CMO Stress and burnout: tips for a more resilient 2022

It’s been a tough year for marketing, and an even tougher year for marketers. According to a recent survey that polled 7,000 professionals, marketing and communications professionals are now faring the worst among job functions with the highest burnout. Azadeh Willians looks at why over 80 percent of marketers report to be burnt out. And some practical tips to build resilience in the year ahead.

Identifying common triggers

 

So, what causes marketers to burn out? The main reason for burnout generally is trying to do more with less resources. For marketing this could mean that marketing teams who have been cut down and their budgets cut are expected to deliver the same or more activity.

Major contributing factors also include working on monotonous tasks, long hours and lack of sleep, high anxiety and tough deadlines. There are also too many responsibilities amidst lack of resources. Not many people have been able to take a holiday or have had any downtime. This is causing a lack of clarity, focus and certainty.

Stop and survive

 

From a personal perspective, running a media and marketing firm amidst a pandemic has not been without its challenges. Video projects have gone on hold due to travel restrictions and lockdowns. Marketing budgets have been slashed. We’ve sadly also seen businesses go into voluntary administration because the pressure to survive was too much.

At first, we felt that in order to survive, we had to work longer, harder and be tougher, just to keep the lights on. But we quickly realised that would not be sustainable for anyone in our business and quickly lead to burnout. Importantly, it certainly wouldn’t put us in the optimum position to service our clients and grow with full gusto when activity does ramp up post-pandemic.

What did we start doing differently? How did we begin to build resilience despite the ongoing, persistent economic and pandemic challenges? Well we started learning and implementing some micro habits, and here’s a few that we implemented at AZK Media as a team to thrive in these tough times.

Revisit workflow productivity

 

There’s no point doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome. Start by realising that the way you’re working and living your life is not sustainable. Identify your productivity/time zappers as outlined by Stephen Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ and realise which activities are urgent, non urgent and what can be delegated. 

Delegate and design your workflow

 

‘Clockwork’ by Michael Markowitz reveals how you can ‘design’ your workflow and delegate to scale, gain vital hours back and automate your workflow to improve efficiency. Once you identify how to ‘run your marketing function so it runs itself’ you can focus more on scaling strategy, planning and improving results. There’s no need to be constantly trying to ‘put out fires.’ Importantly, you can also then bring in the right people, agencies, media, marketing partners and tools to help optimise that design workflow to maximise success.

Improve ‘micro habits’

 

Sometimes the small habits we fall into can incrementally, over time, lead to us feeling exhausted and burnout. Think checking emails as soon as we wake up, or doing back to back zoom meetings with no breaks. ‘Atomic habits’ by James Clear is a great book that helps you identify ways in which to be mindful of your every day working and personal habits, and how small changes can make profound differences to building resiliency, preventing burnout and bringing great joy and reward into the everyday.

As an example, if it’s possible – delegate project management. This can free up a few hours a day, that time can be put towards rest, exercise, family time. It can also help with creativity to help evolve marketing strategy.

Health comes first

 

Sometimes no matter what we do to improve efficiency, delegate, create time to rest, we don’t improve burnout symptoms. When things worsen, it’s important to have the right physical and mental checks. This will give you deeper and more long-term health and wellbeing checks. You may need to slow down, change careers, revisit your marketing/business/client retainer model. Either that or consider a long sabbatical in order to feel your ‘best self’ again to get back into the ‘game’.

It’s a marathon, not a race

 

Short term marketing tactics, unrealistic C-Suite expectations and unrealistic deadlines means marketing and communications professionals often feel they’re in a constant race to the finish line. But it’s important to play the long game. Remember that in order to enjoy a long, fruitful and sustained career. Having the right holistic plan that keeps your passion, energy and health in balance will ultimately make you an effective marketer. 

Azadeh Williams
BY Azadeh Williams ON 8 December 2021
Azadeh Williams is the Founder and Managing Partner of Global B2B Media and Marketing Agency, AZK Media.

A former publisher, editor and journalist (The Times UK, Sunday Times UK, Reuters, IDG) Azadeh has over 20 years' international experience in media, custom content, marketing and public relations.

An award-winning media and marketing leader, Azadeh has delivered integrated marketing and PR strategies for privately held and publicly listed B2B enterprises across the UK, US and the APAC region.

A qualified solicitor and former lecturer in media law and business journalism at Macleay College, Azadeh is also on the Judging Panel of the IT Journalism Awards, Mumbrella Publish Awards and B&T Women in Media Awards.