I remember reading a Private Eye piece mocking The Beatles’ lyrics, attributing “Love is the thing. Hate isn’t”, to Spiggy Topes, their name for John Lennon. It’s funny how true satire sometimes is, because that’s where we find ourselves in the middle of lockdown two, or whatever it is where you are.
In the UK, at the time of writing, we’re entering day 14 of this minimum 28, more likely 35-50, day lockdown and people are getting frustrated and angry. Some people and businesses have been decimated to an unimagineable degree. But the “lucky” ones often don’t feel that lucky or happy either. We all have to find solace where we can.
For me, I’ve found some solace in the global public relations industry, as unlikely as that might sound. In April, I took on the task of setting up and then chairing the Public Relations & Communications Association (PRCA)’s Global COVID-19 Taskforce. We assembled 115 senior communications volunteers; set up a free advice service that helped over 40 individuals and companies; held nine webinars with key industry leaders from across the world that have been attended or viewed by 1,500 people and produced some key insight projects. I worked with great people who all stepped forward at a time when they were so busy and helped our industry out. It was, genuinely, inspirational.
My own side project was to crowdsource views from across the world on “How to Recover Fast From the Pandemic” and that report was published this week.
In the report you will find the views of 75 public relations and communications leaders from 23 countries, who all answered the question “How will PR recover fast in 2021 ?” in around 250 words. If you set aside three hours, you can read all 18,000 words across the 75 contributions. I found that I learnt something from everyone that contributed and it was fantastic, in the corners of my day job, to be reaching out to fellow professionals all over the world. This included our own New York office and our 90 partner agencies in PROI Worldwide and Global Communications Partners, that enable Lansons to run campaigns for clients across the globe. It seemed kind of appropriate too, as we were named “International Consultancy of the Year” by the PRCA last week.
To bring the varied views of the 75 contributors to life, I’ve tried to summarise all of the key themes into a potential agenda for a communications function offsite or an agency Board away day. This slide deck covers this with direct quotes from everyone who contributed to the project. In short form, that agenda looks like this:
1. THE BIG PICTURE
- The four major global issues.
- Untact. It is now a more virtual world. Forever.
- We must embrace contradiction (and change).
- We’re a positive industry: It’s a once in a generation opportunity.
- It’s time to do the right thing. ESG. Sustainability.
- Communication has saved lives and cost lives. What we do matters. We should be more confident.
2. HOW TO SEE THE FUTURE
- Humanity. Empathy. Reassure. Listen.
- Brave. Bold. Confident. Creative.
- Collaborate. Together. Co-create.
- Test. Fail. Try. New. Agile.
- We need to show up. Defend the truth. Integrity.
- Find moments of calm.
3. OUR ADVICE
- Authenticity. Purpose. Values.
- Internal is the new external.
- The primacy of corporate PR is back. Issues. Crisis. Risk Management. Reputation.
- More integration. All stakeholders.
- We need the right kind of leadership.
- Relationships still matter.
- Use data. Focus on audience.
- Time for full stack content. More visual. Virtual events.
- Follow the money. Bottom line. Results. ROI.
4. MANAGING COMMUNICATIONS AGENCIES AND TEAMS
- Prioritise. Focus. Make decisions.
- Improve our plans and processes
- People are everything. Culture matters.
- New technologies. Digital innovation. Automation. AI. Investment.
- Tackle inequality, promote diversity and inclusion.
- Release our young leaders.
- What is the office for?
- Focus on cash. Reduce costs.
I hope this makes a contribution to our industry by giving a structure to think about the future. If you’re a Lansons client, it might make the framework for a half day with your team too. Most careers have three or four big moments where the decisions we make really matter and this is probably one of those career and organisation defining times. As Lenin said “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen”. That’s where we are now, in the weeks where decades happen.
In these times we need to collaborate internally and take external advice. It is a time for collaborative senior leadership teams and judicious use of external advisers. It is not a time for reclusive managers taking decisions in private. And for us as individuals, we need to find some peace, some thinking time and some solace, where we can. We will feel better in ourselves if we can focus on the possibilities of the future more than the limitations of the present, because now, more than ever, love is the thing, hate isn’t.