Today, mental health awareness is at an all-time high worldwide. Even before the pandemic, there seemed to be an increasing number of people who were more open to address and start conversations on mental health issues. One of the most frequently talked-about mental health topic is mental well-being in workplaces. Work is an integral part of adult life, but also a common source of stress for many of us. In order to gain a further, more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between work (in particular, PR work) and our mental health, PRCA APAC had recently published the very first report on mental health.

Between 21 July and 16 August, PRCA Asia Pacific worked with YouGov to survey PR and communications professionals across the Asia Pacific region. A total of 1,187 responses were received from practitioners in Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Below are some of the more important findings we’ve gathered from the report.

Our workplace has a significant influence on our mental health

When asked how much influence the respondents think their workplaces have on their overall mental health, 46% indicated ‘Moderate influence’ whereas 34% indicated ‘Strong influence’. High workload and long hours were the top 2 factors identified as potential triggers of poor mental well-being at work. Practitioners who work extra hours experience a knock-on effect and as a result, they struggle to do things that can be conducive to positive physical and mental health.

Damaging effects of overworking in pandemic times

Overworking, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, prove to be damaging to the respondents’ mental health. Nearly half (48%) of survey respondents report that they are going through a particularly stressful period in their life, with 45% disagreeing, and 7% choosing not to answer that question. It is also worrying to see that in the last 12 months, many of the region’s PR professionals have experienced trouble with sleep, anxiety, feelings of social disconnection or similar.

Identifying mental health issues

On a more reassuring note, the report shows that majority of the region’s PR professionals are confident in being able to identify mental health issues, and are comfortable talking to colleagues about such problems. Overall, 62% agree that they are ‘very well-informed and educated about mental health’ – another 10% disagree, and the remainder are unsure.

Confiding in our colleagues about our mental health state

Out of the 71% of people who had discussed their mental health with one or more colleague in the past year, younger age groups were found to be more likely to have spoken about their mental state to someone at work. Majority of respondents (64%) indicated that it would be likely for them to talk to a colleague if they were faced with a mental health issue in the future. For those who are unwilling to do so, their main concerns were that it would be inappropriate to do so or it would bring negative impacts on their career.

Less optimistic reality with regards to seeking help

Despite a large portion of respondents indicating that they know what they ‘should’ do if experiencing mental health issues, not many actually practice it – 48% suggested seeing a mental health practitioner if they experience feelings of extreme highs and lows, but in reality, only 24% of people who had experienced that in the last 12 months sought a practitioner.

Employees’ performance in addressing mental health at workplaces

Thankfully, 68% of the respondents said that their employees have communicated with staff about mental health during the past year, although a small group have yet to do so. A narrow majority (52%) of respondents overall rated their employer as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ at providing mental health resources, but this figure varies in different markets.

Overall, the region’s PR and communications professionals are positive about their employers’ work both on general company culture, and specific mental health-related measures. The majority (83%) of companies offer at least one type of support – a number rising to 96% in Vietnam but dropping to 75% in Malaysia and Singapore, and larger companies are slightly more likely to provide mental health benefits to staff than smaller firms.

No room for complacency

Overall, respondents also agree that their organisations have been supportive during the pandemic. But a sizable number (40%) say they are not doing enough overall to support mental health – so there is no room for complacency.

Concluding statement

“Now more than ever, mental health has to be taken seriously both at home and at work. Awareness is key and communicating ways to approach mental health can be done so in a variety of ways. This can range from weekly team meetings, staff intranets, one-on-ones, monthly wellness workshops and or just basic communication that there is an open door policy between employees and employers that it’s okay to speak up if you are suffering. Participating in or encouraging activities that support mental health within the workplace are important, especially when we are in and out of work-from-home, not taking holidays as there’s nowhere to go and suffering from mental fatigue. This can be anything from getting out of the house for a walk in nature, online team activities to connect, having mental health experts available to speak to, right down to basic things such as understanding each individual’s unique situation and just asking how they are – one size does not fit all. From working mums who simultaneously have to homeschool and work, graduates whose first job out of college starts working from a packed household, to business executives who have pressure to bring in revenue in an unpredictable market – every person’s situation is different and needs a bespoke approach. Business owners and managers also need some form of training or awareness in terms of how to manage situations when staff have mental health problems and steps to take to allow employees to a) feel comfortable speaking up and b) how to best manage their needs. Singapore still has a long way to go compared to the West when it comes to normalising talking about mental health. This in itself needs to be talked about and made the norm, that essentially it’s okay, if you aren’t feeling okay – we are only human.”

Lynda Williams, Co-Founder of The Soothe

For more information on the PRCA APAC Mental Health Report 2021, click here.

In an accelerated digital age, consumers are given the freedom and tools to share their opinions  widely and easily. Add on the global agendas to combat climate change, challenging social and political issues, plus a pandemic — we can agree that we’re riding a huge wave of change. As communicators, it’s never been more important to be deeply entrenched in our clients’ brands and extend our positions from being the connector between the media and our clients, to being fierce brand guardians with strong commercial acumen. 

Market prediction and being industry experts are crucial for public relations practitioners to become proactive drivers of change. In this article, we unpack big changes that have been shaking up the industry and present the top 5 trends that PR professionals need to adapt to to  remain relevant and competitive. 

Sharp, measurable results beyond ‘PR value’ 

A decades-old point of contention in the PR industry has been how PR success is measured. Through the years, agencies have worked out various mathematical formulas to place a commercial value on earned media, often defined as ‘PR value’. But as the world becomes more sophisticated, how do smaller businesses — who may not necessarily invest in proprietary technology — measure consumer sentiment and outcome? This is where, we believe, developing tailored deliverables that are tied to commercial success is key. Whether a  campaign drives an increase in room nights over the same period, or driving page visits from a specific piece of content, PR teams need to put on their mettle and demonstrate the power of great storytelling.

Well-researched, socially-aware campaigns

In this era, consumers are not simply demanding quality products but are actively sourcing purchases that align with their personal values and commitments. With more people putting conscious consumption into practice, highlighting your clients’ ethos and commitment to social responsibility will play a big role in reaching your target audience. As consumers are constantly being exposed to advertisements and products pitching for their attention, providing meaningful creative content will ensure better reception. Finding platforms and social media channels that will give brand leaders an opportunity to voice their views can allow consumers to connect with the brand on a greater level by understanding the heart and mind behind it.

Selecting relevant and socially responsible KOLs

How long has it been since a Kardashian-endorsed product generated sky high sales? Besides, a celebrity level budget being out of reach for many brands, finding KOLs that demonstrate authenticity is becoming a rarity. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as when brands do manage to find the right one(s) to collaborate with, it could go a long way in generating brand love. PR agencies should be aware of potential KOLs on multiple levels – micro, macro, and nano – as well as what this means in multiple markets and social media platforms, as well as the average engagement levels  of influencers. Be an avid user of social media, so that you can keep an eye out for upcoming talent which could allow you to foster important relationships early on. 

Rethinking events and consumer activations

In most countries, the road to opening up after the pandemic has been slow which means the possibility of holding large scale consumer activations or events in the near future are slim. While this has definitely thrown a cog into the usual running of public relations, it has also been an opportunity for agencies to get creative and even increase their reach and effectiveness in these unprecedented times. Because of this, online and hybrid activities have become more commonplace. And while we’re all eager to see life go back to normal, it is entirely possible that many of these new changes are here to stay even after the pandemic. Therefore, PR agencies should not view this time as a temporary waiting period before returning to traditional consumer activations and events is possible. Rather, effectively experimenting with new strategies and identifying which ones will remain relevant post-COVID will set PR agencies on track to adapt to the long term changes we will see in consumers and their behaviours.

Debunking the traditional definition of PR and deep diving into digital

In an age of algorithms and data-driven marketing, a key question to ask is where PR fits in the consumer journey given these new adaptations. Consistently serving to help clients build relationships and highlight noteworthy aspects of their brand, we believe the PR role remains of high value and acts as the strongest brand guardian in a time of constant change. As PR agencies and in-house teams work more cross-functionally than ever, it provides an opportunity to connect multiple marketing functions to drive better search, earned, and shared results and build a great reputation. In fact, a data-saturated world benefits PR teams tremendously if they are able to capitalise upon it by generating relevant and meaningful content which will translate to better content that drives conversion. 

As we have experienced first-hand, the ‘new normal’ is marked by unprecedented uncertainty. For PR professionals in the travel industry, this means that storytelling in a post-pandemic world will have to grapple with unpredictability and the upheaval of emotions in society. Consumers will be drawn to stories that address this new normal, yet also point to a more hopeful future, stressing how they can be a part of it. This is a great time for brands to assert themselves, refocusing on what matters most.

The V&VPR team share our top tips on how brands can navigate these challenging times:

Determine what readers and journalists want

Aside from putting out amazing products and packages, there is a new expectation placed on brands to be more in tune with current trends and social issues. This is especially important to ensure your brand is always adapting, as the media landscape is ever-changing and must be consistently monitored. When the pandemic started to pick up pace around the world, scheduled stories on travel trends for 2020 immediately went out the window. Instead, brands had to look ahead and anticipate new trends that would arise in the new normal as a result of COVID-19, including a rising demand for personal wellbeing and social responsibility.

Appeal to and connect with a more eco-conscious and culture-conscious audience

What matters to you? The Earth is in need of love now more than ever. Sustainability is not just a choice, but a moral imperative, and consumers have begun to realise this. The same goes with culture-conscious choices, like the need for racial representation and gender equality. The most effective stories arise when the beliefs and motivations of your brand resonate with the desires and lifestyle of your consumers. This does not mean that brands have to hop on the bandwagon for every trend, but highlights the importance of maintaining your brand identity through combining it with the news around the world that matter to your target audience.

Highlight how your brand ties into the consumer’s journey

Cookie-cutter experiences will be less desirable, and meaningful content and experiences will hold more impact in the new normal, especially as consumers become more mindful of the privilege it is to buy or travel. What are your brand values, and how can you set up touch points for consumers to interact with your brand so that they know exactly who you are and what you stand for?

Think outside the box

What are you able to offer that stands out from the crowd? Do your research, gather your team, and think of something different. A great way to come up with new ideas is through the free association technique where random ideas are thrown out in an attempt to force connection between your current questions or challenge –– this usually results in ideas far separate from the mainstream.

Read the rest of our blog here.