I’m a relatively new member of the NUJ’s PR branch having joined less than a year ago but, in that time, I’ve met high-flying professionals and experienced pros with real insight in communications. That’s been invaluable. it’s a great way to learn more about who to pitch to, how to build campaigns and what journalists are really looking for.
It also helps to have a friendly space where you can talk to others in the same field and ask questions you would shy away from asking at work. Am I underpaid? Is my workload too much? Am I being discriminated against?
But the union is also there to fight for your rights in the workplace. It’s the first point of call for members if they’re having problems at work and you can count on your union rep to be a noisy advocate for you. They can tell you all about your employment rights, what you’re entitled to or give you advice and run through your options with you. They may also be able to sit in on any crunch meetings with senior managers. Your workplace chapel and local branch can also help. You can count on the union to support you every step of the way, having your back and acting as a safety net to stop things from ending badly.
Working in public relations is a stressful industry with huge workloads, tight deadlines and never-ending to-do lists. It can also be a very lonely and highly-pressurised area to work in. It would be great to see the NUJ reach out to others in the industry who may be suffering in silence but may not realise the NUJ is for them. Recent research which looks at the mental health of those working in the communications sector shows 21% had been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
Things are likely to be even worse now with COVID-19 spreading exponentially across the UK, meaning even longer to-do lists, fewer resources and possible redundancies for stressed-out PR and communication professionals. There has never been a more crucial time to join a union.
Being in the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) means being part of a broad network which you can learn from and it’s not just for journalists. If you work in any field of communications, then this trade union – the biggest in the industry – could be the right one for you.
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Imthiaz Rehman is a public relations expert and former journalist who has worked for some of the UK’s leading charities. You can follow him on Twitter by searching for @IWRehman.