With Memorial Day signifying the start of summer, engage in a bit of nostalgia. Try to remember when PR pros, and others, would go on summer vacations and detach completely from everyday life. At one time, being out of reach was part of the romance of travel. A really big part.
Now, it seems, most of us not only check in, we chronicle our vacations. As PR pros, we're conditioned to see everything through a storyteller’s lens. Plus, for us, a requirement of the job involves staying on top of trending topics. Breaking that mindset is difficult. Try. A recent survey put "PR executive" in the top ten of the most stress-producing jobs in America. Taking a real break is critical to maintaining productivity. Unfortunately, far too many of us fail to use all of our allotted vacation days.
A suggestion that might make whatever vacation time you take more effective: fight the connection urge and commit to powering off your phone. Maybe you disconnect just before your plane takes off. Wait until you get home to turn on the phone again. Far easier said than done, I know. Here are tips that might help:
Pre-plan. Start letting colleagues and contacts know at least one week out that you're going away. That gives them time to address anything they need before you go. Also make sure there’s one person on the team who has your whereabouts in case of a true emergency. Use that single point of contact on your out-of-office email and phone messages.
Break in case of emergency. OK, this may seem radical, but here goes: leave your phone in the hotel room safe. Turn it on only if necessary. For example, your husband gets too far ahead of you on a trip. You can't find each other. Go back to the hotel, power up your phone and text him. I admit, it will take self-control not to open any apps or check email as you wait for him to respond. But it’s also reassuring to know you can access social media and email if an issue occurs.
Bring reading material. There may be moments on your vacation when you need a distraction. The phone is an ideal distraction, of course. So are books. I read an entire book during the course of several flights to/from vacation recently. Amazing, right? Reading something unrelated to work may spark creativity. After all, much of what we do as communicators involves crafting a great narrative.
Don't Show or Tell
Keep it to yourself. As PR pros, we’re conditioned to think about experiences. Similarly, we think about how an experience translates into a social post or two. This mindset conditions how we, and others, travel. For example, in Spain, I saw tourists posing for pictures as though they were on the set of a fashion shoot (read: Insta-worthy), rather than admiring the stunning architecture. We talk a lot about authenticity in PR. Sharing before experiencing is akin to buying a souvenir the moment you arrive in a new destination, or tweeting an article before reading it.
Be present. During the Spain trip one person in our group was wearing a GoPro camera and recording the guide as he taught us about the local delicacies we devoured. About halfway through, the guide said, “Are you recording everything? I feel like you’re gonna go home and check all my facts!” If you’re like me, you take a ton of notes and photos every time you’re at an event or a conference. When on vacation, though, resist the urge to internalize every detail. We aren’t headed back to the office to write a news release or a presentation.
Give your busy mind a week of rest and you may just be reminded why it's important to take time off. Or at least why we used to.
After I returned from Spain, I actually dreamed about work (in a good way) and awoke with several creative ideas. One was a headline that now appears on a website. Would that have happened if I stayed connected on vacation?
Rosemary Ostmann is president/CEO of Rosecomm. Follow her at: @rosecomm