How to recover from visibility burnout

By Paula Gardner, below, psychotherapist and business psychologist, Scarlet Thinking

Reputation, profile, visibility: these have all become buzzwords for business owners in the last few years. They are strong reminders that businesses, and often their owners or leaders, need to be seen to be successful, and that visibility brings credibility. There are so many places to be visible, from podcasts to a plethora of social media platforms; from local networking groups to stepping up as a speaker on your industry events circuit.

While all of these bring the potential of new customers, exciting opportunities and partnerships, not to mention the opportunity to be creative, it can be exhausting. In my consultation work with business owners, they often speak about the relentlessness of feeding the marketing machine. Too many mention the fear that stepping back will either allow their competitors to gain some of the spotlight or, even worse, they will fall foul of the latest algorithm dictates. I have heard of a business owner who leaves Sunday lunch early to keep posting on socials, of another who fell into a depression after the trauma of a nasty negative social media skirmish, and yet another who replies to clients on a WhatsApp group into the early hours of the morning. While their stories are different, the resulting symptoms are similar: something I call visibility burnout.

To the uninitiated, burnout is often seen as synonymous with exhaustion, and that a rest will sort it out. Rest, of course, will help, but the reality is that there is another element with burnout, and that is ongoing stress. This is what we have to look to if burnout is on the horizon.

Marketing yourself or your business is stressful for many. At its simplest, there is the relentlessness of it, the push to be more creative, to reach an ever-increasing amount of people. Additionally, for many, there may be a fear around being more visible that raises stress, compounded by social anxiety. Throw in a negative social media comment and stress can ignite. We humans are built for stress, but, too much and it will have a detrimental impact on our ability to think, our health and our energy levels.

So, how do you know if it’s burnout or temporary fatigue? Burnout has particular signs and these are: a lack of motivation, withdrawal from others, tiredness and fatigue, inability to focus or be creative, turning to coping strategies like overeating or restarting smoking; irritability and even depression.

Helping yourself or someone else through visibility burnout can take time, but you can emerge refreshed and even more creative. Here are some ideas that have helped my own clients:

  1. A break is a good start. If you have to stockpile and schedule posts so be it, but don’t do this at the detriment of your break.
  2. Review what works. You can use this pause to complete an audit. What platforms are working best for you? Perhaps you can drop one or more? What type of posts get the most engagement and does that lead to your objectives? Great engagement but no sales, leads or company profile is a waste of your own time and resources.
  3. If you’ve been handling things alone, maybe it’s time to delegate, employ a marketing, social media manager or even outsource. Get very clear on the input they will need from you and learn to feel comfortable with giving them leeway if you want to stay hands off as much as possible.
  4. Plan campaigns with breaks in between, rather than continuous promotion. Not only does this mean you get natural breaks, but it allows time to review the campaign and think about lessons learned. This pause gives your clients and customers a rest too, and builds the time and space to get creative for what comes next.
  5. Create boundaries. If you are managing social media and it eats into your personal life, you need to create boundaries about when and where you check. If necessary, get someone else to do the checking, and alert you only if there’s an issue. This is an ideal job for a junior member of the team.
  6. Put the emphasis on others. If you really feel the stress of being in the spotlight, perhaps centre your campaign around a series of interviews with key industry figures (good networking) or create a podcast series where you interview experts. Take the focus off you.
  7. Get help, especially around managing the stress response. Perhaps social anxiety is making networking harder than it needs to be. Or maybe you struggle with the intrinsic idea of being in the spotlight and are only doing it because it’s necessary for your business. It might be that you struggle with boundaries and need some help changing your behaviour, or that something from your past means that you are literally too scared to stop and take stock.

As an ex-PR company owner and now therapist, I have worked with business owners with all of these and the good news is that they can be changed. Sometimes, it can be as simple as working on an incident from the past, sometimes it takes behavioural changes. Work on all of these can help in many areas of your life, and not just your business.