One of the tenets by which I’ve endeavored to live my life is that nothing is as good nor as bad as it seems. Then came 2020. How do you measure a year like this, these 525,600 minutes of raw historical intensity, in the life of a communications professional?
In memories. Many of us lost friends, family members or colleagues to the pandemic, and it seems appropriate to begin any retrospective with a moment of remembrance. We can remember too the thousands and thousands of Americans who put their lives on the line every day to provide medical care, food, clothing and all the other bare necessities of life to those of us who were able to hunker down in our homes mostly out of harm’s way.
In resilience. We had no playbook to which we could turn when the pandemic fell upon us. Yet even as we agonized over the well-being of our families and friends, we revised policies and procedures and turned to incredible new technologies to maintain contact and deliver for our organizations and clients. We tightened our belts and took advantage of government programs to help stay afloat. And when, in the midst of this unprecedented medical and economic disruption, the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd unleashed a wave of protests and social unrest, we moved DEI to the top of our agendas and found new ways to engage with distressed stakeholders.
In perseverance. The virus shocked our system as never before – medically, economically, socially, psychologically – and yet we persevered. No matter what the year threw at us, we found ways to break through and deliver messages that resonated with our target audiences. We were reminded again and again of the crucial role that preparation, rapid but thoughtful response, and caring and empathy play in ensuring effective communication during difficult situations. Organizations and brands that responded successfully to the medical, economic and social challenges of 2020 are well positioned to succeed as the virus recedes and the global economy recovers.
In camaraderie. Perhaps for the very first time since Edward Bernays pioneered the modern practice of public relations, communications professionals around the world faced the same challenge. We all worked for organizations, either as employees or consultants, forced by the virus to re-think the way they do business and engage with stakeholders. We can wear this collective experience as a badge of honor and take forward with us the important lessons we learned, a shared sense of accomplishment for what we achieved and a renewed respect for the work that we do.
In hope. The strength of the human spirit is anchored in our collective hope that tomorrow will be better than today. We have many reasons to be hopeful as we bid farewell to 2020: new vaccines; bonds newly formed and strengthened by the adversity we have overcome; opportunities to guide our organizations and our clients successfully into the new normal to come.
Maybe 2020 was as bad as it seemed. I’m confident that the next 525,600 minutes will be better than we expect.
Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year.