advertising a rival hot dog brand,” however they were open to welcoming Chestnut back if the deal fell through.

The Times reached out to Impossible Foods who declined to comment, and Chestnut could not be reached. 

Communication takeaways: This, for many brands and organizations, should be a teachable moment—a classic conflict that can come from utilizing influencers. 

Jessica Spar, SVP, Head of Social Media and Influencer Marketing, KWT Global, says the situation underscores the complexities of working with talent deeply associated with a brand, and the importance of agreement terms. 

“While it is important to recognize and appropriately compensate the influence that an individual like Joey Chestnut can wield—something Nathan's was prepared to do—it's equally crucial to ensure adherence to agreement terms such as exclusivity, which safeguards brand integrity,” Spar says. 

She also notes the importance of not only meeting the talent’s needs but the brand’s mission as well.

“Communicators must navigate these partnerships carefully, striking a balance that meets both parties' needs without compromising on the brand’s strategic objectives or the success of the event,” Spar says. “This delicate balance is essential in leveraging talent's influence while maintaining the brand's values and the trust of the audience.”

Robert Vaccola, Public Relations Assistant at Next PR, says that while viewers may miss the tradition of Chestnut, they shouldn’t blame Nathan’s for sticking to the terms communicated to all participants. 

“Brands need to make sure all influencer agreements are clearly communicated in writing, while also making sure influencers are holding up their end of the bargain,” Vaccola says. “Brands should create influencer “briefing sheets” that clearly outline key information and agreed on terms to help get all involved parties on the same page and avoid similar mishaps.”

Vaccola also notes it might create some new opportunities for Nathan’s, Major League Eating and the event. 

“While it’s unclear if Chestnut and Nathan’s can come to an agreement on the champion’s return, it may be the perfect opportunity for another star to rise—as long as they stick to the contract.”

Handling PR Job Stress

What happened: According new survey results released by Prowly, a platform for PR efficiency, 92% of communicators say work-related stress has negatively impacted their mental health. The study also uncovered unique challenges across genders and job settings, and offered insights for developing better stress management strategies in the industry.

The study is part of Prowly’s “Perfectly Imperfect PR Pros” campaign, which looks at mental health in PR and strives to turn stress into progress. 

Key findings in the survey include: 

  • Predicting outcomes, securing media coverage and proving PR value are the top overwhelming tasks for communicators. 
Chart of Most Overwhelming Tasks for PR Pros
  • 43% of respondents said open communication and media education with clients and stakeholders were seen as key to improving the PR work environment.
  • Respondents often feel stressed at work, with the most common response indicating stress several times a week (38%).
  • Nearly half of respondents say hiring more specialists and increasing budgets could reduce job stress.

Find more results from the survey here

Communications takeaways: PR frequently ranks as one of the most stressful jobs on the planet, so it’s not a huge surprise to see these results. However, more organizations seek to prioritize mental health and wellness amongst employees, so they can bring their best self to their jobs. 

Corina Leslie, PR Manager at ZeroBounce, says much of that stress can come from the results and actions of others.

“Few other industries are as fast-paced as the media, and the constant connectivity further accelerates this dynamic,” says Leslie. “So much of our work in PR depends on other people—mainly journalists—so our lifestyle reflects theirs. I can spend hours researching and pitching, but that doesn’t guarantee my story gets coverage. It takes a toll on my mental health. But then something great happens, we get that dopamine hit, and get back to it the next day.” 

Jessica Whidt, Managing Director, Warner Communication, says without the right skills, early-career burnout is a common occurrence. 

“On many occasions throughout my career, I have worked nearly 24/7 for days at a time and managed communication in extremely sensitive situations, including individual safety, loss of life, and substantial operational disruptions,” Whidt says. “Early in my career, these incidents would burn me out mentally and emotionally, impacting my personal relationships and overall mental health. Over time, I developed skills to help manage stress and maintain more emotional distance from work. The first step (as with many things in life) was just acknowledging that it was affecting me—that I wasn’t emotionally invincible.”

Whidt picked up hobbies to remove her from checking email including kayaking, adopting a dog, meditation and starting regular talk therapy.  

“Not one of these things was a magic bullet fix, but combined with other self-care practices, they collectively created “safe spaces” for me to decompress,” she says. 

Muck Rack Releases 2024 State of PR

What happened: Last week, Muck Rack released its 2024 State of PR Report, which surveyed more than 1100 communicators and found out some good and bad news. The good—88% of respondents feel leadership understands their work. The sort-of bad—half of PR pros report a lack of sufficient resources as a top concern, however, most expect their budgets to stay the same or increase over the next year.

Other key findings:

  • Two-thirds say their workplace has at least a moderate amount of diversity; but over half report little to no diversity in leadership.
  • More than half of PR pros work over 40 hours per week, a 9% decrease from last year, and the average salary is $84,000.
  • 44% think companies should focus on integrating AI tools into their workflow—that’s up 13% from 2023.
  • Half of PR pros say LinkedIn is the social media platform they value most: 61% plan to spend more time on it and 84% use it in social and communication strategies.

Communications takeaways: Getting leadership to understand just exactly what it is PR does, and the value it brings to an organization, has always been a concern for brands. Thankfully it looks like an understanding of the need for PR has been on the upswing. 

“It’s always been a challenge for communicators to showcase the value of earned media, but we’ve seen a shift in recent years as leadership's understanding and appreciation of PR, and its impact on a company’s bottom line grows,” sayd Gregory Galant, cofounder and CEO at Muck Rack.

“Companies need to continue investing in building a strong communications function to ensure the right messages are reaching their target audiences, that they're maintaining a positive brand reputation, and that employees are supported through strategic internal communication.”

Nicole Schuman is Managing Editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal