Managing the mental well-being of your comms and media team

Working in a comms or media team can take its toll.

The work is fast-paced - even more so when managing a crisis media management incident or challenging situation - and you need to keep your eye on what is happening.

And there is that ‘always on’ pressure. Technology makes it easier to work when we shouldn’t. You can check your work emails and social media channels with a swipe on your smartphone.

It is perhaps not surprising research from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations has shown 90 per cent of PR workers have experienced mental health issues.

So, how can we better manage this mental health burden?

That was the topic of our latest masterclass for members of The Media Team Academy.

The session was hosted by Media First managing director James White and led by Dan Boniface and Kirsty Waite, leadership and development coaches from The BCF Group.

“This is a topic that is really relevant with everything that is going on now,” Kirsty said. “And we can have such an impact on someone’s well-being in the workplace.

“But it is a subject people can also feel nervous about. It can be a bit of a taboo topic.”

Dan added: “We might be happy talking about mental health, but can we support someone else? That feels like a different component.” 

So, what are the warning signs we should look out for?


Warning signs

Changes in behaviour, being withdrawn, fatigue and a lack of motivation were some of the signs identified during the masterclass.

“I think the key thing to look for is a change in how someone behaves,” Kirsty said.

James believes trusting your instinct is crucial in spotting this.

He said: “There are times when I sit there and wonder what is going on with someone. And invariably, when I check in with them, there is something going on.

“So, I think the moment you have that ‘is something going on’ question in your mind, you need to trust your instinct.

“Gut instinct can be a valid decision-making tool.”

Facial expressions might seem like one of the more subtle warning signs, but Dan believes they can be a vital indicator.

“There are lots of clues you can get from people’s facial expressions that we can tap into,” he said. “Are they smiling less? Are they making less eye contact?” 



The impact of poor mental well-being might include poor performance, loss of motivation, anxiety, lack of confidence, missed targets, stress, absenteeism and quiet quitting.

Kirsty: “When we are in a busy environment, we tend to be head down, focusing on what we need to get done.

“But you need to think about what is going on around you with the people in your team.

“If you notice one of these things, it may be a one-off. But if their behaviour has changed, they are not performing well and are not engaged, it is time to ask yourself if you need to check they are ok.”


The hybrid working challenge

Hybrid and homeworking present some challenges around this. If you are seeing your colleagues and team members less, how do you know if they are struggling?

James said: “Work is so different now from how it was just a few years ago. People are much more able to go, ‘I’m just going to work from home this week’ or ‘I’m head down because I’m busy and I’m not going to come to the office.

“And that’s fine – as long as that is the reason. So, you have to ask if they are ok and don’t settle for ‘fine’.”

“You may need to dig a bit.”


How far can you probe?

“Ask twice is great advice,” said Dan. “But I would ask once, and then stay silent. If you remain silent, more follows.

“People don’t tend to give you the full story straight away, possibly because they are trying to control something or are trying to process their thoughts.

“It can feel uncomfortable staying silent, but it allows more information to come. Once you’ve done that, ask again.

“Two good follow-ups are ‘tell me more’ and ‘what else’.

Kirsty believes creating an environment where people feel safe to share is vital.

She said: “We can’t force people to reveal things about themselves they don’t want to because they don’t feel comfortable.

“That would put more pressure and stress on them.

“So, for me, it is about creating an environment where people feel safe to share. They may not want to talk to you as their line manager. So, have other options available.”



The starting point for looking after the mental well-being of your team is to look after your mental well-being.

“You have to look after yourself,” Dan said. “As managers, we tend to take on other people’s problems. We put other people first.

“But if we are not looking after our well-being, how can we support others?

“What’s our release? Go for a walk. Go for a run. Go to the gym. Do something that stops you from thinking about work. Make sure you get enough sleep.

“And know when to switch off – don’t check your phone in bed, for example.”


Lead by example

It is also crucial comms leaders lead by example.

“Your actions and behaviour have got to follow your words,” Dan said.

“You can’t say to your team, ‘I want you to finish by 5-5.30, and then you stay in the office until 7. People will follow that.

“If you are on 24/7, people will do the same.”


Build resilience

Building resilience is a broad subject, and is one we have looked at in a previous masterclass for members of The Media Team Academy.

But Dan believes a good starting point is to change how we think about problems.

“Can you reframe problems,” he asked.

“Think about the positive things you can take from the situation.

“I was on a course yesterday, and a delegate was nervous about presenting to five of us. So, we flipped it around from them thinking about how nervous they were to the impact of the information they are sharing and how beneficial it will be to the audience.”


Would your comms team benefit from masterclasses like this?

Speak to us about becoming members of The Media Team Academy. As well as access to these masterclasses, members also benefit from 'ask the expert' surgery sessions, on-demand training courses and a dedicated resource hub.

And what about the well-being of your comms team?

Healthy culture

“You need a healthy culture,” Kirsty said.

“Put yourself in the shoes of your team. What’s their experience of the culture? How does it look for them? What opportunities are you giving them to help themselves with their well-being?

“Having people they can reach out to and talk to makes such a difference. So does having somewhere they can go for additional support and information.

“Check in with them regularly and have that right attitude so people don’t think mental well-being issues are something to be ashamed of.”


Managing boundaries

Kirsty said: “You need to put boundaries in place for yourself and your team.”

Boundaries help your colleagues understand what they can expect from you. And what others can expect from them.


Lead with empathy

“You have to be genuine about this,” Dan said. “You don’t want people to see through it. If someone is genuinely struggling, never say to them, ‘I understand’. You don’t - you are not in their head.

“So, seek to understand. Ask questions and be curious. But don’t put them under pressure to open up.”


So, what could this look like in practice?

Well, Leonie McIlroy, head of campaigns and communication at Mental Health First Aid England, joined this exclusive session for members of The Media Team Academy to share her insight on the challenges faced by comms professionals and how she supports her team.

This included how mental well-being conversations are included in one-to-one meetings and team ones.

She also explored how to create a culture where mental well-being conversations feel natural and comfortable. And how people can help their peers.

If you and your team would like access to masterclasses like this and want to tap into the expertise of people like Dan, Kirsty and Leonie, speak to your account manager about joining our learning and development programme.


Well-being resources

Mental Health First Aid England’s My Whole Self campaign, including ‘Talking Tips’ to help you approach conversations about mental health and well-being.

Other free Mental Health First Aid England resources, including tips for remote working and a managing stress toolkit.


Media First are media and communications training specialists with more than 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

Click here to find out more about our media training and crisis communication training courses.


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